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NHL on NBCSN: Rangers host hurting Penguins on Rivalry Night

Dec 18, 2013, 9:18 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers Getty Images

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

There’s a good possibility fans might not recognize most of the guys taking the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they face the New York Rangers.

The Pens have nine players on injured reserve and will be without James Neal for one more game due to his suspension for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head. Add in Evgeni Malkin missing their game on Monday against Toronto with a lower body injury after being injured last Saturday along with Deryk Engelland having his hearing for hitting Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader today – it’s a mess of a situation.

Even in spite of all that, the Penguins lead the Metropolitan Division by 10 points. Captain Sidney Crosby leads the league in points, Marc-Andre Fleury has been strong all season in goal, and Chris Kunitz gives Crosby a steady linemate to work with. Sure, playing without their top four defensemen is troublesome, but the Penguins keep rolling along.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $500 Fantasy Hockey league that includes Wednesday and Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $150. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

That’s bad news for the Rangers as they’ve continued to struggle under new coach Alain Vigneault. At 16-17-1 they’re fifth in the Metropolitan behind both Philadelphia and Carolina. A win over the Pens would vault them back into a tie with the Hurricanes points-wise, but their issues have been many.

Henrik Lundqvist has been off his game most of the season. Injuries have hampered their lineup, although not to the degree they have for the Penguins, and their defense has had its share of woes.

If there are bright spots to be found it’s in the play of forwards Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello. Those three are tops on the team in points. Rick Nash‘s return from a concussion in mid-November has seen him pick up the pace with nine points in 14 games. More consistent play from him would do a world of good, but that could be said about the rest of the team as well.

With the current state of the Penguins and the Rangers’ need to get right, New York could (should?) be looking at tonight’s game as a must-win. As the Pens showed on Monday night against Toronto, it won’t be easy. If the Rangers come out flat, the grumbles in Manhattan from the fans could turn into full-blown growls.

  1. hockey412 - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Not that I’d want to continue it all season, but I’m loving watching the younger D-men in action for the Pens. I’d take any of them on my team any day.

  2. dirt2013 - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    You know some of those D men will turn into wingers after trades but with more playing time maybe more will come back in return.

  3. c1md6 - Dec 18, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    Get ready Ranger fans (and yes they actually have real fans, not fans that only show up after 2005) for 7-1 power play ratio. The Pittsburgh frauds on the NBC (Nothing But Crosby network) are going to get every opportunity to win, as Pierre Mcguire is on his knees behind the Penqueens bench. Fraud fans.

    • 7mantel - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      Spot on

    • steelpenbucs87 - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      Banter!

      Your team is devoid of talent and is an embarrassment to the (Western/Eastern) Conference. Your team’s star player is terrible and should be sent back to his country of origin! I look forward to our next meeting when my team will surely wipe the floor with your team or lose due to an unfair advantage given by the referees/league/sponsors/media!

    • runhigh24 - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      The Penguins are 13th in the league in power play opportunities. But let’s not let facts get in the way of your flawed narrative.

      http://www.nhl.com/ice/teamstats.htm?fetchKey=20142ALLSAAAll&sort=advantages&viewName=powerPlay

    • elias2699 - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      Wow…new low Ranger fan. A preemptive whine about how all the calls go against you. Boo Hoo!

      • stepanup - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:00 PM

        He’s not a Ranger fan. You can tell because he said “Get ready Ranger fans” and “they have real fans.” As a real(ist) Ranger fan, please don’t associate him with us Rangers fans.

    • stakex - Dec 18, 2013 at 1:59 PM

      There is no doubt Pierre Mcguire will be on his knees on the penguins bench, but that’s about it. As much as I hate the Pens the notion that they receive help from the refs, at least in some sort of season long conspiracy, has never been born out by the fact. Obviously guys like Crosby and Malkin get the benefit of every doubt from the refs but so do all the other super stars in the league.

  4. runhigh24 - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    I don’t know why hockey fans complain about the sports best player being featured on national tv. It’s not like football fans complain when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are featured.

    • jpelle82 - Dec 18, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      they just don’t understand business and marketing or they just don’t care.

  5. 7mantel - Dec 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    joey4id when he reads this story will give us all the stats !

  6. stakex - Dec 18, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Wouldn’t surprise me to see the Rangers play good in this game. That’s about par for them this year….. suck against the worst teams in the league, but somehow look great against better teams.

    • stepanup - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:14 PM

      Player to watch tonight on the Rangers, for my money, is Stepan. He had a good outing last game, and needs to build on that and get to last year’s production to help drive this team offensively.

  7. steelers88 - Dec 18, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Wow NBCSN has already run out of Wednesday night Rivalry ideas that the they had to recycle the Penguins/Rangers game.

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