New York (13-11-1) @ Pittsburgh (17-9-0)
After an injury filled month, the Pittsburgh Penguins are nearing full health. Tonight will mark the expected return of defenseman Kris Letang (shoulder) and Alex Goligoski (leg injury) will also return to the lineup.
Defenseman Jay McKee has also been cleared to return to the ice and will play Monday night against the Rangers.
Upfront the Penguins are looking forward to the return of Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy who has been sidelined since November 5th with a groin/hip related problem, has deemed himself available to play and will be a coaches decision tonight.
The only thing holding Kennedy back from playing tonight will be head coach Dan Bylsma who would neither confirm nor deny that Tyler Kennedy will play tonight.
Pittsburgh did not go through any line combinations in their morning skate but during a face-off alignment, Chris Bourque and Eric Godard were on with the fourth line as Michael Rupp played center.
A sign that Pittsburgh may be looking to use Craig Adams (certain situations) at right wing on Jordan Staal’s line to match up against Marian Gaborik, if Bylsma opts not to play Kennedy.
The good news for Pittsburgh is that Kennedy is very close to being back in the lineup after suffering a minor setback last Sunday.
For the Rangers, only two players participated their morning skate; Brian Boyle who will be scratched and Henrik Lundqvist, sparking speculation that Lundqvist may not start after being pulled last night in the Rangers 5-1 loss.
What to watch For
How the Rangers respond tonight was the vibe in the Rangers dressing room this morning. The Rangers were embarassed last night, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-1 on the road.
The Rangers are 4-6 in their last 10 games and have struggled of late after a hot start. Their lack of secondary scoring and a suspect defensive corps has played a strong part in the Rangers looking like a borderline playoff team thus far this season.
The Rangers need a signature win to get back on the right track and not starting Lundqvist would be somewhat of a surprise.
For the Penguins, they are coming off a lackluster effort Friday afternoon. They usually respond very well after they lose the type of game they lost against the Islanders.
The key matchup of the game will be Pittsburgh’s struggling power play versus the NHL’s No.1 ranked penalty kill unit.