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Rangers try to keep up solid play vs. Penguins

(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers have seemed to turn the corner lately with wins in four of their last five games. Another victory in Friday's road game against the Pittsburgh Penguins would go a long way towards confirming that notion.

The Rangers went 4-1-0 over their last five games in the month of December after suffering through a poor 2-5-2 start to the month. New York also is 2-1-0 so far on a five-game road trip, but the real test comes in tonight's battle against the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.

With 59 points, Pittsburgh is tops in the Metropolitan Division and is 17 points in front of the division-rival Rangers. The Penguins and Rangers have split two meetings in New York City this season, but Pittsburgh has taken nine of 11 overall in the series and four straight matchups on its home ice.

The Pens also are one of the best home teams in the NHL this season, going 17-3-0 so far in the Steel City. New York, meanwhile, has a solid 12-9-0 road record.

The Rangers last played on Tuesday in Florida and won that New Year's Eve game over the Panthers in a shootout. Dan Girardi scored the tying goal late in regulation, and Brad Richards won it with the lone goal in the shootout, as New York rallied past Florida, 2-1, at BB&T Center.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 stops in regulation and three more in the game's final segment for New York. It was the second straight win for Lundqvist, who had struggled to a 1-4-2 record during a seven-start stretch from Dec. 7-20.

"He was big for us tonight," said Girardi of Lundqvist. "He made the big saves when he had to. When we needed him he was there, and that's why we've got him back there. He's a pretty big clutch player for us."

Lundqvist expects to get the call in net again on Friday. He is 24-18-7 with a 2.40 goals against average in 49 career games -- all starts -- against the Pens.

In addition to fighting their less-than-stellar recent history against the Pens, the Rangers may have to contend with a healthier Pittsburgh team tonight. Both star forward Evgeni Malkin and top defenseman Kris Letang could make their returns for the Penguins in Friday's divisional clash. Malkin has missed the last eight games with a lower-body injury, while Letang has sat out nine in a row due to an elbow injury that required minor surgery.

Both players practiced on Thursday and are considered questionable for Friday's tilt.

Malkin has 41 points (9 goals, 32 assists) in 32 games this season, while Letang has notched six goals and five assists in just 24 games on the blue line.

Considering their top-billing status in the East and Metro Division, the injuries to Malkin and Letang hasn't hurt the stacked Penguins all that much in the standings. However, one or both of the players could have made a difference in Tuesday's 2-1 road loss against the New Jersey Devils.

Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder both scored and picked up an assist on the other's goal to lead the Devils to the close regulation win over Pittsburgh. The win improved New Jersey's home record against the Penguins since the start of the 2008-09 season to 13-3-0.

Marc-Andre Fleury turned away 28 shots for Pittsburgh, which suffered just its third loss in its last 17 games. Matt Niskanen scored the lone goal in the setback.

"They got an early goal, we had a turnover that they put in our net and got the lead," noted Pens head coach Dan Bylsma. "For the most part that was how the game went all night long. We couldn't get more than a goal. You're not going to win many against this team when you do that."

Friday's tilt is the first of two straight on home ice for the Pens, who will host Winnipeg in their next games on Sunday.

01/03 12:46:21 ET

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Schedule

Saturday, April 19Full Scoreboard
Chicago 4/19 3:00 PM ET
St. Louis @theRink | TV: NBC, CBC, RDS
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. St. Louis leads series, 1-0.
Columbus 4/19 7:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh NBC, CBC, RDS
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Pittsburgh leads series, 1-0.
Minnesota 4/19 9:30 PM ET
Colorado NBCSN, TSN, Altitude
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Colorado leads series, 1-0.
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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