Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 1/6/12

The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins have only met once so far this season, in a game which the Rangers were able to defeat their division rivals, 4-3. The pregame scenario for this contest is not one we normally see when these two clubs clash. The Rangers are statistically the best team in the National Hockey League right now, while the Penguins are only sixth in the Eastern Conference with a 21-13-4 record. Very rarely in the past have the Pens been looking up at the Rangers in the standings, but as of right now that's the case heading into tonight's tilt at the Consol Energy Center. 

New York is riding in on a high, having won eight of their last nine games and coming off a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers just last night at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers are just three games away from reaching the midpoint of the 2011-12 season, and so far they have surprised many with what they've been able to accomplish. But head coach John Tortorella has strongly urged that this team will only get itself into trouble if they get too high, which is why a game like tonight against a division competitor within range means so much. 

The Penguins, meanwhile, have lost their last two games and 5 out of their last ten. Both of their back-to-back losses came against division teams -- Devils and Flyers -- so they can't be thrilled to see the Rangers on the schedule for their first game of 2012. 

According to defenseman Brooks Orpik, they are well aware of what they are dealing with, though:

"They have been on a roll even besides the Winter Classic," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik told NHL.com. "They are playing really well. Lundqvist played really well for them. I think under (coach John) Tortorella, they just play a real good team game. It's not real flashy, but it's definitely effective."

With Sidney Crosby out of the lineup with post-concussion issues, Evgeny Malkin is obviously the leading scorer for the Pens at the moment. However, the team's biggest surprise this season has been the play of winger James Neal, who has the most goals on the team with 21. Neal has really proven himself to be a dangerous player out on the ice this year, so the Rangers need to keep in close touch with him throughout the game. 

As opposed to last night's game against Florida, expect tonight's contest to be a little more uptempo, which then puts an emphasis on the Rangers' defense. The Blueshirts have played very well defensively as of late, but the Penguins, even without Crosby, are going to put the Rangers to the test in their own zone tonight. New York needs to avoid allowing Pittsburgh to forecheck for long periods of time, because as we've seen in the past, they can quickly tire a unit out. 

Henrik Lundqvist will most definitely be a player who will play a huge part in the outcome of this game. The Penguins are near the top of the list of teams that Hank most loves to play against, so he'll have plenty of motivation to steal this one if need be. Plus, his last game played was the Winter Classic, and I'm sure he is still re-living his epic shutdown of Daniel Briere on the penalty shot. 

 New York Rangers (Probable) Lineup

* John Tortorella has clinched a spot as an All-Star coach. 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

The Warriors just trucked the Blazers with 8 threes, 45 points in the first quarter

Serena Williams fires back at Ilie Nastase’s racist comment about her child

Magic Johnson will represent the Lakers at NBA Draft Lottery

Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes suspended, fined for throwing at Manny Machado

Jerry Jones happy Tony Romo isn’t playing for another NFL team

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

George told teammates he has dreamed of playing for Lakers?

Westbrook takes shot at Rockets for laughing at Roberson

Report: Adrian Peterson, Saints 'closing in on a deal'

Richard Sherman shows up for voluntary workouts

Jabrill Peppers the latest star to test positive for diluted sample

NFL draft prospect loses father to accidental shooting

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

20 of the best NFL Draft red carpet looks

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB (and that's just the injuries)

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Best of Yardbarker: David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won't go down quietly

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker