by Patrick Hoffman on 03/15/12 at 03:19 PM ET
UPDATE: According to Dave Lozo at NHL.com, Rangers’ back-up netminder Martin Biron will be starting tonight against Crosby and the Penguins as Henrik Lundqvist is still recovering from the flu.
“I was hoping to play tonight, but being off the ice for three days, I had a feeling it might be tough to be game-ready right away,” said Lundqvist, who took part in the team’s morning practice but won’t dress for the game. “There’s no health issue. It’s just sitting at home doing nothing. Just laying in bed for two days doesn’t really help.”
This is what many hockey folks are wondering when it comes to tonight’s tilt between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden.
For starters, it is both a divisional- and conference- battle. The Blueshirts currently hold a six point lead over the Penguins as the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
On the other side, the Penguins have won nine straight games. Their team is getting contributions up and down the lineup and have done so without their team captain and arguably the best player in the world today, Sidney Crosby.
That brings us to our next point. Tonight’s tilt marks the return of No.87 to the Penguins’ lineup. Rangers’ fans have made it well known how they feel about Crosby and as such, will more than likely be all over him throughout tonight’s game.
Lastly, this will be a big test for the Rangers. If the Rangers can put in a 60-minute effort, play within themselves and get the job done against one of the NHL’s top teams, than it is time to be considered a Stanley Cup contender this season.
For this to happen, players such as Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards need to continue to keep up their fine offensive play while starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist needs to get back to playing consistent hockey after not looking like himself for the past few weeks.
It will certainly be a terrific hockey game with a playoff like feel and atmosphere at MSG. The question is, how will the Rangers respond to it and how will they show that they are ready to be considered a contender this season?
I guess we will find out within the next 10 hours or so.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.