W2W4: Rangers vs. Penguins

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
11:54
AM ET
At a glance: After snapping a four-game skid in a 4-3 shootout win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday night, the Rangers host the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday in a rivalry night matchup at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have a daunting task ahead in the sixth game of a nine-game homestand at MSG; Pittsburgh enters the match with nine wins in their past 10 games and four consecutive victories. What’s even more impressive? The Penguins have been able to withstand a dizzying number of injuries, particularly to their back end.

Banged-up: The Penguins, who enter the game with a total of 170 man-games lost through the first 35 games of the season, are absolutely decimated on defense. They are relying heavily on the likes of Matt Niskanen and rookie Olli Maatta with their top four -- Kris Letang (upper body), Paul Martin (broken tibia), Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) -- sidelined with injury. Beyond their blue line, the Penguins are missing an additional seven regular roster players, including Evgeni Malkin (lower body) and James Neal (suspension).

Still have Sid: So, how exactly have the Penguins been able to pace the rest of the pack despite the rash of injuries? Well, having the world’s best player doesn’t hurt. Sidney Crosby, who tallied the game winner in the Pens’ 3-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Monday night, is leading the league with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists). No. 87 enters Wednesday’s game on a seven-game point streak. He has six goals and five assists during that span.

Missing in action: The Rangers are not without their own costly absences. During the homestand, the Blueshirts lost captain Ryan Callahan to a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for at least another three to five weeks. They are also without defenseman Marc Staal, who is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Scratched: After playing the first two games of his NHL debut, defensive prospect Dylan McIlrath will be a healthy scratch Wednesday. Rugged veteran Arron Asham returns to the lineup.
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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