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Rebuilding Rangers look to compete with hot Penguins

Sports Xchange
14 Mar 2018, 13:38 GMT+10

NEW YORK -- A pair of teams with decidedly different goals down the stretch will face off Wednesday night, when the New York Rangers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.

Both teams head into Wednesday fresh off a win. The Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak Monday night by beating the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, 6-3. The host Penguins won for the fourth time in five games Sunday, when they defeated the Dallas Stars, 3-1.

The Penguins (40-26-4) will enter Wednesday one point behind the first-place Washington Capitals in Metropolitan Division and three points ahead of the third-place Philadelphia Flyers.

If the Penguins are going to catch the Capitals, they'll have to maintain the standard of defensive play set against the Stars. Pittsburgh has allowed one goal or fewer nine times in 30 games since Jan. 1 but has also allowed four goals or more nine times.

"That's the blueprint for us moving forward," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters after the win vs. Dallas. "We're capable with being every bit as good defensively as we are offensively when we pay attention to the details like this."

The Rangers (31-32-7) begin Wednesday in last place in the Metropolitan and well into the playing-for-pride portion of the season after beginning a rebuilding project at the trade deadline, when New York dealt away several players, including captain Ryan McDonagh and longtime star Rick Nash.

The Rangers briefly moved back on to the cusp of wild-card contention by winning their first three games following the deadline, though the three-game losing streak that ended Sunday likely extinguished any flickering playoff hopes. Still, playing above-.500 hockey with a rebuilt roster is a source of satisfaction for New York players.

"I think just in general the mood is always better when you win," Rangers left winger Jimmy Vesey said after recording his first NHL hat trick Sunday. "No one is going to take it easy on us just because we have a young lineup or anything like that. We can't feel bad for ourselves. We have to go out and play with passion and pride every night. I think we've done a good job of that lately."

The Penguins' Tristan Jarry is likely to oppose the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist in a battle of No. 1 goalies. Jarry took the defeat in his most recent appearance Saturday, when he made 12 saves before being pulled after the second period of a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is 3-2-0 this month in place of Matt Murray, who is sidelined with a concussion but expected to travel with the team to New York.

Lundqvist also took a loss in his previous game Saturday, when he stopped 32 shots as the Rangers fell to the Florida Panthers, 4-3, in the shootout.

Jarry is 1-2-0 in three career games against the Rangers. Lundqvist is 29-23-11 in 63 regular-season appearances against the Penguins, whom he's faced more than any other opponent.

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