Game Preview: vs NY Rangers - December 20, 2016



Pittsburgh Penguins (20-7-5; 2nd Metro) vs NY Rangers (23-10-1; 1st Metro)
December 20, 2016 @ 7:00 PM - PPG Paints Arena
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh


The Penguins may have dropped a pair of games after losing Kris Letang to a lower body injury, but by salvaging a couple of overtime points they'll come into tonight's game with an active 9 game points streak. With a regulation win, they'll be able to pull back into a tie with the first place Rangers. 

It's been hit or miss for the Rangers in recent seasons when it comes to Rick Nash, sometimes getting a player who shows why he's a former first overall draft pick and others a player who clearly shows the wear and tear of 14 years playing a power forward game. They've gotten the good Nash so far this season, as his 13 goals tie for the team lead and leave him just two behind last season's career-low total in half as many games played. Unfortunately for them, the good Rick Nash also comes with the same mileage, and after returning from a groin injury earlier this month, Nash will again miss time with a different groin injury after hurting himself in Sunday's game against the Devils.

Michael Grabner is currently tied with Nash atop the leaderboard with 13 goals scored, but he might have difficulty putting much distance between them in Nash's absence. After starting off with a blistering 12 goals in 20 games that saw him challenging Sidney Crosby for the league lead, Grabner has fallen back to Earth with a thud, managing just a single goal in his last 13 games.

The Penguins have chased Henrik Lundqvist from the net in three straight starts, but they'll face backup Antti Raanta tonight, the second time they'll face him this season after he previously stopped 29 of 31 shots against the secure a 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh in November. Though on the surface it may seem like resting a goaltender against a team that has had his number as of late, it continues an interesting pattern of usage by Alain Vigneault in the Ranger net. Earlier this month, Raanta made four consecutive starts, allowing just three goals and posting a 0.966 SV% in the process before ceding the net back to Lundqvist for the past three games. Through 11 starts on the year, Raanta has put up the type of numbers (0.941 SV%; 1.67 GAA) that force his way into the starting conversation, even with Lundqvist (0.920 SV%; 2.34 GAA) still putting up solid numbers himself.

Lineup



Notes

- Justin Schultz has been on fire lately, and he currently leads all NHL defensemen with 12 points (4g, 8a) in the month of December.

- The Penguins (7-0-2) are one of three teams to have no regulation losses so far in December. The Blue Jackets (8-0-0) and Wild (7-0-1) are the other two.

- Matt Murray (10-0-2) has not lost in his last 12 starts at PPG Paints Arena.

- The team has filmed another holiday video, re-shooting scenes from Elf with current Pens players.


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