Penguins-Rangers: NHL Atlantic Showdown

Matt HunterCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2008

The Pittsburgh Penguins are sitting in the fourth spot in the NHL Eastern Conference, and as of today are looking up at the New York Rangers, who are currently five points ahead of them with 36 points.

The Penguins have the opportunity to though to cut into that deficit on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, where they will face the Rangers.  This should be a very hard-fought contest between two of the top teams in the East.

The Penguins will be coming off some much needed rest as they played back-to-back games last weekend against the Sabres and Devils where they went 1-1.

The biggest aspect of this game is going to be goaltending.  It looks that Dany Sabourin will be getting the start again for the Penguins.  Sabourin is 5-2-1 with an outstanding 1.84 GAA and a .930 save percentage. 

This should not be a problem for the Penguins because Sabourin has been playing great hockey all season long and can be trusted to put in a good hard effort in every game that he comes into play.

On the other side of the ice is Henrik Lundqvist who has put up a 15-6-2 record with a 2.19 GAA, and a .925 save percentage.  He is a great goalie, and he is the reason that the Rangers are off to such a great start this season, sitting in the top spot in the East.

The Penguins need to get to Lundqvist early on Wednesday night.  It is always necessary that you get to an opposing goalie early.  This will take him off of his game quick, and once you are able to do that you should have a much easier chance of getting some pucks by him.

Right now nothing is better than seeing Malkin and Crosby as the number-one and two leaders in points in the NHL.  These two are a force to be reckoned with, and right now they both are playing amazing hockey.  Come Wednesday night, they are going to have the opportunity to prove to the league that they are the best in the NHL, by coming out and adding on to their league-leading point totals.

The Penguins also need to watch out for the New York Rangers' offense.  The Rangers have a lot of goal scorers and the two to watch out for most is Zherdev and Naslund.  These two are great players who can open up the ice with their skating, but also put the puck in the net with their finesse.

This is going to be a tough test for the young Penguins defense, who I believe have been playing great hockey so far this year, even without Gonchar and Whitney.  If the Penguins defense can find a way to slow down those two players, the game should be a lot easier to manage.

One final point here is for the people who are getting a bit antsy that the Penguins cannot catch the Rangers in the standing.  The Penguins are five points behind as previously stated—however, they have also played four fewer games than the Rangers have.

So do not worry Penguin fans being only five points behind while playing four fewer games is not bad at all.  Actually, it should be promising knowing that the only way the Rangers are ahead of us is because they have played that many more games.  By the time we are all even up, we should surpass the Rangers and take that top spot away from them.