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Rangers to face Penguins in second round

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Oct. 23 -- Penguins 1, Rangers 0 at Pitt. Watch
Nov. 8 -- Rangers 4, Penguins 2 at MSG Watch
Nov. 17 -- Rangers 4, Penguins 3 (OT) at Pitt. Watch
Dec. 18 -- Rangers 4, Penguins 0 at MSG Watch
Jan. 14 -- Penguins 4, Rangers 1 at Pitt. Watch
March 18 -- Rangers 5, Penguins 2 at MSG Watch
March 30 -- Penguins 1, Rangers 0 at Pitt. Watch
March 31 -- Rangers 2, Pens 1 (OT) at MSG Watch
Among the many intriguing aspects of this second-round series is the fact that Rangers defenseman Marc Staal will go up against younger brother Jordan Staal.

After four days of waiting, the Rangers finally learned the identity of their second-round playoff opponent on Tuesday night, thanks to Philadelphia's 3-2 overtime victory in Washington.

The Blueshirts will open Round 2 at Pittsburgh for Game 1 of a best-of-seven series. The series begins on Friday night at Mellon Arena. Game 2 will take place on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh and will be televised nationally on NBC.

Games 3 and 4 will be played at Madison Square Garden on April 29 and May 1, with both games starting at 7 p.m. Games 5 through 7, if necessary, are set for May 4, May 5 and May 7. (complete series schedule)

This will be the first Rangers-Penguins playoff series since 1996, when a Pittsburgh team led by Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux and current Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr beat the Blueshirts in five games. Lemieux and Jagr combined for a remarkable 19 points in that series.

Prior to 1996, the Rangers and Pens had faced each other in the 1992 playoffs and 1989 playoffs, with Pittsburgh winning both of those series as well (4-0 in 1989 and 4-2 in 1992).

During the 2007-08 season, the Rangers played Pittsburgh eight times, going 5-3-0 vs. the Pens. Four of those five wins came at Madison Square Garden, where the Blueshirts went undefeated against Pittsburgh in 2007-08 and have won five straight overall dating back to March 19, 2007.

As always is the case in the postseason, goaltending will be a key to the series, as the Rangers will be up against Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, a former No. 1 overall draft pick who went 2-1-2 with a .929 save percentage in five starts against the Blueshirts this season and is 9-7-4 against them during his NHL career.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist started all eight games against the Pens in 2007-08, finishing the series with a .916 save percentage. He is 12-6-3 against Pittsburgh in his career.

During the regular-season series, Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby led all scorers with eight points on a goal and seven assists. Scott Gomez, Michal Rozsival and Jaromir Jagr each had seven points for the Blueshirts, while Evgeni Malkin had seven for Pittsburgh. Malkin was the leading goal-scorer in the regular-season series with five. Gomez, Rozsival and Avey paced the Blueshirts with three goals apiece.

Philadelphia's win over Washington on Tuesday ensured that three of the four teams remaining in the Eastern Conference playoffs are from the Atlantic Division, which the Rangers dominated in 2007-08. This marks the first time in six years that a single division has produced three of the final four teams in its conference playoffs. The last time that happened was in 2002, when the Northeast Division put Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa in the second round.

In the playoffs' opening round, the Rangers defeated a fourth Atlantic Division team, the New Jersey Devils, in five games. Pittsburgh swept seventh-seeded Ottawa in its first-round series.
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