-Greeting on the dawn of the Taylor Pyatt era. We like the addition. As we wrote yesterday, Pyatt offers two things the Penguins don't have on the third line - size and health. The fact that the Penguins are picking up his considerable salary cap hit of $1.55 million is a subject of concern but given the circumstances surrounding the Penguins' roster, Pyatt is a viable candidate to fill a void.
-After being limited on offense by the Devils New Year's Eave, the Penguins shuffled their lines at today's morning skate. They've loaded up their first line with James Neal on Sidney Crosby's wing along with Chris Kunitz. Additionally, they're giving Brandon Sutter a crack as the No. 2 center. His wingers will be Jussi Jokinen, who has struggled at center in the absence of Evgeni Malkin and Brian Gibbons who had a solid game Tuesday.
-Pyatt worked on the third line left wing with with the great Joe Vitale at center and Craig Adams on the right wing. Vitale has shown an ability to offer limited contributions throughout the lineup.
-We would expect to see Deryk Engelland return as a forward in place of Chuck Kobasew tonight. He got some work on the fourth line and has offered a surprising amount of good play in that role this season. Kobasew has been a dud after a strong start to the season.
-We'll be interested to see how the ice is tonight. A Penguins player recently complained about the ice being sloppy during a stretch of warm, humid weather prior to Christmas. He felt those responsible for maintaining the ice didn't make the proper adjustments to account for the humidity. With the weather outside hovering in the teens, we wonder how the ice will react.
-We informally talked with a number of Penguins players who expressed a lot of satisfaction of having three days off for Christmas. As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL must give players three days off for the holiday. It provided a mental break from the season. The old CBA only permitted two days. We can also tell you several coaches, support staff (trainers, equipment guys, etc.) and media didn't mind a few days off in this marathon of a season.
-As usual, we would fully expect to see Crosby's line face the Rangers defensive pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi quite a bit. The Rangers will get those two on the ice against the Penguins' top line as much as possible as the road team
-The Rangers will get a boost from the return of captain Ryan Callahan. He's a heart and soul player for this team who offers quite a bit as a defensive player.
-This is the first we've seen of the Penguins' outdoor jerseys being worn by fans. The design on the shoulders, especially in between with the big corporate logo, is too busy for us. Chris Kunitz:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There is a solid showing of Rangers fans on hand:
-Egads! Aleskey Zherdev?!?
-Is this a Warren Peters jersey?
-Former Penguins/Rangers forward Alexei Kovalev:
-Rangers assistant coach and former Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson with the "Badger" Bob Johnson logo:
-Jersey of the Night: In light of the recent Team USA announcements, we'll have to go with Brian Leetch United States:
-The Penguins' starters are Craig Adams, Taylor Pyatt, Brandon Sutter, Simon Despres, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratch is Chuck Kobasew.
-The Rangers' starters are Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Henrik Lundqvist.
-Their starters are Michael Del Zotto, Justin Falk and J.T. Miller, a native of East Palestine, Ohio.
-No Jimerson. No picture.
19:34: After Neal steals a puck in the right wing corner of the Rangers' zone, he turns and deals a pass to Robet Bortuzzo in the right circle. Lundqvist fights it off
17:55: Benoit Pouliot flings a wrister from deep on the left wing on net. Fleury steers it away.
16:46: Dominic Moore pitchforks a backhander from the right wing on net. Fleury snags it.
16:42: Off an offensive faceoff win in the right circle, Nash whips a quick wrister on net from the top of the circle. Fleury makes the save despite having Kreider crash in.
15:11: Off some strong work by Sutter in the left wing corner, Gibbons gets a chance from a tough angle on the left wing. Lundqvist kicks it out.
13:14: Off a stretch pass from Matt Niskanen, Glass chucks a wrister from the left half wall on net. Lundqvist steers it away.
12:12: From the right wing, Nash rips a wrister to the far side. Fleury boots it out with his right leg.
11:11: After the great Joe Vitale steal a puck in the slot, Adams has a chance all alone to the right of the cage. He gets Lundqvist to commit to a glove save and has him beat but puts it off the outside of the left post. Argh.
9:24: Engelland deals a cross-ice pass from the right point to Jokinen moving up on the left wing. Chris Kreider hustles back and dives to break up the pass.
8:49: The Penguins will get the first power play of the game as Nash is called for hooking Jokinen at the Rangers' blue line. Jokinen, Niskanen, Crosby, Kunitz and Neal take the ice.
8:28: Jokinen carries the puck up the left wing and lofts a wrister on net. Lundqvist rejects it.
8:12: From center point, Jokinen deals a pass to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby leans down and puts a one-timer on net. Lundqvist boots it out.
8:09: Crosby taps his rebound to Niskanen on the left half wall. Niskanen rockets a one-timer which Lundqvist eats up.
7:17: Maatta chops a one-timer from above the right circle. Derek Dorsett blocks it and is hobbled.
6:51: Niskanen takes a pass from Neal at center point. He holds, hesitates and looks at the cage. He chucks a wrister into a cluster of bodies. The puck hits a body or two, rattles around and come to the forehand of Kunitz to the left o fthe blue paint. he battles off Stralman and taps it into the open cage. That was ugly but it counts. Dorsett hobbles to the bench. Crosby and Niskanen get assists. The "Hey Song" is never ugly. Penguins 1-0.
5:29: Staal rips a wrister from the left circle which is blocked by the great Joe Vitale.
4:45: Sill is nabbed for high sticking Conor Allen while battling for a puck in front of Lundqvist. Adams, Orpik, Sutter and Engelland take the ice.
4:18: Huge save. Zuccarello moves up the left wing, draws in Egnelland and chips a puck to Brassard in the left circle. Brassard races in on a mini breakaway and puts a little forehand shot which Fleury kicks out. What a save. Engelland owes Fleury a beer.
3:46: Brassard fires a spinning slapper from the high slot over the cage.
3:08: Nash lofts a wrister from the right circle. Fleury fights it off.
2:45: Sill's minor is killed with minimal threat from the Rangers.
2:03: Kunitz races in on the right wing and smacks Girardi behind the Rangers cage with a reverse hit. Giradi is hobbled a bit.
1:20: Jussi Jokinen left winger. After a give and goes behind the Rangers' cage with the great Joe Vitale, Gibbons creates a little room on Staal with a nifty "pass" to himself and taps a feed to Jokinen floating to the right of the cage. Jokinen leans down and taps a wrister by the glove hand of Lundqvist. Gibbons and the great Joe Vitale get assists. The "Hey Song" is always nifty. Penguins 2-0.
0:20: Kunitz dries a slapper from the left wing. Lundqvist fights it off.
0:03: Girardi chops a loose puck from the right circle. Orpik blocks it.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 2, Rangers 0.
-Unlike Tuesday against the Devils, the Penguins buried most of their chances in that period. They were pretty opportunistic. With the exception of Adams post shot, they made the Rangers pay for their mistakes.
-So far so good for Taylor Pyatt. Just prior to the Adams post shot, he had a little chip and chase play in the left wing corner where he just scrummed for the puck and used his size to keep the defenseman away. He looked a little like another big No. 17 - Mike Rupp.
-Marc-Andre Fleury is a big reason this is a 2-0 game. He stole a goal from Brassard early.
-The Penguins have a 9-8 lead in shots.
-The Rangers have a 19-17 lead in attempted shots.
-Nash leads the game with four shots.
-Kunitz leads the Penguins with two shots.
-Girardi leads the game with 7:52 of ice time.
-Crosby leads the Penguins with 7:43.
-The Rangers control faceoffs, 16-8 (67 percent).
-Derek Stepan is 7 for 9 (78 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale is 3 for 3 (100 percent).
-Pouliot and Orpik each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-Jeff Zatkoff is on the cover of Icetime:
19:40: Off a feed by Crosby, Neal booms a powerful one-timer from the right circle wide of the cage.
18:51: Jussi Jokinen. Left winger. Gibbons hustles up the left wing and centers a pass to the slot. Girardi actually gets a stick on the puck but it still slides to Jokinen. Positioned for a forehand shot, Jokinen adjusts and flips a backhander which glances off the face of McDonagh and bets Lundqvist on the blocker side. It wasn't pretty but it counts. Gibbons and Sutter get assists. The "Hey Song" is always pretty. Penguins 3-0.
17:36: Sing-song "Hennnn....Riiiiikkkk" chants begin for Lundqvist.
15:00: An update on Dorsett:
Dorsett is out for rest of the game with a leg injury after that first period blocked shot, per #NYR— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) January 4, 2014
14:38: Pyatt releases a wrister from the right wing which hits a glove and is fought off by Lundqvist.
14:23: Adams collects a loose puck and chips a wrister on net from the right circle. Lundqvist eats it up.
13:53: Girardi chops a slapper from the right point which hits Brian Boyle.
13:37: Nash cuts across the slot and floats a wrister on net. Fleury fights it off.
12:43: Battling for a puck in the Penguins' right wing corner, Sill drops Girardi with a big hit into the boards.
12:25: Girardi floats a wrister from the right circle which Rob Scuderi blocks.
11:34: Sutter rips a wrister from the right half wall. Lundqvist fights it off.
11:16: A wrister by Jokinen from the righ twing is steers away by Lundqvist.
9:33: Off a neutral zone steal, Nash lifts a wrister from the right circle which is blocked partially by Scuderi.
8:40: Girardi floats a wrister from the right point which Pyatt blocks.
8:28: McDonagh cranks a loose puck on net from the right point which glances off the cross bar.
8:11: Brad Richards decides to make an appearance and whips a shot/pass at the cage from the right wing corner. Fleury fights it off despite traffic.
7:52: Richards booms a one-timer from the right half wall wide to the far side.
7:39: Sill slams McDonagh into the right wing of the Penguins' zone.
7:33: Off a cross-ice feed, McDonagh cranks a one-timer from the right half wall which Fleury eats up. That freezes play. The Penguins needed a stoppage badly. The Rangers dominated puck possession on that shift.
7:21: Callaghan whips a wrister from ab adl angle on the left wing. Fleury eats it up. Brassard tries to crash in on Fleury. Niskanen and Crosby each give him the business for his troubles.
6:32: Sutter tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right of the cage. Lundqvist pokes it away.
4:47: McDonagh chops a loose pcuk from the right half wall. It hits Orpik's stick and hops up on net where Fleury is able to adjust and fight it off.
3:58: Off an offensive zone faceoff wing, Anton Stralman puts a wrister on net. Fleury eats it up.
3:39: Battling for a puck behind the Penguins' net, Brassard is tripped up by Jokinen. That's two minutes. Adams, Sutter, Engelland and Orpik take the ice.
3:22: Taking a pass above the blue pain. Kreider has a chance but can't controls the puck enough to get a clean shot off.
3:07: Off a cross-ice pass from Stepan, Kreider tries a more long-distance approach and whacks a slapper to the far side which Fleury stretches out and gloves. Fans offer "Flerrr...eeeee!" chances in appreciation.
2:27: Richards whacks a slapper from center point which Bortuzzo blocks.
2:00: Brassard force a pass from above the right circle. Vitale slides down to block it. Bortuzzo whacks the rebound down ice to kill off the res of Jokinen's minor.
1:49: Attendance is announced as 18,668. It is the team's 307th consecutive sellout.
1:32: Kunitz-Crosby for Sochi 2014. Kunitz steals a puck off Marc Staal in the left circle of the Rangers' zone. He then taps a forehand pass to Crosby int hes lto. Crosby gets a step on Stepan and floats a wobbly backhander off the right post and behind Lundqvist's glove. What a display of chemistry on that play between Kunitz and Crosby. The "Hey Song" always has chemistry. Kunitz and Orpik get assist. No clue how Orpik got an assist on that goal. Penguins 4-0.
0:49: The Penguins keep attacking. Off a feed from the slot by Simon Despres, Neal rips a wrister which Lundqvist fights off. Jokinen crashes in and tries to jams the puck but no dice.
0:13: Another penalty for the Penguins Pyatt shoved Allen from behind while forechecking him in the right wing corner. Allen crashes into the boards. Pyatt is given a cross-checking minor. That was a little ticky tack. Adams, the great Joe Vitale, Engeland and Orpik take the ice.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Rangers 0.
-Henrik Lundqvist, who won a gold medal in 2006, is a virtual lock to make Sweden's roster in upcoming games in Sochi. And Marc-Andre Fleury is outplaying him by a wide margin tonight.
-After Jokinen's second goal, the Rangers actually dominated puck possession in the Penguins' zone for several shifts. The difference was Fleury. He kicked out a lot of quality chances by the Rangers.
-We're starting to think Jokinen likes life as a winger a lot better than as a center.
-Gibbons has been a nifty little playmaker tonight. He has set up each of Jokinen's goals.
-The Rangers' big money forwards - Richard and Nash - have been nearly invisible tonight.
-It seems like Girardi and McDonagh never leave the ice.
-The Rangers lead the game in shots on net, 22-17.
-The Rangers lead in attempted shots, 44-29.
-Nash leads the game with six shots.
-Neal and Jokinen each lead the Penguins with three shots.
-Girardi leads the game with 15:15 of ice time.
-Scuderi is right behind him with 15:14.
-Faceoffs are tied, 22-22 (50 percent).
-Stepan is 9 for 15 (60 percent).
-Crosby is 10 for 18 (56 percent).
-Orpik and Vitake each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-None of the Rangers has more than one blocked shots
20:00: The Rangers will start the period with 1:47 of power-play time on fresh ice. Sutter, Adams, Orpik and Engelland take the ice.
19:38: Richard rips a wrister from the left circle which Fleury swats down with a glove hand.
19:17: Zuccarello lifts a tricky little shot from the left circle which Fleury fights off.
18:47: Stepan lifts a wrister from the left circle. Fleury snags it despite a partial screen by Kreider.
18:09: As the Pyatt minor expires, Nash floats a wrister from the left half wall which its a body in front.
17:23: Niskanen whacks a slapper from the right point over the cage.
17:00: Staal hobbles down the run way in some discomfort. He quickly returns. He appears to have been kicked between the legs by Neal - by accident - while battling for a puck.
16:02: Girardi rips a wrister on net from the right circle.
15:55: Engelland pushes the puck up the left wing and chips it in deep at the Ranger's blue line. John Moore tries to stand him up with a hip check an his slammed into the left wing boards for his troubles. Moore is stunned for a moment but collects himself and heads to the bench with a bloody nose.
14:48: McDonagh is hobbling after being struck with a puck in the neutral zone.
13:03: Pouliot floats a wrister from the right wing. Fleury snags it.
12:20: The Rangers finally get on the scoreboard. The Penguins get a little careless in their offensive zone and pay. Pyatt loses a puck battle with Brassard in the Penguins right wing corner. Pouliot takes it on the right wall and deals a pass to Brassard all alone in the right circle. Brassard rips a wrister behind Fleury to eliminate the goose egg on the scoreboard. The Penguins had Engelland, Sill and Pyatt on the ice and they didn't seem to be on the same page. Pouliot and Brassard get assists. Penguins 4-1.
11:56: The Penguins get another power play. Zuccarello is called for high sticking Crosby near the Penguins' bench. He brought is stick up to protect himself for a shoulder check by Crosby and caught Crosby's face. Neal, Kunitz, Niskanen, Jokinen and Crosby take the ice.
11:15: Jokinen whacks a shot/pass from the right point which hits a body in front.
9:56: The Zuccarello minor is killed. The Penguins didn't offer much of a threat there.
9:17: Pyatt pushes the puck up the right wing and taps a backhanded feed to the slot.
8:47: Girardi crnks a slapper from above the right circle. Fleury fights it off.
8:07: Not so fast folks. ThE Rangers get back into it. As Brssard lays in the crease in pain, Zuccarello floats a shot/pass from above the right circle towards McDonagh. The puck hits something and deflects behidn Fleury. We're not sure what that hit exactly. Either way, the Rangers will take it. Girardi and Brassard get assists. Penguins 4-2.
7:06: Chris Kunitz has had enough of this comeback by the Rangers. After Crosby wins a battle for puck possession behind the Rangers' cage, he whacks a shot from the right to the crease. Lundqvist kicks it out. Neal and Crosby battle for the rebound which slides to Kunitz all alone on the left of the net. Kuntiz taps it into an open cage by a diving Lundqvist. Lundqvist looks up in frustration. The Penguins reclaim momentum. Crosby and Neal get assists. The "Hey Song" always has momentum. Penguins 5-2.
6:38: More sing-song "Hennn...riiiiiikkkk...." chants.
5:11: Sutter lifts a wrister which Lundqvist snags.
3:43: Play is halted as Crosby and McDonagh get into it. Crosby shoved him to the ice and they wrestled. Both players get minors for roughing. They chirp each other from the penalty boxes quite a bit. We'll have four-on-four play for two minutes.
3:20: Jokinen nearly completes the hat trick as he taps a feed by the great Joe Vitale wide of the net.
2:15: A "Go-Home Ran-Gers!" chant begins.
1:35: As McDonagh and Crosby leave the box, Bortuzzo gives McDonagh a whack to the back of the legs.
1:28: Glass lifts a wrister from the right circle. Lundqvist snags it.
1:01: A slapper by Despres from the left point is fought off by Lundqvist.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Rangers 2.
-There has been a lot of debate over whether or not Team Canada should take Chris Kunitz and pair him with Sidney Crosby in the upcoming games. The two of them offered a pretty good argument in their case tonight. In a game against Henrik Lundqvist, the presumed starting goaltender for Sweden, they combined for three goals. They also did this while facing plenty of icetime against Ryan McDonagh, defenseman who was chosen to the United States Olympic team a few days ago.
-If you don't think Crosby and Kunitz are worthy of being teamed together in Sochi, here's what Lundqvist said about them: