At a glance: Coming off two straight wins, the Rangers face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since the superstar center returned to action last week. Trailing the league-leading Penguins by five points in the standings, the Rangers hope to make up ground Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Crosby’s back: Crosby will play his fifth game since missing ten months with a concussion and, if his season debut against the Islanders last Monday was any indication, he isn’t too rusty. Crosby tallied twice and recorded two assists in the Penguins’ 5-0 rout of the Islanders; the 14-6-4 Penguins have won three of the past four games since Crosby’s return.
High marks for Hagelin: Rookie forward Carl Hagelin has been impressive in the first two games of his NHL career. The 23-year-old winger, a college hockey standout at University of Michigan, recorded an assist in his debut Friday against the Capitals and scored his first NHL goal in the team’s 2-0 blanking of the Flyers Saturday.
Home sweet home: After struggling at home last season – a 20-17-4 record that ranked 27th in the league – the Rangers are off to their best start through eight games at Madison Square Garden in almost two decades. The team is 6-1-1 at home heading into Tuesday’s match; The Rangers began the 1992-93 season with a 7-1-1 record at Madison Square Garden.
Staal making strides: Injured Rangers defenseman Marc Staal began skating lightly on his own Monday. The 24-year-old blue-liner resumed skating for the first time since being shut down last month with post-concussion symptoms stemming from a hit delivered by older brother Eric in a game last February. Staal, who was cleared for light physical activity earlier this month, skated again Tuesday morning but has yet to practice with the team.
Stingy on D: Even without Staal to bolster the back end, the Rangers have been terrific on defense this season. The team leads the league in fewest goals against, surrendering only 41 goals through 20 games.
Bottom line: The Rangers have won their last two games against Pittsburgh – outscoring them by a margin of 10-5 – and hope to extend that streak to three in the two teams' first meeting of the season. But to do so they’ll have to go through Crosby as he attempts to lead his Penguins to their third straight win in Tuesday’s Atlantic Division match-up.