NEW YORK – A win tonight won’t make Tuesday, May 13 seem any less strange.
It won’t remove the picture of Dan Bylsma and the suit he wore and the frustration on his face while standing behind the Penguins’ bench from my brain.
A win tonight surely won’t do much for this current group of Penguins, who are off to a 10-2-1 start following that crushing second-round series loss.
“When you play a team in the playoffs, the emotion and the intensity is always a tad bit higher than maybe it typically would be when you’re meeting a team for the first time in the regular season,” captain Sidney Crosby said Tuesday morning following the Penguins’ gameday skate at Madison Square Garden. “They have new faces, as do we. Both teams have probably turned the page. That being said, things always seemed to get ratcheted up a bit when you’ve seen team that much in a short period of time.”
This will obviously be the first meeting since then, and, man, are these teams coming in on different trajectories. The Penguins have won seven straight. The Rangers lost to the poor, poor pitiful Oilers, 3-1, on Sunday.
The Penguins have killed 37 consecutive penalties, and their power play is at 37.5 percent (21 for 56). That percentage is almost three times as high as the Rangers, who are at 13.2 percent (five for 38).
Defenseman Dan Boyle (fractured hand) and Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder) are on injured reserve, with Boyle reportedly only a game or two away. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s goals-against average is 2.79 – or 29th best in the NHL.
“There’s obviously some revenge from them there,” Rangers defenseman Carl Hagelin said of the Penguins making amends. “At the same time, they’re a hot team. For us, we’re the underdogs tonight. We just want to go out there and do everything we can to play as close to 100 percent as we can play.
“It’s time for us to show our fans here at home that we’re a good team.”
A win tonight for the Penguins would give them their longest winning streak since March 2-30, 2013 and would be the longest win streak in the league this year.
News out of the skate: Defenseman Olli Maatta skated for the first time since undergoing surgery to remove a potentially cancerous tumor from his thyroid gland seven days ago. … Forward Beau Bennett skated for part of practice in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, then left the ice. The Penguins recalled him at around 1:45 p.m. … No changes to combos or pairings. … The Rangers sent Ryan Malone (Upper St. Clair) to Hartford of the AHL yesterday. … Looks like Rangers defenseman John Moore will return from his suspension.
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About the Rangers: Rangers have won one of five games in November and are allowing 3.14 goals per game, 24th in the league. … Sunday marked the fourth consecutive game where the Rangers allowed four or more goals. … Lundqvist’s GAA isn’t pretty, but it’s better than it was. Since allowing back-to-back six spots Oct. 12-14, he’s at 5-2-1 with a 1.95 GAA. … Malone hasn’t gotten much of a chance in New York. Was scoreless his first six games, then a healthy scratch the past three before getting sent down. … Rick Nash (11-3-14) leads in goals and points. Derick Brassard (5-7-12) has been solid, too.
The series: Penguins have won 10 of the past 14 regular season games at Madison Square Garden. … They held a 2-1-1 last year, although the Rangers had more goals (13-12) and shots (133-118). The teams combined for eight power play goals in 30 chances. … … The Rangers have earned at least a point in each of their last three home games against the Penguins, outscoring them, 14-6, during that span.
Next up: Penguins at Maple Leafs, Friday, 7:30 p.m.