Good morning hockey fans. Tonight the Pens will host divisional foe NY Rangers for the first time this season.
The two fierce rivals have clashed a lot over the past two seasons, including two postseason showdowns. The Rangers got the best of the Pens in both of those series, a Second Round battle in 2014 and a First Round matchup in 2015.
The Rangers have enjoyed a lot of success over the Pens over the previous two years. But, those were different times.
“The past is the past,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “This is a new team, a new group, a new coach, a new situation.
“We are going to take each game as it comes.”
As always with the Pens predicament this season, there will be 2 huge points on the line. Only 4 points separate the 3rd-place Pens from the 2nd-place Rangers and Pittsburgh would love to close that gap.
“We’re in the final stretch of the season and we need to gain some points,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “When you’re playing against division opponents they’re all four-point games.”
MORNING SKATE DEETS The Pens held an optional morning skate, but they had quite a large number of participants. Notable attendees were defenseman Kris Letang and forward Matt Cullen, both of whom were given maintenance days on Tuesday.
Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz took the option to do an off-ice workout.
FRENEMIES It’s been a reunion tour for Pens winger Carl Hagelin this week. He faced his former Ducks teammates on Monday, and celebrated by scoring his first goal as a Pen. Now he will face the franchise where he began his career: the New York Rangers.
This won’t be the first time Hagelin has played against the Rangers this season. He squared off against them at Madison Square Garden while he was still a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
“It was fun to see some old friends and fun to battle against them,” Hagelin said.
Hagelin was drafted in the sixth round (168th overall) of 2007 by New York and played his first four NHL seasons in the Big Apple. He’s been a part of the Rangers-Pens rivalry from the New York side. Now he’ll experience it from the Pens side.
“We’re all pros. We go out there and do everything we can to win games,” Hagelin said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing your friend. When you’re on the ice everyone is your enemy.”
Hagelin had a lot of enemies in the Pens’ locker room from his days as a Ranger. But all has been forgotten now that he has joined Pittsburgh.
“’Kuni’ wasn’t too happy,” Hagelin joked. “Anytime you play a team that much like when I was with the Rangers, you start disliking a lot of players on the other team. Once you’re in the locker room they’re just like any other hockey guys, humble and funny guys to be around.”
It was Hagelin that scored the overtime, series-winning goal for New York against the Pens that eliminated them in Game 5. But this time around, he’ll be wearing black and gold.
“It’s nice to have the guy who scored the overtime goal on this side this year,” Patric Hornqvist said. “It’s always been fun to play against the Rangers when I’ve been in Pittsburgh. It’s been good rivalries and I think everybody’s ready and it’s a big one tonight.”
PARTY HARD The Pens new goal song this season is “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. The team adopted the song following a fan movement that began on social media. The singer and musician will attend tonight’s game as a guest of the Pens. Stay tuned to Pens.com for more on his trip.