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Penguins preview: 12/18 at Rangers

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ride into New York City on a four-game winning streak while the New York Rangers look to move up from fifth place in the Metropolitan Division tonight inside Madison Square Garden. The Penguins are coming off a 3-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. New York last played on Sunday night, needing a shootout to put away the Calgary Flames, 4-3.

When and where: Madison Square Garden (New York City, NY); 8:00 pm/et (NBC Sports Network, TSN2)

Records: Penguins (24-10-1, 49 pts.); Rangers (16-17-1, 33 pts.)

Season series: Rangers lead 1-0

Last meeting: It has been a little over a month since the last time the Penguins and Rangers last saw each other on November 6th in New York. That night, the Rangers put a whoopin’ on the Penguins, defeating them, 5-1. New York got goals from five different players including Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, and Ryan McDonagh while Henrik Lundqvist stopped twenty-eight of twenty-nine shots for his fifth win of the season.

Who to keep an eye on:

1. Derek Stepan: The twenty-three year old center sits second on the Rangers in points behind only Brad Richards and is coming off a two-point game against the Flames after going four games without a point. However, in eighteen career games against Pittsburgh, Stepan has only put up eight points (3G, 5A).

2. Penguins defense core: With four of their top six defensemen out with injuries, the Penguins have had to rely on their younger players to fill-in on defense. Olli Maatta has significantly upped his game, registering a career-high 24:17 of ice time against the Maple Leafs on Monday. Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, and Simon Despres have also been effective in shutting down the opposition since their call-ups.

Ex-Penguin alert: RW Arron Asham (2010-2012), C Dominic Moore (2006-2007), Asst. coach Ulf Samuelsson (1991-1995), Scout Rick Kehoe (1974-1985 as a player, 1985-2001 as a scout or assistant coach, head coach from 2001-2003)

Injuries:

Penguins: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), D Rob Scuderi (broken ankle), D Paul Martin (broken tibia), D Brooks Orpik (concussion), D Kris Letang (upper body), RW Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), LW Tanner Glass (broken hand), C Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle), C Evgeni Malkin (lower body), C Jayson Megna (lower body)

Rangers: D Marc Staal (concussion), RW Ryan Callahan (knee)

Additional notes:

-Evgeni Malkin will be out tonight and tomorrow night’s game with his lower body injury.

-Final game in James Neal’s five-game suspension for kneeing Brad Marchand’s head.

-Chris Kreider is the only Ranger on the positive side of the +/- with a plus-9.

-Brian Gibbons was brought back from Wilkes-Barre to take the place of Jayson Megna, who appeared to injure his knee against the Maple Leafs.

-Deryk Engelland was suspended five games this morning for his hit on Justin Abdelkader.

Projected lines:

Penguins (via penguins.nhl.com)

14 Chris Kunitz (A)-87 Sidney Crosby (C)-9 Pascal Dupuis (A)

39 Harry Zolnierczyk-36 Jussi Jokinen-49 Brian Gibbons

23 Chris Conner-16 Brandon Sutter-46 Joe Vitale

27 Craig Adams-38 Zach Sill-12 Chuck Kobasew

2 Matt Niskanen-3 Olli Maatta

8 Brian Dumoulin-41 Robert Bortuzzo

55 Philip Samuelsson-47 Simon Despres

29 Marc-Andre Fleury (19-8-1, .925 save %, 1.98 GAA, 3 SO)

Rangers (via NY Daily News)

20 Chris Kreider-21 Derek Stepan-61 Rick Nash (A)

19 Brad Richards (A)-16 Derick Brassard-36 Mats Zuccarello

62 Carl Hagelin-28 Dominic Moore-15 Derek Dorsett

67 Benoit Pouliot-22 Brian Boyle-45 Arron Asham

27 Ryan McDonagh-6 Anton Stralman

4 Michael Del Zotto-5 Dan Girardi (A)

17 John Moore-44 Justin Falk

30 Henrik Lundqvist (10-14-1, .909 save %, 2.71 GAA, 2 SO)

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