At a glance: With the Rangers’ four-game winning streak brought to a sudden halt in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Blueshirts hope to bounce back against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins in their final game before the Olympic break. With 11 wins in their last 15 games, the Pens continue to dominate the Metropolitan Division, where they enjoy a whopping 17-point lead on the second-place Rangers.
Sochi-bound: With the opening ceremony for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia taking place Friday, it might take a little extra focus for those players headed to compete in the much-anticipated tournament. The Rangers will send seven players to the Games (USA-Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan, and Ryan McDonagh; Sweden- Henrik Lundqvist, Carl Hagelin; Canada- Rick Nash; Norway- Mats Zuccarello), while the Penguins will send seven as well (USA – Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik; Canada- Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz; Finland- Jussi Jokinen, Olli Maatta; Russia- Evgeni Malkin).
Trade talk: Prior to Friday night’s puck drop, the Olympic roster freeze will go into effect at 3 p.m. ET meaning no team can trade a player until the freeze is lifted. That may prompt some activity throughout the league, though there has been little movement so far.
One player that has dealt with rampant trade speculation over the last week is Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. The 28-year-old winger is locked in a contract stalemate with the club, which has led GM Glen Sather to explore the trade market for the pending unrestricted free agent. There has been no significant progress towards an extension for Callahan, multiple sources told ESPNNewYork.com Thursday night, which means the situation is likely to go unresolved into the Olympic break.
Mystery illness: The Penguins are expected to reveal a diagnosis for defenseman Kris Letang, who has been out since January 30 with an unspecified illness that may threaten to end his season or sideline him from action for a significant period of time.
Back in net: Starter Henrik Lundqvist is expected back in goal after backing up Cam Talbot Thursday night. Talbot made 29 saves against a high-octane Oilers offense but was saddled with his second straight loss after a breakdown in the defensive zone led to Nail Yakupov’s game-winner with 1:38 remaining in regulation. Lundqvist, who will lead Team Sweden in Sochi, is 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals against average and .950 save percentage in his last four games. He has held opponents to two goals or less in ten of his last 11 starts.