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Pittsburgh vs. Rangers Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (17-9-0-34) vs. New York Rangers (13-11-1-27)

Where: Mellon Arena
Saturday, November 28, 7:30 p.m.
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers will meet twice in a three-day span – once in each other’s building – beginning Saturday night. These two teams squared off in the season-opener at Mellon Arena as the Penguins secured a 3-2 victory behind tallies from Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy.




Last Meeting: Oct. 2, 2009
PIT 3 - NYR 2
Game Highlights
AP Recap
Special Teams: With teams so evenly matched with the salary cap, particularly in the Atlantic Division, special teams are often the difference in close contests. The Penguins will need to be on top of their game in this area against New York because the Rangers are clicking at a 22.3-percent clip with the man-advantage and have killed penalties at an NHL-high 85.6-percent clip.

Marc-Andre Fleury:
New York’s offense can no longer be considered weak with the offseason additions of Marian Gaborik and Vaclav Prospal, among others. Pittsburgh will need Marc-Andre Fleury to continue his strong play, which has seen him win four of his past five starts while allowing two goals or less in each of those wins. Fleury has a 13-8-5 all-time record against the Rangers.
Much like the Penguins, the Rangers picked up steam late in the season following a coaching change. Former Stanley Cup-winner John Tortorella was hired to replace the departed Tom Renney. He led the Rangers to a 12-7-2 finish and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff field. The Rangers went up 3-games-to-1 against the Washington Capitals in the first round before the Capitals came back to take the series in seven games. Through the first eight games of the season the Rangers were neck-and-neck with the Penguins for best record in the NHL at 7-1, but they have played sub-.500 hockey since.

New York once again remade their roster in the offseason, trading or not re-signing forwards Nikolai Zherdev, Nik Antropov, Scott Gomez and Blair Betts, while former Penguin Markus Naslund announced his retirement. The Rangers hope Marian Gaborik, Vaclav Prospal, Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins can mesh with returning centers Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky to give the team an offensive to complement all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers defense, each adept at moving the puck, should benefit from a full season under Tortorella, whose up-tempo, puck-possession system is similar to the one employed by the Penguins under Dan Bylsma.
As usual, the Rangers were big spenders during the offseason. Their marquee move was signing former Minnesota Wild star Marian Gaborik. The Slovak winger played in only 17 games for the Wild a season ago, but registered 13 goals and 23 points in those contests. Joining the Rangers after his contract was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning was veteran Vaclav Prospal. Last season Prospal contributed 19 goals and 26 assists for the Lightning.

Ales Kotalik, a big winger with solid finishing skills, joins the Rangers after splitting last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers. Winger Christopher Higgins was acquired from the Montreal Canadians via the blockbuster trade which sent center Scott Gomez to Montreal. Higgins is a three-time 20-plus goal scorer who registered a career-high 27 tallies two seasons ago. Winger Donald Brashear, owner of 2,599 career penalty minutes, joins the Rangers as their new enforcer.
After struggling to score goals each of the past two seasons the Rangers came into Friday fourth in the Eastern Conference with 74 goals. Offseason additions Marian Gaborik, Vaclav Prospal and Ales Kotalik are the primary reason for the transformation, as they rank 1-3 on New York in scoring. Playing in the spotlight of New York has brought out the best in the dynamic Gaborik. He leads the NHL in goals with 19 and points with 33. Oft-injured throughout his career, Gaborik has been able to stay healthy for the most part through the first quarter. Prospal’s playmaking skills have been the perfect complement to Gaborik’s talents. He has averaged a point per game with 24 (6G-18A) through the first 24 games. Kotalik continues to be a valuable point producer with the man-advantage, scoring three of his six goals on the power play.

The broken wrist sustained by Brandon Dubinsky on Nov. 7 has taken a talented young pivot from the lineup. Responsible at both ends of the rink, Dubinsky had 10 points (3G-7A) and a plus-7 figure which ranks second on the team, when he was injured. Rookie Artem Anisimov has given the Rangers surprising production to help offset the slow starts from Chris Drury and Christopher Higgins. Anisimov ranks fifth on the team with 11 points (5G-6A). Drury returned to the lineup on Wednesday against Florida after missing five games with a concussion. Both he and Higgins each have two goals and five assists on the season. Sean Avery did not work out in Dallas last season, but has regained his scoring touch while continuing his tenacious play in New York. Avery has four goals and six assists.
Veterans Michal Rozsival and Wade Redden anchor a youthful New York defense core. Neither is generating points at their usual clip as youngsters Michael Del Zotto (See Player Spotlight below) and Dan Girardi have seen increased action on the power play. Girardi’s all-around game has progressed to the point where he can now be used in all situations. A smooth skater with great vision from the back side, Girardi’s nine points (4G-5A) rank second among Rangers defensemen.

Rozsival (0G-5A) and Redden (1G-5A) have combined for only 11 points after combining for 56 points last season. Both players have seen their ice time drop slightly with the emergence of Del Zotto, Girardi and Marc Staal. The older brother of the Penguins Jordan Staal, Marc has added an offensive flair to supplement his shutdown ability. Staal is on his way to a career high offensively with eight points (2G-6A). Boston University product Matt Gilroy has given the Rangers tough, solid defense as he transitions from the collegiate level to the professional ranks. His plus-4 rating leads all New York defensemen.
Henrik Lundqvist has been a rock for the Rangers since coming to North America following the lockout in 2005. The workhorse backstop has appeared in 70-plus games three straight seasons, including 70 a season ago when he won a career-high 38 games while posting a record of 38-25-7. Lundqvist has posted win totals of 30, 37, 37 and 38 his first four seasons.

While his goals-against average is up slightly at 2.55 his .915 save percentage and 11-8-1 record are right on par with his career numbers. In addition to backstopping the Rangers, Lundqvist is also expected to be the go-to-guy for Team Sweden in the Vancouver Olympics. The 2009 NHL All-Star won five of his six decisions during the 2006 Games while leading his country to a gold medal. He will once again be backed up by Steve Valiquette, who went 5-5-2 in 15 games a season ago.
Rarely does a 19-year-old defenseman crack an NHL lineup without minor-league seasoning, but that is exactly what Michael Del Zotto has done this season for the New York Rangers. The high-flying youngster has not only proven he is ready for prime time, but he has thrived under the spotlight that is New York City. Through the first quarter of the season Del Zotto has been a worthy challenger for the Calder Trophy.

When Del Zotto made his big-league debut against the Penguins on opening night, the Rangers knew they were adding a player with offensive flair. What they probably didn’t expect was how mature Del Zotto’s defensive game is at such a young age. As well-rounded as he has turned out to be, it is those offensive skills which make him a future star. Del Zotto leads all Rangers defensemen and ranks fourth on the team with 16 points (5G-11A) through 24 games.
New York could be without two of their top-six forwards and a key defender on Saturday night.
- Center Brandon Dubinsky broke his right hand on Nov. 7 and is out until mid-December.
- Winger Ales Kotalik, whose six goals rank third (tied) on the team, is questionable with an undisclosed injury suffered on Monday night against Columbus.
- Defenseman Wade Redden left the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout victory over Florida on Wednesday with an upper-body injury.
"Obviously a couple weeks off is going to be tough for anybody, but every day the legs are starting to feel better, and the lungs are starting to come around."

- Rangers center Chris Drury talking to the New York Daily News about his stamina after returning to the lineup following a concussion.

1: New York’s NHL rank on the penalty kill through Friday. The Rangers are killing penalties at an 85.6-percent clip.

Author: Jason Seidling

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