|Rangers||East Division Ranks /8||Penguins|
The beautiful yet also cruel thing about sports: sometimes the better team doesn’t win. Unfortunately, Despite being the better team for about 45 minutes, the Blueshirts were defeated 4-3 by the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. After a bad opening line change, the Rangers found themselves down just 32 seconds into the game on an early opener from Travis Zajac. The game was only tied for a grand total of 1:54. The Blueshirts were ultimately playing catchup for most of the game as they pounded 50 shots on MacKenzie Blackwood who was equal to the task. The three Rangers goals were from Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Filip Chytil.
With suffering defeat, head coach David Quinn has experimented with new lines during practiced. Alexis Lafreniere and Pavel Buchnevich will swap lines giving the Blueshirts a new feel to the top-six. The second line consisting of Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome has not been as sharp as it was last year, and Quinn hopes the addition of Buchnevich will give it a spark.
“The way Buchie has been playing, for the most part, competing and playing in all three zones – and obviously he’s got skill to complement those guys as well – I think it’s worth looking at,” said Quinn.
Lafreniere is expected to start on his natural left wing with Chris Kreider shifting to right wing. So far, the first overall pick hasn’t registered any points in his young career but that can change in the blink of an eye. The good news for the 19-year-old is they are playing a Pittsburgh Penguins team who allow 4.5 goals per game.
“He’s very mature for his age, and the speed he plays at and the way he sees the ice,” Zibanejad said. “He’s a real pro, so I’m just excited to get to play with him.” Zibanejad will center Lafreniere for the first time.
Tony DeAngelo is expected to rejoin the lineup after a two-game absence that started as discipline. However, DeAngelo is not expected to return to the top power play unit immediately as Adam Fox will likely retain that role.
“I thought that unit looked outstanding for the two games he was there,” Quinn said of Fox. “We’re fortunate. We’ve got a lot of power play guys and we think both units can be successful.”
The Penguins offense has been more of a committee with depth players such as Brandon Tanev contributing more. But the top line consisting of Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel remains as dangerous as ever. Crosby currently leads the team with five points and Guentzel is currently a point-per-game player. And joining them on the top line is Kasperi Kapanen who was acquired from the Leafs in the offseason. During his first game, Kapanen registered an assist. The other Penguins superstar, Evgeni Malkin is off to a slow start with just one point in four games played.
Pittsburgh is currently 2-0 on home ice after defeating the Washington Capitals twice. They are set to have an NHL debut with former first-round pick Pierre-Oliver Joseph recalled from the taxi squad on an emergency basis. The 21-year-old was the 23rd overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and was traded to Pittsburgh in the Phil Kessel deal.
Making a return to Pittsburgh will be now Rangers assistant head coach Jacques Martin. Martin had been a coach of the Penguins since August 2013 before being let go following the conclusion of the playoff bubble. Also making a return to play his old team is Jack Johnson who was bought out by the Penguins during this past offseason. Johnson had signed a five-year deal during free agency in the summer of 2018.
Igor Shesterkin will make the start for the Rangers. This will be Shesterkin’s first career start against the Penguins.