NY Rangers (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0)
When: Wednesday, April 13th 2016
Where: Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 8:05 ET | TV: USA Network
The first round of the NHL Playoffs begins tonight and the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins will do battle once again. New York has knocked Pittsburgh out of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and has beaten them seven of the last eight postseason games. The Rangers finished third in the Metropolitan Division this year – 3 points behind the Penguins. New York has some injury concerns entering the postseason with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist recovering from an illness that forced him to miss practice on Monday. Captain Ryan McDonagh will be out at least the first game of the series with a hand injury. They will have defenseman Dan Girardi back in action as he has missed the last week, but has registered only 17 points in 74 games this season. He does skate over 20 minutes a game and has a +18 rating this season. Lundqvist will need to get back on track in net as he surrendered three or more goals in nine of his last 13 games, but has allowed a total of four goals in the last four postseason games in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh has more serious concerns in net with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray out with concussions. Fleury suffered his second concussion on March 31st and Murray was knocked out of a meaningless game on Saturday in Philadelphia. Fleury returned to practice but has yet to be cleared to play and Murray is day-to-day, so Pittsburgh may be forced to go with Jeff Zatkoff, who has not started since February 20th. Zatkoff is just 4-7-1 this season with a 2.79 GAA and .917 save percentage. Captain Sidney Crosby overcame a slow start to spark the late-season surge with points in 20 of his last 21, including an eight-game streak entering the postseason. The Penguins won eight in a row and 14 of 15 before the loss in Philly on Saturday. Kris Letang also has a point in each of his last eight games and hopes for the return of his defensive partner Olli Maatta (+27 rating), who is a game-time decision after missing the last nine contests. The Penguins killed off 22 straight power plays to end the regular season.
The Penguins come in as the hotter team, but concerns in net have me a little worried. Plus, the Rangers seem to own Pittsburgh in the playoffs. I think Lundqvist will get back on track and lead the Rangers to a game 1 victory.
Pick: Rangers +117