Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta lets a shot fly at practice at Consol Energy Center Thursday in anticipation for tonight's Game 1 against the New York Rangers.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Difference maker: Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury will have to match -- if not improve upon -- his Round 1 performance against Columbus. Second-line RW James Neal had only one point, a goal, against the Blue Jackets. The Penguins' chances of reaching the Eastern Conference final will increase considerably if Neal finds his scoring touch. The Rangers also have a goal-scoring winger who hasn't been able to find the net: Rick Nash had 30 shots, second most in the league, in the first round against Philadelphia and didn't score on any of them. Nash, who has the size and skill to dominate games, has one goal in 19 playoff games since being acquired from Columbus. Fortunately for the Rangers, goalie Henrik Lundqvist often doesn't need much offense from his teammates to win games.
7:08 p.m. Today
7:38 p.m. Sunday
7:38 p.m. Monday
7:38 p.m. May 7
Time TBA May 9
Time TBA May 11
Time TBA May 13
Dates, and times for the first-round matchup. Games 1-4 are scheduled to be televised on NBC Sports Network. (*-if necessary)
Special teams: The Penguins yielded a league-high three short-handed goals in Round 1, which pretty much negated the impact of a power play that capitalized on six of 29 chances (20.7 percent). Their penalty-killers scored twice, but also allowed seven goals in 27 short-handed situations. New York's power play was flat-out hideous against the Flyers, failing to score on its final 21 tries, and its penalty-kill hardly was more effective, going 15 for 21. The Rangers, however, have the personnel to exploit the Penguins' new-found penchant for surrendering goals when they have the extra man.
Noteworthy: The Penguins have won all four previous playoff meetings with the Rangers, most recently in the second round in 2008 (remember Sean Avery?). ... Penguins C Sidney Crosby, as has been mentioned once or twice in recent days, failed to score a goal in Round 1, extending his postseason goal-less streak to 11 games. ... The schedule-maker certainly didn't do the Rangers any favors: They played three games in four days at the end of Round 1, and will do likewise at the start of this series. That could translate to a major early advantage for the Penguins. ... Penguins D Paul Martin tied for the NHL lead with eight assists in Round 1. ... Rangers RW Martin St. Louis has played well against the Penguins for a lot of years, but the Penguins probably don't mind that New York gave up Ryan Callahan, who consistently tormented them all over the ice, to acquire him. ... Having C Brandon Sutter, who was injured in Game 6 against Columbus, available gives coach Dan Bylsma the option of having Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice together, because Sutter is a capable replacement for Malkin between Jussi Jokinen and Neal on the second line. ... New York LW Daniel Carcillo, a former Penguins prospect known more for agitating than offense, scored two goals in just 30 minutes and 20 seconds of ice time against the Flyers. ... The Penguins played a more structurally sound and efficient game in Game 5 and most of Game 6 in the Columbus series, but still are capable of poor decision-making and sloppy execution with the puck. Those are mistakes the Rangers could exploit .... Nash isn't the only high-profile Rangers player who got lukewarm reviews for his work against Philadelphia. C Brad Richards -- whose teams have won all seven Games 7 in which he has appeared -- C Derek Stepan and St. Louis are among those being counted on to elevate their games against the Penguins. ... Coraopolis product J.T. Miller made it into two first-round games for New York, earning two assists. ... New York is the first team in Stanley Cup history to win an opening-round Game 7 in three consecutive years.
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