Thursday, January 31, 2013
W2W4: Rangers vs. Penguins
By Matt Ehalt
AT A GLANCE: The Rangers have their first winning streak of the year after beating Philadelphia on Tuesday night and put it on the line tonight against the Penguins, who are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Islanders. Both teams are 3-3, tied for third in the Atlantic Division.
OUT FOR REVENGE: The Rangers faced the Penguins in their home opener on Jan. 20 and were outplayed and dismantled in a 6-3 loss. Pittsburgh thoroughly took it to the Rangers, leading to Henrik Lundqvist's removal, and the crowd booed the Rangers during parts of the game. The Penguins are just 1-3 since that game, while the Rangers are 3-1 in that stretch.
WITHOUT CALLY: Rangers captain Ryan Callahan will be sidelined for 10 days to two weeks with a partial shoulder dislocation. While Callahan isn't a prolific scorer, he does so many things well and his teammates all rave about what he brings. Beside playing on the second line, Callahan is also one of the team's key players on the power play and the penalty kill. Without Callahan, the Rangers are going to need some players to step up and try and fill the void.
STEP UP FOR STEPAN: One player the Rangers could use a boost from is forward Derek Stepan. While he's fifth on the team with four points, he's yet to score a goal. The Rangers aren't getting consistent scoring outside of their first line and need Stepan to be a goal scorer on that second line. With Callahan out, it makes it even more important that Stepan can provide a spark.
SMALL STEPS: The Rangers are just 3-for-24 on the power play this season, but they converted on an opportunity last time out and hope that will carry over. The Rangers have too much talent to be one of the worst teams in the league with the man advantage, and it's burned them in several games this year.
BETTER DEFENSE: Since starting the season allowing at least three goals in each of their first three games, the Rangers have kept their opponents under three in the last three games. The Rangers pride themselves on their defense, so Pittsburgh will be a good barometer of how much the Blueshirts have improved.