Penguins-Rangers Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ injury list seems to be growing by the

game, but thanks to Sidney Crosby and some newfound depth, their

winning ways are continuing.

The New York Rangers, meanwhile, are quite relieved their losing

streak isn’t.

The Penguins try to win a fifth straight game for the second

time in three weeks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, where

the Rangers can finally say they’ve recorded a victory on their

team-record homestand.

Pittsburgh’s top four defensemen – Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik,

Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi – are currently injured, and Deryk

Engelland was suspended for five games after delivering a hit to

the head of Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday.

Add in long-term injuries to forwards Beau Bennett, Tanner Glass

and Andrew Ebbett, the suspension of James Neal – Wednesday is the

last of his five games – and a lower-body injury that’s kept star

Evgeni Malkin out three of the past six contests – and it’s clear

the Penguins (24-10-1) have had to dig for some depth.

They found some Monday against Toronto, with defenseman Brian

Dumoulin assisting on Chris Conner’s first period goal in his

second NHL game. Rookie Philip Samuelsson – son of Rangers

assistant Ulf – made his NHL debut, fellow rookie Olli Maatta was,

according to coach Dan Bylsma, “our best defenseman tonight,” and

veteran Matt Niskanen played 26 minutes for the third time in five

games.

Having Crosby healthy doesn’t hurt, either. Pittsburgh’s captain

broke a 1-all tie in the third period of the 3-1 win, the Penguins’

ninth in 10 games.

“We keep finding ways,” said Crosby, who has six goals and five

assists during an 11-game point streak. “A lot has to do with the

way the (new guys) are playing.”

Pittsburgh has trailed for a total of 3 minutes, 12 seconds in

its last six games, a feeling that must be foreign to the Rangers

(16-17-1). New York has gone four-plus games – a total of 264

minutes, 2 seconds – without playing with a lead, though it snapped

a four-game slide with Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win over Calgary.

The Rangers are 1-3-1 on their nine-game homestand.

“It’s a big win for us,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said after

snapping a personal seven-game home losing streak. “Right now, you

have to look at it as taking baby steps in improving and start

winning. You can’t turn this around right away.

“You start with one period, then two periods, then a game. Then

you start feeling good about yourself.”

Lundqvist, who will start Wednesday, has felt quite good against

the Penguins of late after ending a personal five-game losing

streak in the series. He’s 2-0-1 with a 0.97 goals-against average

in his last three starts versus Pittsburgh, and made 28 stops in

New York’s 5-1 home win Nov. 6.

Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed 11 goals on 64 shots in his last

two trips to the Garden, but he’s been outstanding overall of late.

Fleury has a 1.42 GAA and .952 save percentage in his past seven

starts.

Crosby, on the other hand, has endured a bit of a drought

against the Rangers. He’s failed to record a point in his last two

and he’s played 11 straight versus New York without scoring a goal

despite tallying 11 assists.

The Rangers, who continue to play without captain Ryan Callahan

(MCL) and defenseman Marc Staal (concussion), may have a source of

offense Wednesday in Derick Brassard. The second-line center has

just five goals and is a team-worst minus-10, but he has two goals

and three assists in the Penguins’ last two visits to MSG.