Looking to bolster their offense, the New York Rangers committed more than $80 million this offseason to sign free-agent centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. The early season struggles of the pair, however, have contributed to the Rangers being in last place with the lowest goal total in the NHL.
Former Penguin Straka, tied with Gomez and Michal Rozsival for the Rangers’ lead in goals at two, suffered a broken bone in his right index finger Saturday in New York’s 1-0 shootout loss to Boston.
Gomez, with one assist, and Drury have totaled just nine points. Drury has five assists, but the former Buffalo Sabre, who scored 67 goals over the past two seasons, has just one in seven games this season.
Drury’s goal came during a three-point night in the Rangers’ 5-2 season-opening win over Florida on Oct. 4 - the only time the Rangers have scored more than three goals in 2007-08. They have 13 goals on the season, going scoreless in 15 of 21 periods.
New York concludes a three-game road trip by trying to avoid its first four-game losing streak since Jan. 31-Feb. 6. Saturday’s defeat marked the second time it has been shut out this season.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has done his best to keep the Rangers in games, allowing more than three goals only once while starting all seven contests. He is 7-3-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average in 13 starts against Pittsburgh.
“Henrik’s been great all year,” said Gomez, who received a seven-year contract worth $51.5 million while Drury signed for five years and $35.3 million. “That’s not the area we have to worry about.”
Jaromir Jagr’s lack of production hasn’t helped matters. With one goal, the Rangers captain has his lowest total in the first seven games of any of his 17 seasons.
Jagr has 15 goals and 14 assists in 28 games against the Penguins since they traded him to Washington on Jan. 23, 2004. He has seven goals and five assists in 13 trips to Pittsburgh, but has gone pointless in three of his last four visits.
The Penguins open a three-game homestand looking to build on their first back-to-back wins of the season after defeating the Capitals 2-1 on Saturday. Ryan Whitney’s fourth career game-winning goal provided the final margin with 2:01 left in the second period.
The Penguins’ last three-game win streak occurred during a four-game unbeaten run from March 24-29.
“I don’t think we can afford to look too far ahead,” said center Sidney Crosby, who has eight goals and 12 assists in 15 meetings with the Rangers. “We’ve made some good steps here the past couple of games. We have to build off it.”
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury is 6-0-2 with a 2.31 GAA in his last eight games against New York, improving him to 7-6-2 with a 3.15 GAA in 15 starts versus the Rangers. He allowed a season low in goals while making 30 saves against Washington.
“Those guys helped me out,” Fleury said. “They didn’t let (Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin) get in front of me.”
The Penguins have a power-play goal in each game and are 9-for-41 on the season.
Tuesday’s game will mark the first career meeting between brothers Jordan Staal, the Penguins’ 19-year-old center, and Marc Staal, the Rangers’ 20-year-old rookie defenseman. Jordan Staal scored his first goal of season Saturday.
Pittsburgh won last season’s series 5-1-2, going 3-0-1 at Mellon Arena.