Rangers host Pens in Atlantic Division showdown

11:51 AM, Jan 20, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The good news for the New York Rangers is that they have to wait less than 24 hours for a chance to bounce back from a season-opening loss.

The bad news is that meeting comes against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has had some recent success against the Blueshirts.

The Rangers look to find the win column on Sunday evening against the Penguins in Rick Nash's Madison Square Garden debut.

New York was the top seed in last season's playoffs and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, where it was ousted by the New Jersey Devils in six games. The Rangers, though, established themselves as serious contenders again this season after acquiring the high-scoring Nash in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets over the summer.

Nash had an assist in his Rangers debut on Saturday, but New York dropped a 3-1 decision at the Boston Bruins. The Blueshirts trailed by two goals before Brad Richards lit the lamp in the second period, but the Bruins eventually iced things with an empty-net tally.

"We had a slow start," Nash admitted. "The first period was a bit rusty, but after that I thought we came back and played hard, but we have to finish and score goals."

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves in defeat.

New York will play five of its next six at home, including a rematch with Boston on Wednesday. The Rangers went 10-2-2 in the second game of back-to- back contests last season and the club should be eager to hit the ice in front of the home fans.

"I think anytime after a loss you want to get right out there right away," Nash said.

The Penguins should offer another good test as they have won seven of their last nine at Madison Square Garden. Overall, Pittsburgh lost its first two against New York a season ago, but outscored the division rivals 16-5 in taking the final four meetings.

The Penguins won the season series for the fourth time in six campaigns.

Pittsburgh began its shortened season on Saturday with a victory over another Atlantic Division rival, downing the hosting Philadelphia Flyers 3-1. Marc- Andre Fleury made 26 saves to record his 227th career win, snapping a tie with Tom Barrasso for the most in franchise history.

"It's flattering. I think it shows that I've played with a lot of good teammates, good players," said Fleury. "Tom Barrasso is a guy I've always looked up to, so to pass him is an honor for me."

Fleury will get a chance to savor his milestone a bit as Tomas Vokoun is expected to make the start in net on Sunday for his Penguins debut. Vokoun was acquired from the Washington Capitals in June for a draft pick and will make his first start since March 29, a game he left early due to a groin injury.

James Neal, Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz each had a goal for the Penguins, who lost in the opening round of last season's playoffs to the Flyers in six games.

"We knew it was going to be a little sloppy, everyone's still trying to get timing down," Neal said. "It's been a long time since we've been in a game situation. But no better way to start the season off than with a big win in Philly."

Pittsburgh is opening the season with four of five on the road, but will host Toronto on Wednesday.

Pens star center Sidney Crosby, who had 37 points in just 22 games last season, did not log a point versus the Flyers, but has one in each of the last 13 games he has played against the Rangers. The former Hart Trophy winner has 10 goals and 16 assists over that streak.

Richards led the Rangers with four assists and six points versus the Penguins last season.

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