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Rangers face off against division rival Pittsburgh Penguins; Duclair a healthy scratch

Bobby Bevilacqua

new-york-rangers-vs-pittsburgh-rangers-stanley-cup-playoffs-2014-game-1

The Rangers will face off against Sidney Crosby and the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at 7 PM. This is the first time that the two teams are facing off since the Rangers eliminated the Pens in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs.

After a disappointing weekend where the Rangers (6-6-2) lost both of their games against Toronto and Edmonton, the Blueshirts will match up against the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-2-1) for the first of four times this season in a rematch of the second round of last season’s playoffs.

The last time that these two teams played was back on May 13th, when the Rangers capped a comeback from being down 3-1 in the series, and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

With a new head coach and general manager, the Penguins are off to an excellent start, racking up 21 points in just 13 games, and sitting atop the Metropolitan Division. They have also been lethal on special teams, with the power play running at about 40% efficiency, as well as their penalty kill not allowing a goal in the last 30 opportunities.

Sidney Crosby is also off to a hot start, with 24 points (7-17-24) in all 13 games so far this season, as well as having a five assist game against the Sabres. Crosby’s linemate Patrick Hornqvist has played well alongside the 2014 Hart Memorial Trophy winner, tallying nine goals and nine assists so far.

The Rangers have lost two in a row, and four of their last five if you count the two shootout loses to Winnipeg and St. Louis. New York has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play, and a win against the Penguins could really help boost morale and start turning things around for the club.

Following the tough weekend, New York made some roster moves and lineup changes as they prepare to take on Pittsburgh.

John Moore

John Moore is back in the Rangers’ lineup tonight after serving his league-mandated 5 game suspension. Moore will be paired with Michael Kostka on the fourth line.

John Moore is back in the lineup after he finished serving his five-game suspension. He will take Connor Allen’s spot in the lineup, pairing with Michael Kostka on the fourth line.

 

Jesper Fast will start tonight on the fourth line, replacing fellow rookie Anthony Duclair, who was scratched for the first time in eight games.

Vigneault said that Fast has made his way back to the lineup because of his play in Hartford, saying that he “has been very dependable on both ends of the rink,” and that the team wanted a winger, not a centerman.

Vigneault also commented on Duclair being scratched, saying that he understands that he is young and needs to play, but he’s not playing tonight, adding that “tomorrow’s another day.”

Personally, I find this decision a bit of a head-scratcher. Fast could have replaced Tanner Glass, who has no points through 14 games and is a minus-seven overall. He was also brought in to add grit and toughness to the team, as well as stand up for his teammates and for Henrik when there are players in the crease, and he hasn’t really done that either. Duclair has six points in 12 games (1-5-6), as well as a plus-four rating.

Duclair 10-16

Anthony Duclair will be a health scratch tonight for the first time in eight games, despite putting up six points in the 12 games that he has played. Jesper Fast will take his spot.

If Fast has been playing well on both sides of the rink as Vigneault said, then he could slide into Glass’ spot on the penalty kill, and Stempniak is also a solid defensive player. Pairing Stempniak with Dom Moore and Fast with Derek Stepan could work out to be an effective penalty killing pair.

We will have to wait and see how the bottom two lines work out for the Rangers. Personally, a line of Hagelin, Hayes, and Duclair looks like a young and promising line. But as of now, Tanner Glass has a secure spot on the fourth line.

Although Dan Boyle will not be playing tonight, the 38 year-old veteran could possibly return on Thursday against the Avalanche, or on Saturday against the Penguins. Boyle said that he would like to have a little more strength in his hand as well as less pain, but he is on the cusp of a return, which would really help out an ailing Rangers defense.

 

Rick Nash continues to be the topic of discussion for New York, with 14 points in 14 games (11-3-14) as well as doing all the little things that count, like playing defense, controlling the puck, and making smart decision.

rick nash first star

Rick Nash has been off to a great start this season, and is currently tied for the league lead in goals with 11. The Rangers will need his offensive, and defensive, abilities tonight if they want to bounce back with a win against Pittsburgh.

However, the Rangers will certainly have their hands full with Pittsburgh, as they have four starters with more points than Nash (Crosby, Hornqvist, Malkin, Kunitz) and have been helped out by good goaltending.

Speaking of goalies, this game will be all about who is better in net. Marc-Andre Fleury was recently signed to a four year extension, and has responded with great results, posting a 9-2-0 record with a .931 save percentage and a 1.90 GAA.

Henrik Lundqvist is coming off of one of his best performances of the season in the loss to the Edmonton Oilers, making 30 saves on 32 shots and keeping the Rangers in it the entire time. For New York to have a chance, Lundqvist will need to be just as good tonight.

lundqvist 11-9

Henrik Lundqvist was sensational against the Penguins in the playoffs, and will need to be in top form tonight in order to stop one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

In the Playoffs, Evgeni Malkin lead the Penguins with seven points against the Rangers, and New York managed to hold Crosby to just one goal and two assists. Lundqvist was fantastic in that series, posting a 1.87 GAA and a .940 save percentage, while Derick Brassard had four goals and five points in the seven game span.

Brassard has 10 points in his 11 career games against the Penguins, and Martin St. Louis has 47 points in 50 career games against Pittsburgh.

The Rangers face off against Pittsburgh in one of the most crucial games of this young season at 7 PM, with the game being aired on MSG.

EXPECTED LINES

Nash-Brassard-St. Louis

Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello

Hagelin-Hayes-Stempniak

Glass-DMoore-Fast

Klein-Staal

Hunwick-Girardi

Moore-Kostka

Lundqvist

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Posted on November 11, 2014, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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