The Pittsburgh Penguins are making a spirited late-season run in an attempt to secure home ice in the first round of the playoffs, but standing in the way are the resurgent New York Rangers. Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Penguins visit New York on Sunday for a showdown between two teams battling for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
Pittsburgh trails the Rangers by four points with a game in hand and holds a one-point advantage over the fourth-place New York Islanders after erupting for a season-high goal total in a 7-2 drubbing at Detroit on Saturday. Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel each recorded career-high five-point performances for the Penguins, who won two of the previous three meetings with the Rangers this season – including a 5-3 victory at Madison Square Garden on March 13. The Rangers their winning streak to three games with a 5-2 victory at nemesis Montreal on Saturday, matching their goal total from the previous 11 visits to the Bell Centre. The Rangers have scored 14 goals in their last three games, including five on the power play.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVA
LINE HISTORY: The Rangers opened as -135 favorites and the line has moved up to -140 at most books. The total opened at 5 and will likely remain at that number.
Penguins – LW C. Kunitz (Questionable Sunday, concussion), D O. Maatta (Out Sunday, lower body), C E. Malkin (Out Sun, upper body).
Rangers – D D. McIlrath (Out Sunday, knee).
Penguins – M. Fleury (33-23-5, 2.30 GAA, 0.921 save percentage), M. Murray (4-2-1, 1.85 GAA, 0.935 save percentage).
Rangers – H. Lundqvist (33-19-6, 2.40 GAA, 0.922 save percentage).
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (41-25-8, 18-14-4 AWAY, 31-30 O/U): Pittsburgh suddenly is dealing with a revolving door along the blue line, losing defenseman Olli Maatta on a week-to-week basis due to a lower-body injury sustained in Thursday’s loss to New Jersey and Brian Dumoulin to an upper-body ailment in Saturday’s victory. Dumoulin, who has played in all 74 games, has been ruled out for Sunday, but blue-liner Ben Lovejoy was back in the lineup Saturday following a 16-game absence. The injuries extend beyond the blue line – forward Chris Kunitz (upper body) is listed as a game-time decision for Sunday’s game.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (43-24-8, 25-8-3 HOME, 33-28 O/U): Coach Alain Vigneault shuffled his lines at Friday’s practice, moving Derick Brassard between Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, and it paid off handsomely against the Canadiens. Kreider scored a pair of goals while Brassard netted one tally and set up two others to move into a tie with Mats Zuccarello for the team lead with 57 points. Brassard, who needs three points to match his career high established last season, has notched five goals and six assists in his last 10 games overall and has six tallies and 17 points in 17 career meetings with Pittsburgh.
* Penguins are 7-1 in their last 8 vs. Eastern Conference.
* Rangers are 1-4 in their last 5 after scoring 5 goals or more in their previous game.
* Over is 4-0-2 in Penguins last 6 games playing on 0 days rest.
* Over is 7-0-1 in Rangers last 8 games playing on 0 days rest.