The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers play the second of their three meetings this week on Thursday.
Two weeks ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Blues would finish third in the Metropolitan Division and set up a first-round match-up with the New Jersey Devils.
But the 7-2-1 stretch of the Baines coincided with the 5-5-2 of the Rangers, and suddenly, these upcoming meetings hold some risks for both sides.
Pittsburgh’s loss to Montreal on Tuesday night and New York’s victory over Washington eased the burden on the Rangers a bit, but if the Pens can win the next two contests in regulation, they will be just four points away from the Blues with 13 games remaining. to play.
Can Pittsburgh make things interesting with a win as an underdog Thursday night?
Betting on the NHL?
Penguins vs Rangers predictions
(7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Not only did the Penguins lose to the lowly Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, but they also saw two veteran defensemen — Jeff Petrie and Jan Rota — injured.
Neither Petri nor Rota are two of the best pairings at this point in their careers, but Pittsburgh is already weak on the Blueline with newly acquired Dmitry Kulikov already out for the week.
Pittsburgh’s depth on defense is just one of their flaws this season, but it’s far from the only one.
The team’s bottom six finishers have also struggled to get by for large parts of the season, and Pens addressed that problem by trading for Nick Bonino to settle for fourth.
Now Bonino gets hurt too.
But none of these problems are as great as what is going on with goal pursuit.
863 save percentage and has been pulled three times in nine games since returning from a groin injury, which means the team is likely to lean on Casey Desmith.
DeSmith has strong numbers in 2022-23, but his career stats have ranked him as the No. 2 point guard.
The Penguins seemed to have settled down as their recent scores stretched, but the team still struggled to prevent scoring chances.
Pens creates enough offense to make up for that, but that job will only get more difficult with injuries to the blueline and inconsistency on goal.
The Rangers haven’t been at their best for some time now, but this game should be an occasion for them to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s leaky defense.
The goalkeeping superiority is also very stark.
Choose Penguin vs. Rangers
Rangers -1.5 (+165, BetMGM)
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