Sunday, January 20, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Penguins
By Katie Strang
At a glance: After dropping their first game of the season to the Bruins on Saturday night, the Rangers get the benefit of a quick turnaround Sunday, when superstar Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburgh Penguins arrive at Madison Square Garden.
It's too early to suggest this could be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals, but both teams are among the handful of clubs that enter the lockout-shortened 2013 season as projected Stanley Cup contenders. The Penguins dispatched the Flyers 3-1 Saturday.
Nash on Broadway:Rick Nash picked up an assist in his Rangers debut Saturday but couldn't power the team past the Bruins in Beantown. He'll have a chance to redeem himself Sunday as he makes his first appearance in front of the Blueshirts faithful at MSG. The last time he was in the building -- in the midst of all the trade deadline speculation and frenzy last February -- Nash tallied the tying goal late in the third for Columbus before his Blue Jackets fell 3-2 in overtime to the Rangers.
Top tandem: Crosby and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin were held to a combined one point Saturday night -- Malkin picked up an assist on James Neal's first-period goal -- and the Penguins still knocked off their Atlantic Division rivals 3-1.
To earn their first win of the season Sunday, the Rangers will have to limit both players and not lose sight of Neal, either. Dan Bylsma loaded up with all three together on a few occasions and Neal scored the deciding goal in Pittsburgh's season opener.
Forget about Fleury: The Rangers will not be facing Penguins starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Sunday night. Instead, they'll go up against veteran backup Tomas Vokoun, who will receive his first start of the season on the tail end of the Penguins' back-to-back set. Vokoun, 36, is 10-7-1 in 19 career games against the Rangers with a 2.27 goals against average and .922 save percentage.
Familiar foe: After serving the remaining game of his four-game suspension assessed during the playoffs, Arron Asham will face his former team Sunday in his first game as a Ranger. Asham, who had five goals, 11 assists and 76 penalty minutes in 64 games for the Penguins last season, has since become a member of his fifth Atlantic Division team. Prior to his two-year stint with the Penguins, Asham played for Philadelphia from 2008-10. The gritty, 34-year-old winger also spent one season with the Devils (2001-02) and four with the Islanders (2002-07).
Penalty problems: The Rangers struggled to catch up Saturday after young winger Carl Hagelin's ill-advised interference penalty 19 seconds into play put the team on its heels. In addition to the other foolish penalties taken -- i.e. Brian Boyle's unsportsmanlike conduct -- the Rangers failed to convert on a pivotal 5-on-3 power play. Overall, special teams need to be better.