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What to Watch For: Pens vs. Rangers

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (20-8-0) vs. RANGERS (13-11-2)
WHEN: March 16, 2013 - 1:00 p.m.  |  WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins Radio 24/7, 105.9 FM

Rangers coach John Tortorella ripped into his team after a loss to the struggling Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, telling reporters in Buffalo, “I couldn’t be more disgusted and disappointed with the way our top guys played, the way we handled ourselves through it. … We suck, and we suck at a time we can’t suck.  So we have to get it straightened out. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

The team didn’t bounce back in their next game against Winnipeg on Thursday, losing 3-1 to the Jets – giving them back-to-back setbacks after winning five of six games. New York may have won the entire conference last year, but right now they’re ninth place in the East and 12 points behind the Penguins in the Atlantic Division standings.

As Tortorella said, he wants to see more from his top players. Richards has just two goals in 19 games and Gaborik has just one goal in 13 games. Nash has been much more consistent and has been the Rangers' best player all season, as he recently had a 10-game point streak where he scored six goals and 16 points (though he did go pointless in the back-to-back losses). However, New York’s offense ranks in the bottom 10 and no player has broken into double digits in goals, with Nash and captain Ryan Callahan tied for the team lead with nine each. Callahan has been a bright spot recently, with four of those goals coming in his last six games. He’s doing well on a line with Derek Stepan, who has points in seven of his last eight games.

New York’s offense may rank in the bottom 10, but their defense ranks in the top 10. It’s always been the Rangers’ biggest strength, and that’s no different this year. However, their blue line suffered a big blow when a puck deflected up and struck Marc Staal in the eye in a game against Philly on March 8. Thankfully he is expected to make a full recovery from the scary injury, but will be out indefinitely. The Rangers picked up veteran Roman Hamrlik off waivers to help steady the back end.

Henrik Lundqvist has started all but four games for the Blueshirts, posting an 11-10-1 record. It’s not the strongest overall record for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, but Lundqvist actually has decent stats (.920 save percentage, 2.27 goals-against average). He’s making saves; his teammates just aren’t giving him enough help at the other end.

(Getty Images)

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Rick Nash
Marian Gaborik - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Taylor Pyatt - Brian Boyle - J.T. Miller
Micheal Haley - Jeff Halpern - Darroll Powe

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh
Michael Del Zotto - Anton Stralman
Roman Hamrlik - Steve Eminger

(Getty Images)

Miller turned 20 years old on Thursday in Winnipeg, the night he played his 18th consecutive game in the NHL. The Rangers rookie scored twice in just his second game with the club, but has gotten just two assists since. However, playing his first game against his hometown team may be just what he needs to get him going again. Miller is a local product, having played his youth hockey in Western Pennsylvania. He played for a AA team in Beaver County before moving to the Pittsburgh Hornets for five seasons. Miller will surely have a lot of friends and family in the stands at CONSOL Energy Center on Saturday to watch him play, which should be a motivation.

The Rangers are a tough, grit-and-sandpaper team that likes to throw the body around, as they rank second in the NHL in hits. Tanner Glass is a player who should match up well against the Blueshirts and their style. The Penguins will be looking to Glass and his linemates to play physical as well and grind the Rangers down in their own zone. Glass will also be making sure the Rangers don’t take liberties with any of his teammates. He has yet to register his first point as a Penguin, but Saturday may be the day he breaks through and shakes that monkey of his back.

F Evgeni Malkin, upper-body


F Arron Asham, back
D Michael Sauer, concussion
D Marc Staal, eye

Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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