Pittsburgh Penguins (37-22-4-78pts) @ New York Rangers (29-27-7-65pts)
The Pittsburgh Penguins hit the road tonight to faceoff against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The New York Rangers are ninth in the Eastern Conference and 4-1 in their last five games that includes a current three game winning streak.
The Rangers are playing some very good hockey of late and have built off of their 3-2 OT win against Pittsburgh on February 12th, prior to the Olympic break.
It was a game in which the Rangers wanted it more and Pittsburgh should expect to be in another battle tonight.
The Rangers have been getting it done without Marian Gaborik and the star winger will remain sidelined tonight. Meanwhile, defenseman Michael Del Zotto returns to the lineup for the Rangers.
Marc Andre Fleury will make his first start since the Olympic break for the Penguins. Jay McKee will be Pittsburgh’s only scratch as Alexei Ponikarovsky has yet to arrive due to visa issues.
For a few role players on the Penguins roster, they are playing for a spot in the lineup for when Ponikarovsky makes his debut.
Kunitz, Crosby, Guerin, Staal, Malkin, Dupuis, Ponikarovsky, and Cooke are safe.
For the time being, Ruslan Fedotenko is also safe as he will have an opportunity to find a spot alongside Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ponikarovsky. However, if Fedotenko fails to be consistent, head coach Dan Bylsma won’t wait long to put Pascal Dupuis back on the second line.
Who sits is going to be determined on a game-by-game basis.
If were looking at Saturday’s game against Dallas, assuming Ponikarovsky plays, I’m told Michael Rupp is a lock to stay in the lineup.
The team has not been pleased with Tyler Kennedy lately and he’s somewhat on hot seat tonight. If his play doesn’t improve Bylsma won’t be shy about sitting Kennedy for a game to jumpstart Kennedy’s game.
However, Kennedy is not under any consideration to be a long-term scratch.
The final two candidates are Max Talbot and Craig Adams.
Bylsma is very high on Craig Adams and values his ability on face-offs and penalty kill attributes higher than Max Talbot which puts Talbot under the pressure to perform nearly every game.
It’s a good thing to have and Bylsma has a number of different options to go.
Earlier in the season there were few threats for the Penguins role players as likes of Chris Bourque and Eric Godard will vying for playing time.