New York is coming off a 'too close for comfort' 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, in which Derek Stepan ended the game just 22 seconds into the extra period after Rick Nash scored with 1:33 left in regulation to tie. The Rangers actually dominated the game in every aspect, but Columbus goaltender Steve Mason, believe it or not, was making some key saves for his club. If it weren't for him, and the fluky non-goal at the end of the second period, that game would have been blown open fairly quickly by the Rangers.
The competition tonight will be much greater, however, as the Penguins are looking to turn around a so-so month of February in which they've went 4-4-1 after winning six straight at the end of January. The Penguins are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 33-21-5 record, and are tied in points with the Philadelphia Flyers at the moment. A win tonight would put them ahead of Philly and into fifth place in the East, which is one step closer to home ice advantage in the playoffs. I wouldn't say that the Pens will be desperate tonight, but they'll be pretty anxious to get the two points.
Pittsburgh was smacked around on Sunday in a 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Head coach Dan Bylsma was not happy at all with his club's effort...
"It was a letdown for our team. We knew exactly what team we were playing and what they could do and how they were going to play. We didn't execute and play that way. And early on, we gave up good opportunities, which they capitalized." - Bylsma to NHL.com
Evgeni Malkin is leading the Pens in scoring right now, with five goals and seven assists in his last 9 games.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Rangers are trying to remain focused on the upcoming games despite the trade deadline rumors monopolizing the media right now. There's no telling who will be on the roster and who will not come Monday afternoon, so there's no doubt that all of these rumors have been a distraction in the locker room. It's a tough time of year for the players, but there's no way around it.
As far as the roster goes for tonight, we know for sure that Henrik Lundqvist will be starting in goal for the Rangers. As for the remainder of the lineup, head coach John Tortorella offered no updates behind his recent anti-media screen that's held him back from divulging very much information regarding his injured players.
It's speculated that forward Ruslan Fedotenko will be a gametime decision, but if he is a no-go then expect the same lineup we saw against Columbus to take the ice tonight. I find it interesting that Tortorella has not given Wojtek Wolski a chance in the lineup since his two-week conditioning stint in the AHL, because Wolski could very well be potential trade bait at the deadline. It would be wise to put him on display, especially in these division games.
New York Rangers (Probable) Lineup