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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, January 3rd (All times Eastern)

New York Rangers (20-19-2) at Pittsburgh Penguins (29-12-1), 7 p.m.

(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 10:37:47 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
2nd Intermission
CAR 1
MIN 1
 
4th
CHA 77
TOR 71
 
Final
STL 5
HOU 2
 
Final
BOS 3
MIA 5
 
Final
TAM 2
MIN 1
 
Final
PHI 1
NYY 4
 
Final
ATL 8
WAS 9
 
Final
TOR 5
BAL 4
 
Final
NYM 5
DET 4
Final
SDP 5
CWS 0
 
Final
CHC 2
CIN 5
 
Final
CLE 9
KAN 11
 
Final
MIL 1
LOS 10
 
Final
TEX 3
SFG 12
 
Final
LOS 7
SEA 4
 
Final
ANA 3
COL 0
 
Final
ARI 2
OAK 7
 
5th
NYY 0
PIT 3
 
3rd
IND 61
CHI 56
 
3rd
WAS 86
MIA 60
 
3rd
ORL 89
SAC 77
 
4th
CHA 77
TOR 71
 
3rd
PHI 52
UTA 55
 
2nd
ATL 53
CLE 43
 
2nd
NOP 29
BOS 38
 
2nd
HOU 29
DET 25
 
2nd
MEM 28
LAL 21
 
2nd
BRK 21
PHO 21
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
DEN
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
DAL
Final
MVSU 75
ARKPB 94
 
Final
CSOU 60
LONG 68
 
Final
WICHS 56
SILL 45
Final
RAD 66
WINT 67
 
Final
ILLST 71
EVAN 67
Final
HIGH 71
GWEBB 72
 
Final
UNCG 81
SAMF 76
 
Final
ELON 74
TOWS 69
 
2nd
KSU 57
AKR 59
 
2nd
BUF 51
BGU 52
 
2nd
DART 50
BRO 61
 
2nd
WMICH 53
CMICH 44
 
2nd
PENN 38
CLMB 30
 
2nd
PRIN 57
CORN 50
 
2nd
OU 56
ILLCH 55
 
2nd
OHIO 87
UMO 63
 
2nd
BST 38
NILL 38
 
2nd
EMICH 62
TOL 46
 
2nd
NIOWA 61
BRAD 39
 
Half
MURST 43
MORE 32
 
8:00pm Tonight
CCAR
UNCA
 
1st
HARV 15
YALE 17
 
8:30pm Tonight
DREX
COC
1st
CITA 2
FUR 6
 
9:00pm Tonight
USF
PAC
9:00pm Tonight
BAY
TTU
9:30pm Tonight
EKENT
BEL
9:30pm Tonight
CLST
DET
9:35pm Tonight
INDST
LOYC
11:30pm Tonight
SCU
LMU
2nd
NJD 1
CLB 3
 
2nd Intermission
CAR 1
MIN 1
 
2nd
OTT 1
BUF 2
 
2nd
DET 2
CAL 1
 
1st
CHI 0
EDM 0
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
PIT