Thursday, January 19, 2012
W2W4: Rangers vs. Pens
By Katie Strang
At a glance: Following Tuesday’s bounceback win over Nashville – one that prompted Rangers owner James Dolan to say he considers the team “pretty close” to winning the Stanley Cup -- the 29-11-4 Blueshirts aim to record their third straight win against Pittsburgh this season. The Rangers have dominated against Atlantic Division opponents -- 9-1-0 this season, during which they outscored their opponent 33-17.
Still on top: With the team’s 3-0 shutout of the Predators the Rangers are now three points ahead of the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins. The Rangers have a chance to create some separation – the surging Devils host the Bruins Thursday – before visiting Boston for the first time this season on Saturday.
Tough week: With the team enjoying it’s best start through 44 games in 40 years – third best start in franchise history – the Rangers face a tough pair of games ahead against the Penguins and Bruins. The team has three games remaining – including Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg – before heading into the All-Star break.
On a roll: The injury-plagued Penguins have rattled off three consecutive victories to climb back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference Standings. Wins against Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida over the past week boosted Pittsburgh to a 24-17-4 mark, good for seventh in the East.
Letang returns: For a team hampered by injuries all season, the Penguins will get some relief Thursday as defenseman Kris Letang returns to their blue line. Letang will play for the first time since suffering a concussion November 26 against Montreal. The former All-Star has three goals and 16 assists in 22 games for Pittsburgh this season.
Hot Hank: By recording his 4th shutout of the season against Nashville Tuesday, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist collected his 20th win of the season. The 29-year-old netminder, who has wins in eight of his last ten starts, became only the third goaltender in Rangers history to record 20 wins in seven consecutive seasons.