Thursday, March 15, 2012

Game #69 - at New York Rangers

2011-12 Game 69

Pittsburgh Penguins (42-21-5, 89 points) at New York Rangers (44-18-7, 95 points)

Now this is a cool card.  Not sure I'd pay $55 for it, but still pretty cool anyway.

Why does it matter?

After their last game, the Pens were just two points behind the Rangers.  The Blueshirts have won twice since then, to give themselves a six point cushion.  Worse yet, a Flyers win with a Penguins loss would put the Pens back into a tie with the Flyers for second place in the division (with Jersey just behind).

To put it mildly, these divisional games today and over the weekend are critical.

What has been happening lately?
  • Pens - Nine wins in a row, and it feels like the team just might keep getting better with a few guys returning.
  • Rangers - They've looked tough in beating two cupcakes (the Isles and Hurricanes).  They lost three in a row prior to that to playoff teams like the Devils, Senators and Blackhawks.
Questions to be answered
  • Will Lundqvist play?  The Pens have faced him every time this year, winning two and losing two.  King Henrik has been very solid overall against the Pens this year.
  • Can the Pens put up enough shots to win?  The Rangers like to limit the chances against, and they've been pretty successful in doing so.  Generating offense consistently will be tough.  Fortunately, the Pens now feature three lines with world-class centers.
  • Will Letang play?  As nice as it is to have Sid back, I think Letang is the real key to the power play.  If he plays, it makes that unit a difference maker every shift they're out there.
Keys to the game
  • Shake off the rust.  Having Sid back will help with that, but the Pens haven't played since Sunday, and they have a bad habit of falling behind in recent games.  That would be death against the Rangers.
  • Roll the lines.  This will help to keep the minutes down for Sid, and will keep everyone more fresh heading into the two big games this weekend.
  • Get shots on net.  The Pens need to play in the offensive zone, and the shots on net is the best indicator that they're successful in doing that.

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