Gap Closed?

nyr The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins have faced each other the past three post-seasons. An interesting dynamic with these two clubs is the Rangers for a stretch of two seasons were a team built to beat the Penguins. They were a faster, more structured team that had great success at keeping the Penguins to the outside defensively.

Then out of nowhere last spring it was the Penguins that turned the tables.

Suddenly they were the faster team and overwhelmed New York with four scoring lines.

In a copy cat league, the Rangers ousted by the Penguins, Lightning in back-to-back years, went out and built their team more like the Penguins and Lightning.

Now the question is whether the Rangers have closed the gap again as the Penguins, Rangers embark in a home and home series.

New York has transformed their forward group in becoming a quicker, deeper team where their bottom-6 is now just as big of a threat put the puck in the net as their top-6.

The Rangers lead the NHL with 76 goals and despite a suspect blueline, they have only given up 45 goals, boating a league leading +31 goal differential.

What’s disappointing is neither team will be at full strength.

Pittsburgh will be without Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz.

The Rangers have lost top-six center Mika Zibanejad having suffered a broken left fibula last night.

Fleury gets the nod

Marc Andre Fleury will get the start in goal tonight. It will be Fleury’s first consecutive starts since Matt Murray re-entered the lineup.

This doesn’t change anything in the short-term other then the Penguins wanted to reward him for his strong play late in the Sabres game.

Prior to the Buffalo game, Murray had started six of eight games.

Tonight will be a meeting of backup goaltenders as Henrik Lundqvist is not expected to start.

Antti Raanta is 4-0 with a 2.05 GAA and .938 Save percentage.


Chris Kunitz placed on injured reserve, has 9 points in his last 11 games. Kunitz injury is more week to week than day-to-day.

Patric Hornqvist skated again today. Won’t play tonight but could return Wednesday.

Daniel Sprong (shoulder) went through a hard on-ice workout prior to the Penguins morning skate.

— The Penguins plan to take a wait and see approach with Jake Guentzel on whether this becomes a full-time callup. The puck is now on his stick. The Penguins are prepared for him To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!