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What to Watch For: Pens vs. Rangers

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (3-3-0) vs. RANGERS (3-3-0)
WHEN: January 31, 2013 - 7:00 pm  |  WHERE: Madison Square Garden
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM

The Rangers got off to a rough start to the season, dropping their first two games to Boston and Pittsburgh. But since then, the Blueshirts have been on a 3-1 run with quality wins over Boston and Philadelphia.

Marian Gaborik has been leading the charge offensively, leading the club in goals (5) and points (8), which includes a hat trick (more on Gaborik below). He’s skating on an offensively explosive line with Brad Richards and Rick Nash. Both Richards and Nash are averaging a point-per-game so far on the young season, each notching six points. The trio has combined for 20 points and a plus-15 rating.

But while the Rangers top line is dominant, they’ve failed so far to find secondary scoring. The remaining forwards in their lineup have totaled just 11 points with Derek Stepan’s four leading the charge. Seven forwards haven’t registered on the scoresheet. And with the injury to captain Ryan Callahan – who injured his arm/shoulder in a fight with Philadelphia’s Max Talbot Tuesday night – the Rangers scoring depth will have to fill another void.

Michael Del Zotto has led the way brilliantly from the blue line. He tops all defensemen with two goals, four assists, six points and a plus-5 mark. He’s a hot hand right now having scored four points (2G-2A) in his past two contests.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was chased from the cage the last time these two teams met. Lundqvist surrendered four goals to Pittsburgh in just 29:11 minutes of play before being replaced by Martin Biron. But since that game, Lundqvist has got his groove back. He has gone 3-1 with a 1.51 goals against average and .942 save percentage.

(Getty Images)

Marian Gaborik has been a dynamic scoring machine since the first day his blade hit a sheet of NHL ice. He's a three-time 40-goal scorer, including the 41 he posted last season with the Blueshirts, and has scored at least 30 goals in seven seasons. He certainly hasn't lost his scoring touch in the opening games of the current campaign. Gaborik posted his 14th career hat trick in a 4-3 overtime, including the winner, win against Boston Jan. 23. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is now tied with Dallas' Jaromir Jagr for second most career hat tricks among active NHL players.

Paul Martin has found a new role for himself with the Penguins this season: shutdown defenseman. Martin has been paired with Brooks Orpik to form the team's shutdown duo, logging taxing minutes against the opposing team's best players. Martin, working on his off-side as right D-man, filled a similar role in New Jersey and has found early success. He's shouldered a heavy load, averaging 24:38 ice time per game, second most on the team. Martin will see a lot of Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash. Martin's performance could be the difference in the game.

  • Pittsburgh is in the midst of playing three straight games and six of eight games against divisional foes. The Penguins began this stretch with a 4-1 loss aginst the NY Islanders on Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
  • The Rangers are one of two divisional opponents that the Penguins will play five times this season, with the other being the NY Islanders. Pittsburgh will play three games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and two at CONSOL Energy Center.
  • Pittsburgh is 23-10-8 in its last 41 meetings against the Rangers.
  • The Penguins have won the season series in four of the past six seasons against the Rangers.
  • The Penguins have won five straight games against the Rangers by a combined 22-7 margin.
  • The Penguins have gone 8-2 in their last 10 visits to Madison Square Garden dating back to Nov. 30, 2009.
  • Pittsburgh is also 8-2 all-time at MSG under head coach Dan Bylsma.
  • The Penguins have registered 30 or more shots in each of their last five games (35.2 avg.) this season.

D Matt Niskanen, lower body

F Ryan Callahan, arm/shoulder
D Michael Sauer, concussion
F Chris Kreider, ankle

Author: Sam Kasan
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