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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
Final
STJ 68
DUKE 77
Final
NCSU 78
ND 81
7:00pm Tonight
NCCU
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
SYR
 
Final
CHI 84
MIA 96
Final
CLE 108
OKC 98
Final
NOP 109
DAL 106
Final
ORL 99
IND 106
Final
PHO 100
LAC 120
Final
ATL 112
MIN 100
Final
TOR 114
DET 110
Final
SAN 101
MIL 95
Final
GSW 114
BOS 111
Final
DEN 115
WAS 117
Final
LAL 87
HOU 99
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
POR
 
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
SAC
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
MIN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
ORL
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
PHI
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
BOS
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
DEN
 
Final
UCONN 66
SFLA 53
Final
GT 62
BC 64
Final
VT 47
UVA 50
Final
OSU 82
IND 70
Final
UCF 46
CIN 56
Final
WICHS 74
DRAK 40
Final
STJ 68
DUKE 77
Final
MAR 73
FAIR 67
 
Final
HART 61
MAINE 70
 
Final
MAN 71
MON 64
 
Final
PRIN 96
ROWAN 48
 
Final
SIENA 55
PETE 69
 
Final
RIU 53
BONA 48
Final
BING 54
USB 61
 
Final
MLOWELL 50
VERM 61
 
Final
BUT 77
SHU 57
Final
SALA 55
YALE 72
 
Final
PITT 68
LOU 80
Final
ILLST 53
NIOWA 54
Final
GTDNS 69
UMBC 55
 
Final
IONA 87
NIAG 64
 
Final
TENST 55
BEL 63
 
Final
NCSU 78
ND 81
Final
VILL 71
CREI 50
Final
MD 68
NW 67
Final
UTAH 77
WASH 56
7:00pm Tonight
AMER
ARMY
 
7:00pm Tonight
OU
CLST
 
7:00pm Tonight
NCCU
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
PBY
HIGH
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
SYR
 
7:00pm Tonight
DET
WRST
 
7:30pm Tonight
NCAT
COPST
 
7:30pm Tonight
SCST
HAMP
 
7:30pm Tonight
COOK
HOW
 
7:30pm Tonight
NWST
NICST
 
8:00pm Tonight
NO
CARK
 
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CAMP
GWEBB
 
8:00pm Tonight
FAM
MDES
 
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INCWORD
MCNST
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAV
NORST
 
8:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
SHSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
STEPH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
TAMCC
 
8:05pm Tonight
VALPO
UWMIL
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAAM
ALCOR
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAST
SOUTH
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARKPB
PVU
 
9:00pm Tonight
ISU
TEX
 
9:00pm Tonight
MVSU
TXSOU
 
Final
TEAMFOLI 12
TEAMTOEWS 17
Final
CARTER 28
IRVIN 32