Rangers Open Stretch of Division Games in Pittsburgh

The Rangers are in Pittsburgh tonight to face the Penguins to kick off a week that will have them face three tough Metro Division opponents.

The Blueshirts will be in Washington Friday and back at Madison Square Garden to take on the Devils on Saturday. All three opponents presently reside in a playoff spot, with the Rangers on the outside looking in, although just four points separate the four teams. The Metro battle continues and won’t get any easier as this thing marches on.

[Watch Rangers-Penguins on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]

The Rangers are coming off a 5-1 victory over Carolina that was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. Two empty-netters by Michael Grabner and a power play goal from Paul Carey, all occurring in the final 2:13 of the third period sealed the win.

Ryan McDonagh returned to the lineup after missing four games due to injury. He was terrific. Playing with a calming confidence, McDonagh was the player that the club has come to expect him to be and most importantly the player the club needs him to be. Expect his minutes, clocked at 22:54 in his return, to be significantly higher tonight against the high-powered Penguins.

[5 Facts to Know for Rangers-Penguins]

If there is ever a team in the league today whose game standard is established by the leadership of its best player, it’s Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby sets the table when it comes to competing and he has been on fire of late. The Penguins captain has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his last five games. Pittsburgh is 4-1-0 over that stretch.

Teammates and opponents alike generally acknowledge Crosby as the league’s best player. Among his many attributes, the greatest may be his willingness to fight for every inch of ice in order to win. As a teammate, it would be very hard to cheat when Crosby competes the way he does. Love him or hate him, he is the very best there is.

Michael Grabner, David Desharnais, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal talk about what the Rangers have to be prepared for when they hit the road to take on the Penguins.

3 KEYS TO RANGERS-PENGUINS

1. Stay Out of the D-Zone

The longer the Penguins play in the opponents end, the more dangerous they are. This is a deep offensive Pittsburgh squad that will hound the puck, gain possession and skillfully move it. Limiting time spent in their own end will be imperative for the Blueshirts this evening.

2. Turnovers

Step one in eliminating time in the d-zone will be minimalizing turnovers. Especially unforced ones. The puck needs to be held securely when in possession and moved smartly when needed.

[Carpiniello: Rangers Aim to Take Back Road Warrior Reputation]

3. Get it Deep

Step two in staying out of the d-zone is sending the puck deep into Pittsburgh’s end when the opportunity is there. Force the Penguins to retreat and come 200 feet to make a play.

[Watch Rangers-Penguins on MSG & Download Free on MSG GO]