The Rangers are back in action in Steeltown Monday night. Here are three factors to monitor when the puck drops in Pittsburgh.
The Rangers PK
The Blueshirts have killed 14 of their last 15 shorthanded situations, apparently shoring up what had been a big weakness. Power play goals had cost the Rangers in a handful of close losses earlier this season.
Also intriguing are the extra-man struggles of the Penguins. Despite all the offensive talent (3.06 goals per game), the Pens just can’t seem to consistently put the puck in the net on the power play (14 percent). With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, they have all the ingredients to succeed, but none of the results. To me, this is one of the NHL’s great mysteries.
Consistency for Christensen
As discussed by Andrew Gross today, head coach John Tortorella was thrilled with the effort his top-line center put out on Sunday, but notes that Christensen has struggled to remain at the top of his game. This season, he has yet to record a point in consecutive games. If he can stay on track Monday and the Rangers’ top trio keeps rolling, the Blueshirts become much more dangerous.
Henrik Lundqvist will be back between the pipes tonight after missing consecutive games due to illness. While he told Gross he’s still not 100 percent, he isn’t making excuses. The Rangers blueliners can help him out by keeping the crease clear. The Penguins love to get traffic around the net and score many of their goals in around the net. Clearing rebounds will be essential.