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Metropolitan Showdown As Penguins Visit Rangers

Kris Letang is out while Evgeni Malkin is day-to-day for the Penguins.

Kris Letang is out while Evgeni Malkin is listed as day-to-day for the Penguins.

The Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins travel to the Big Apple Wednesday to face Metropolitan Division rivals the New York Rangers.

Faceoff at Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.

Pittsburgh (24-10-1, 49pts) enters the Garden in good form having won four straight and nine of the last 10. This run of good form has seen the side edge out the Boston Bruins – the only team to be the Penguins during this stretch – at the top of the Eastern Conference.

New York (16-17-1, 33pts) meanwhile is simply searching for ways to win. The Rangers snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday, edging the Calgary Flames 4-3 after a shootout.

Currently entrenched in an unprecedented nine-game homestand, the win saw the Rangers move to 1-3-1 in the first five games. They’ll look to double their winning tally against the Penguins on Wednesday.

Statistically speaking, the Penguins outrank the Rangers across the board. Dan Bylsma’s side is ranked first in the league in power play percentage (26.5%), second in penalty killing (87.4%), fourth in goals against average (2.1 GAA) and sixth in goals scored (3.0GPG).

The Rangers meanwhile are a respectable fifth in penalty killing (85.8%) but mid-table in goals against (2.7 GAA) and power play percentage (17.9%). The team is 27th in the league in goals scored (2.2 GPG). This latter statistic becomes apparent when you realize that the Rangers do not have a single player with double digit goals.

That’s a problem the Penguins don’t have. Sidney Crosby leads the league in points (47), is third in assists (28) and fourth in goals (19). Kris Kunitz is seventh in goals (17) while Evgeni Malkin is first in assists (32) and third in points (41). This embarrassment of riches doesn’t guarantee the Penguins a win on Wednesday night though.

Injuries are once again catching up to the Penguins. Malkin is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury that has kept him out three of the last six. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh defense is banged up to the point of being almost unrecognizable. The side will be without Kris Letang (upper body), Paul Martin (leg), Brooks Orpik (head) and Rob Scuderi (lower back) once again on Wednesday. Backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun (illness) remains sidelined too.

With the Penguins’ lineup shook up with injury, the Rangers might like their chances at the Garden, especially considering Alain Vigneault’s side ran out 5-1 winners when the two teams met there on November 6. However, they’ll still need to find a way past Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury (19-8-1) currently leads the NHL in wins and has won six of his last seven appearances. His goals against average (1.98) and save percentage (.925) both rank in the league’s top 10. However, he did concede all five goals in that November showdown.

Fleury’s New York counterpart, Henrick Lundqvist (10-14-1) finds himself at the other end of the spectrum. Only Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres has lost more games (17) than Lundqvist this season. Still, the Swede proved to be the hero in Sunday’s win over the Flames, stopping Mikael Backlund’s final shootout shot to give the Rangers a rare victory.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers odds for 12/18/2013

Pittsburgh (-126) opened as the favorite over New York (+114) on the moneyline, something history approves of.

The Penguins have won eight of their last 10 meetings with the Rangers as well as nine of their last 13 visits to Madison Square Garden. Pittsburgh will be looking to prove New York’s win in November was nothing more than a fluke.

The over/under stands at 5 with the over (-116) favored ahead of the under (+105).

Both Pittsburgh (12-19-4) and New York (13-14-7) have favored the under this season. The Penguins have seen the total go under in three of the last four but the Rangers have seen the total go over in six of the last 10.

The total has gone over in four of the last five games between the Penguins and Rangers at the Garden.

After Wednesday night’s game, the Penguins and Rangers will meet twice more this regular season, on January 3 and February 7. Both games will be played at Consol Energy Center in Uptown Pittsburgh.

20131217_East_standingsFor a full list of today’s NHL odds, click here.

For updated NHL futures odds, click here.

For a selection of NHL team prop bets, click here.

For a selection of NHL player prop bets, click here.

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