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Rangers host the Penguins and attempt to sweep the home-and-home series

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-penguins-11-21

Photo courtesy of Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images.

After scoring five unanswered goals in a fantastic comeback win in Pittsburgh, the Rangers (14-5-1) now get to host their Metropolitan Division rivals at Madison Square Garden, looking to beat the Penguins (11-5-3) for the second consecutive game.

The Rangers surrendered two goals to rookie Jake Guentzel in the first period, with the first goal coming on his first NHL shift and his first NHL shot. However, the last 40 minutes were very impressive from the Rangers, seeing them do a better job defensively while scoring five unanswered goals from five different players.

Now the two teams faceoff for the second of five matches this season, and the first of three at Madison Square Garden. Kevin Hayes led the Rangers with a goal and an assist on Monday, Ryan McDonagh picked up a pair of assists, and Michael Grabner scored his 12th goal of the season, tied for the league lead.

After Marc-Andre Fleury started the last game, my guess is that Matt Murray will be the one who gets a shot at beating the Rangers tonight. Murray, whose surprise run as a rookie helped the Penguins win the Cup, is poised to take the starting netminder role from Marc-Andre Fleury. After missing some time with an injury to start the season, Murray is 5-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA and a .945 save percentage.

Carl Hagelin has bounced around the Penguins lineup this season, unable to solidify a specific spot in the lineup. In the playoffs, he was part of the dynamic “HBK line” – Hagelin, Bonino, and Kessel – a line that was crucial to the team’s success down the stretch. He’s currently playing with Sidney Crosby and getting a lot of minutes, but not seeing results, totaling just six points (2-4-6) in 19 games. He could have a big performance tonight returning to MSG, and the Penguins certainly need that from him.

Matt Cullen was another important depth piece for the Penguins, scoring 16 goals and 32 points in the regular season and adding another four goals and six points in the playoffs. Not too shabby for a now 40-year-old. Cullen one played for the Rangers back in the 2006-07 season, so who knows if the “curse of the former Ranger” will be on display tonight and if he’ll score a goal.

The Rangers will be playing their fourth game in six nights, so fatigue could wind up being a factor. Alain Vigneault will need to balance his lines and keep usage pretty equal to avoid putting too much pressure on any like and wearing them out. The same goes for the defenseman – it might not be a good idea to stick Girardi and Staal out for 20 minutes tonight. Let McDonagh and Skjei be the workhorses. Keep an eye out for the fatigue factor in the game.

After getting Monday night off, Henrik Lundqvist will be back in net tonight for New York. Hank allowed two goals on 30 shots in the shootout loss to the Panthers on Sunday, putting him at 9-5-1 for this season. He has posted a 2.27 GAA and a .918 save percentage.

Michael Grabner continues to impress with his play so far. He really seems like he has found his scoring touch again and could wind up being more than the speedy penalty killer that Jeff Gorton signed this summer. All 12 of his goals have come at even strength, and he is tied with Patrik Laine for first in the NHL in goals. His speed is always a factor and we’ll see if he continue his offensive production tonight.

Jimmy Vesey has been a bit quiet lately, recording one point in the last five games and scoring just once since November 3rd. He got off to an extremely hot start, but it seems like things are catching up to him. This is to be expected as a rookie, as Vesey continues to adapt to the NHL and grow as a player, but the Rangers could really benefit from him stepping up in the absence of Mika Zibajejad and Pavel Buchnevich.

The Rangers and the Penguins will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash

JT Miller-Kevin Hayes-Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey-Brandon Pirri-Michael Grabner

Oscar Lindberg-Josh Jooris-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Brady Skjei

Nick Holden-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on November 23, 2016, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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