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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, December 18th (All times Eastern)
Pittsburgh Penguins (24-10-1) at New York Rangers (16-17-1), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - A depleted defensive group hasn't slowed down the Pittsburgh Penguins, who try to win a fifth straight game on Wednesday night in a visit to New York to battle the Rangers.
The Pens have a lengthy list of injured players, one that includes four of their top six defenseman: Rob Scuderi (ankle), Paul Martin (broken tibia), Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Kris Letang (upper body). Another, Deryk Engelland, has an in-person hearing on Wednesday for a hit in Saturday's game versus Detroit that will likely result in a suspension, leaving Matt Niskanen as the current elder statesman on Pittsburgh's defense.
Also, forward James Neal is set to serve the final contest of his five-game suspension tonight for his actions versus Boston on Dec. 7 and Evgeni Malkin did not play on Monday due to a lower-body injury that has him day-to-day.
The Penguins have been counting on players who have spent the majority of the season in the American Hockey League and Philip Samuelsson became the third defenseman to make his NHL debut with the club this season in Monday's 3-1 win.
Samuelsson joined Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin as fresh faces on Pittsburgh's blue line. He is the son of former Pens defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, currently an assistant coach for the Rangers.
Samuelsson played nearly 16 minutes versus Toronto.
Sidney Crosby had the game-winner with 6:03 left to play in regulation versus the Leafs. Robert Bortuzzo kept the puck in the Toronto zone and fed the puck down to Pascal Dupuis, who sent a pass to Crosby in the slot and the captain fired home a wrist shot.
"It was kept in at the blue line and Duper (Dupuis) found me in the slot and made a great pass there," said Crosby about the goal. "There was a lot of room there and he hit me on the tape and I found the back of the net."
Brandon Sutter followed with an empty-net tally and Chris Conner also scored for Pittsburgh, which has won nine of its last 10 and leads the Metropolitan Division by 10 points over Washington.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 25 saves, but it would not have been a Penguins game without another injury as Jayson Megna suffered a lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
The Rangers hope to take advantage and salvage the back half of their longest homestand in franchise history. New York opened a string of nine straight at home with four losses, but finally found the win column on Sunday with a 4-3 shootout decision over the Calgary Flames.
Benoit Pouliot had the winner in the seventh round, using several stick fakes before sliding the puck inside the right pipe.
"I just went in and I knew I was going to do that. I just had to get the goalie to move with me and then let the arm do the rest," said Pouliot.
Henrik Lundqvist sealed the win by stopping Mikael Backlund.
Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin scored in regulation for the Rangers, while Lundqvist picked up the victory thanks to 18 stops.
The Rangers have lost eight of their last 10 versus the Penguins, but did record a 5-1 home victory in the first meeting of the season between these clubs on Nov. 6. Five different skaters scored for New York and Lundqvist made 28 saves.
Lundqvist, expected to make his seventh straight start tonight, is 24-18-6 with a 2.39 goals against average in his career versus the Pens.
Letang had Pittsburgh's only goal and Fleury allowed five scores on 25 shots as the Pens lost their second straight at Madison Square Garden.
Fleury is 24-14-7 with four shutouts and a 2.71 GAA lifetime when facing the Rangers.
12/18 10:29:01 ET
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