Pens looking to exploit fatigue factor?

May, 2, 2014
May 2
2:13
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma pre-empted his Friday morning news briefing by notifying reporters he would not be divulging either his lineup or any injury information.

But he did tip his hand slightly about strategy.

Bylsma freely admitted the Pens would try to exploit the compacted schedule against a New York Rangers team that is not even 48 hours removed from its Game 7 series-ending victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

“I can’t help but think that will be part of the storyline, the game planning,” he said. “We have to use that as an advantage.”

The Blueshirts enter enemy territory in Pittsburgh having played three games in four nights against the Flyers in Round 1, and they are slated to do so again against the Penguins in a similarly compressed schedule. After the regular day off between Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Sunday, the clubs will make a quick turnaround to play Game 3 in New York on Monday.

That’s a lot of hockey with very little time for rest and recovery.

Still, the Rangers are not worried about that having an adverse effect on their play, especially with the type of depth they’ve been able to exploit all season long.

“We roll four lines; no one’s tired,” center Derick Brassard said after the team’s morning skate at Consol Energy Center. “We’re pretty excited about the new challenge. We’re hungry to win more games.”

Rather than handcuff himself to the matchup game, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has leaned on the balance throughout his lineup to keep his team fresh, shortening shifts and distributing ice time so as to maximize efficiency.

That has been a huge strength for the Rangers and is an area where they seem to have the definitive advantage over the top-heavy Penguins. Even superstar Sidney Crosby said that was the defining thing about this Blueshirts squad under Vigneault.

"Depth is something that stands out," Crosby said Friday morning.

The Rangers were also able to reserve some energy on the front end of their first-round series, with lengthy layoffs between Games 1 and 2 and between Games 3 and 4. And it's not as if the Penguins rolled through their first-round opponent with ease.

“We played one more game than them,” veteran center Brad Richards said of the Penguins, who required six games against the Columbus Blue Jackets,” [but] we probably used our lineup more than them.”

Vigneault didn’t seem the least bit bothered by the series’ setup, practically laughing off the suggestion of fatigue for his club.

“I came from the West,” he said of his previous experience while coaching in Vancouver. “The travel’s pretty easy over here, so I’m not overly concerned.”
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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