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Pittsburgh vs. Rangers Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (18-9-0-36) vs. New York Rangers (13-12-1-27)

Where: Madison Square Garden
Monday, November 30, 7 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:
The Penguins and Rangers resume their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden after Pittsburgh soundly defeated the Rangers, 8-3, at Mellon Arena on Saturday night behind Sidney Crosby’s hat trick and two assist performance. The Penguins have won both games between the division rivals in ’09-10 after also defeating New York, 3-2, on opening night when the Penguins raised their 2009 Stanley Cup championship banner. Crosby leads all scorers in the series with six points (4G-2A) while Marian Gaborik, the National Hockey League’s leading goal scorer, has paced New York with three points (1G-2A). Marc-Andre Fleury has been the winning netminder for Pittsburgh in each contest.




Last Meeting: Nov. 28, 2009
PIT 8 - NYR 3
Game Highlights
AP Recap
Faceoffs: Pittsburgh dominated puck possession against the Rangers on Saturday night, leading to a 33-25 advantage in shots and a season-high eight goals. One of the keys to having the puck on their sticks more often than the Rangers did was the 35-20 advantage the Penguins had on the faceoff dots. Sidney Crosby went 15-5 and Craig Adams 6-4 to lead the way for Pittsburgh.

Transition Game:
It should come as no surprise that the Penguins’ transition game improved significantly with the return of Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang from injury. Both players had two assists, including plays in the first period where their skill getting the puck up ice led directly to Pittsburgh goals. The Penguins are near unstoppable when their forwards get tape-to-tape passes allowing them to use their collective team speed entering the offensive zone.
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 2,603 career penalty minutes, joins the Rangers as their new enforcer. 
A more defensive-minded squad the past two seasons, New York now boasts an offense capable of winning a shootout. 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 ranks second in points with 35. Oft-injured throughout his career, Gaborik has been able to stay healthy for the most part through the first quarter. The Penguins defense must be aware when he is on the ice because he has a penchant for creating breakaway opportunities with his world-class speed. Prospal’s playmaking skills have been the perfect complement to Gaborik’s talents. He has averaged nearly a point per game with 25 (6G-19A) through the first 26 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 12 points (5G-7A). Drury returned to the lineup on Wednesday against Florida after missing five games with a concussion. Drury’s assist on Saturday night gives him eight points (2G-6A) while Higgins has 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 seven assists. PA Parenteau, a 26-year-old first-year player who has posted 81 and 78 points the past two seasons for Hartford of the American League, displayed a hard wrist shot against the Penguins and has seen time on the top line with Gaborik and Prospal. In nine games he has four points (1G-3A).
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 and Dan Girardi have seen increased action on the power play. Del Zotto struggled against the Penguins on Saturday night, posting a minus-5 rating, but otherwise has been sensational in his rookie campaign. The offensive-minded Del Zotto quarterbacks the Rangers’ power play, which is clicking at 21.2-percent through Sunday. Del Zotto leads all rookie blueliners with 16 points (5G-11A) through 26 games and he was the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October. 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 third among Rangers defensemen.

Rozsival (1G-5A) and Redden (1G-5A) have combined for only 12 points after combining for 56 points last season. Rozsival’s first goal of the season came in the third period of Saturday night’s loss to Pittsburgh. 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 10 points (3G-7A). 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-3 rating leads all New York defensemen. Gilroy ranks second among Rangers defenseman behind Del Zotto with four goals after tallying Saturday night.
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 2.68 his .912 save percentage and 11-9-1 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. Valiquette allowed all eight goals in the Penguins 8-3 win on Saturday as the Rangers elected to give Lundqvist the night off.
Vinny Prospal signed with the New York Rangers late in the summer after his contract was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prospal has been the playmaking complement necessary to bring out the best in Marian Gaborik’s goal-scoring ability.

Spending most of the season centering Gaborik, Prospal has a team-leading 19 assists, tied for eighth-best in the league, and his 25 points rank second on the Rangers to Gaborik’s 35. An alternate captain, Prospal played the 900th game of his career Saturday night against the Penguins. He is a four-time 20-plus goal scorer.
New York could be without two of their top-six forwards and a key defender on Monday night.
- Center Brandon Dubinsky broke his right hand on Nov. 7 and is out until mid-December.
- Rookie center Artem Anisimov left in the third period of Saturday’s game and his status for Monday night is unclear.
- Defenseman Wade Redden left the Rangers’ 2-1 shootout victory over Florida on Wednesday with an upper-body injury.
"Right now, (we) need a kick in the butt."

- Rangers forward Vinny Prospal voicing his displeasure on Yahoo! Sports at New York’s back-to-back road losses to Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.

13: Number of Penguins to record at least one point in Saturday’s 8-3 defeat of the Rangers.

Author: Jason Seidling

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