The Blueshirts are back on Broadway tonight to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7 (MSG for you NY folks, VS for everyone else). Nothing like being able to honour our Olympians against the gold medal game-winning, soul crushing Cindy Crosby, right?
Where We Are: Coming off a 4-1 win over Ottawa. It wasn't a convincing performance whistle to buzzer but it was a winner so we'll take it and move on. It gave the Rangers 65 points in 63 games. Montreal has 66 in 64 and sits in seventh in the East while Boston has 65 in 61, Atlanta has 64 in 61 and Tampa has 63 in 62. Don'tcha just love parity?
Where They Are: Third in points in the East with 78 but in fourth place due to division winners taking the top three spots. Like the Rangers, the Penguins came off of the Olympics with a win - they survived a late surge by Buffalo to beat the Sabres 3-2. It was a nice win but should be noted that both teams started their backup goaltenders.
Who To Watch For: Not Alexei Ponikarovsky. Despite being added on Monday, Poni boy is being held up by the fine folks of U.S. Immigration. His fellow Ukrainian Ruslan Fedotenko must be buoyed by his acquisition as he broke a 17 game goal drought with a tally on Tuesday. Neither that Crosby kid nor Geno Malkin scored against the Sabres but they are kinda good and worth watching out for. But, this being the Rangers, you have to watch out for everyone; remember Mike Rupp's hat trick? I still have nightmares.
What To Watch For: The Rangers couldn't seem to win faceoffs in Ottawa (losing 31 of 52) and need to do better - they can't let the Kid control play with his puck possession. Sean Avery's restraint - he took a bad elbow from Matt Cullen late against the Sens and chased him down. He got a two and a 10 for the effort and you can be sure that Matt Cooke and Max Talbot took note of the retaliation and will do their best to get Sean to do something dumb early. How Avery toes the line pretty much dictates his success - when he can play his game to its best, he gets goals and infuriates opponents; when he takes it just a hair over the edge, the refs are all too willing to make him, and the Rangers, pay mightily.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Ryan Callahan's scoring touch to continue. Crosby to be the nonentity he was for the majority of the Olympics. A hearty roar for Cally and Dru (and Jokinen) when their medals are acknowledged. More than the usual booing and jeering for Cindy should the Garden even mention his accomplishment. Hank to get good eyes on all of Sergei Gonchar's point shots. Few members of the Penguin bandwagon - Pittsburgh fans have invaded the Garden during recent visits and that just shouldn't happen - especially not in the return from a two week break.
Also Check Out: Empty Netters is the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's stellar link-happy blog, The PensBlog is the site of the web's best puck-related Photoshopped/photo heavy snarkiness and SBN has good ole Pensburgh.