Rangers-Penguins Preview


Utter dominance at home is one reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins have reached 40 wins faster than any team in franchise history.

Crosby and the Penguins look to enter the Olympic break with a 17th win in 18 home games Friday night against the New York Rangers.

Pittsburgh (40-15-2) announced early Friday defenseman Kris Letang will be out for at least six weeks because of a stroke he suffered last week. Letang, a Norris Trophy finalist last season, will be treated with blood thinners and the stroke is not expected to threaten his career.

''I hope that by making my condition public at this time, I can help other people by encouraging them to seek medical help if they experience some of the symptoms associated with a stroke - regardless of their age or general health,'' the 26-year-old Letang said. ''It obviously was a shock to get the news, but I'm optimistic that I can overcome this and get back on the ice.''

Pittsburgh has a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference thanks in large part to owning a league-best 23-4-0 home record. Only two of the Penguins' 16 wins in their past 17 games at Consol Energy Center have gone past regulation.

The venue hasn't mattered much of late, and Pittsburgh won for the sixth time in eight tries with Wednesday's 5-1 victory at Buffalo. The team reached the 40-win plateau in 57 games, eight games fewer than their previous best in 1995-96.

Crosby had a goal and an assist to give himself an NHL-best 77 points - 12 more than Islanders center John Tavares, who's in second.

However, he may be starting to look ahead to captaining Canada toward a second straight Olympic gold medal. He got a taste of a potential knockout round matchup in Sochi on Wednesday against the Sabres' Ryan Miller, who Crosby slipped the gold-medal winner past four years ago in Vancouver and may again be the U.S. starting goaltender.

"I was cheering the goal this time," said coach Dan Bylsma, who will be behind the bench for the U.S. "It did dawn on me as Sid was going in and he scores that goal."

Crosby will face another potential Olympic foe Friday as Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist is slated to start for the Rangers (31-24-3). Pittsburgh's captain has one goal and four assists in the last two meetings with New York, beating Lundqvist in a 5-2 home win Jan. 3.

Crosby has scored 16 goals in 40 games against Lundqvist - his highest total against any goalie.

The Penguins have won 10 of 12 meetings with the Rangers, including two of three this season. They've given up a total of five goals in winning five straight at home against New York.

Lundqvist has been in net for four of those defeats, compiling a 2.72 goals-against average.

This time, he'll have to contend with Evgeni Malkin, who had an assist in the Penguins' 5-1 loss at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6 but missed the past two meetings with injuries.

Malkin, named to Russia's roster for the Winter Games, has three goals and as many assists in his last four games after getting one of each Wednesday.

The Rangers are trying to win at Pittsburgh for the first time since Lundqvist turned in a 37-save effort in a 3-1 victory Jan. 6, 2012.

New York, though, enters this visit coming off Thursday's 2-1 defeat to last-place Edmonton. Backup Cam Talbot made 29 stops while the team's season-high four-game winning streak ended.

"I don't think it was consistent enough," captain Ryan Callahan said of his team's play. "We need to have more of a consistent 60 minutes to get the win.

"I don't think we were getting pucks deep quite enough. We were a little sloppy through the neutral zone and when you do that against a team like that it will cost you."

It's unclear if Callahan will be on the ice in Pittsburgh since he reportedly could be traded before rosters freeze for the Olympic break earlier Friday. The right wing is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and negotiations with the Rangers on an extension are reportedly far apart.

Callahan has 11 goals and 13 assists in 40 games, but no points in the last five at Pittsburgh.