Opening Faceoff – Rangers at Penguins 12/5/17

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Gene J. Puskar – Associated Press

Today, the Rangers will take on the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in a very important Metropolitan division matchup.The Penguins enter today’s game winning four straight, and scoring goals! Over the course of the Penguins four game winning streak, they are averaging just about five goals per game (4.75).

Keys to a Rangers’ victory:

Goal scoring: The Rangers and Penguins are ranked sixth and eighth respectively in goal scoring at 86 and 83 total goals so far this season. One reason why the Penguins are winning is because they are getting bottom-six contributions. Over the span of their four game winning streak, the Penguins have received goals from four of their bottom-six players. Former Ranger Carl Hagelin scored his second goal in 27 games, and Tom Kuhnhackl broke his 46 game goal scoring drought. The Rangers know that they will have to remain vigilant.

Henrik Lundqvist: When asked about facing the Penguins, Rangers net-minder Henrik Lundqvist said this in an interview found on the Rangers twitter:

“Yeah, we [have played] that team a lot over the years, their core group is obviously extremely good. They have a bunch of forwards that play a part of their success. But yeah, we have to be on top of it, there [is] no question about it. They’re a great team. Even though there [has] been a lot of up and down this year, the last stretch here, they [have] been picking up their game. You really have to respect their speed and skill.”

Players to watch:
Penguins:

Sidney Crosby: Crosby, the all-star captain and first-line center of the Penguins, has 9 points in his last 10 games. Crosby has 29 points in 28 games this season.

Phil Kessel: Kessel, the first-line right winger on the Penguins, has had a great start to the season. Kessel is the leading scorer on the Penguins with 33 points. Kessel is ranked sixth in the NHL in point scoring.

Rangers:

David Desharnias: With the absence of Mika Zibanejad still ever so present, David Desharnais has taken possession of the Rangers first-line center responsibilities. Desharnais will play beside Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Desharnais has 12 points in 23 games this season.

Ryan McDonagh: Ryan McDonagh was diagnosed with an abdominal strain. He missed four games prior to Friday’s win against the Hurricanes. If Ryan McDonagh was uncomfortable in any way Friday against the Hurricanes, he’s had three days to rest and will be tested against the Penguins top forwards.

The Importance of This Game:

Pittsburgh is 3rd in the ever so tight Metropolitan division. The Rangers have 56 games left in the season but every single point is crucial in this division. Two points against a Metropolitan division rival is a must for the Rangers.

“Our division is insane!” – Marc Staal

Other notes: Matt Murray will not play due to a lower body injury. Penguins back-up Tristan Jarry will most likely start.

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