The New York Rangers are just 15 games away from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Getting all their stars healthy before that though is the main goal.
That’s why, for the ninth straight game, the team will be without defensemen Ryan Lindgren as they gear up for their third matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night. Lindgren suffered an upper-body injury in the Rangers’ 6-3 loss to Washington back on February 25th. Although he has skated on his own according to Gerard Gallant, the loss has left New York without their best defender against some of the conference’s best teams.
It also doesn’t help that Thursday night’s contest is against a team that has been focused on getting even with them since last season’s playoff battle.
New York eliminated Pittsburgh in seven games in the first round of last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. During the series, controversial plays were a staple against both sides that ended up leaving Pittsburgh the sore loser while the Rangers moved on.
In 2023 though, the matchup has been won handily by the Penguins. Pittsburgh beat New York 3-2 back on December 20th and outlasted the Blueshirts by the same score just four days ago in overtime. Both games took place in Pittsburgh.
Now the regular season series shifts to Manhattan and the rambunctious crowd at Madison Square Garden. While the Rangers have a comfortable eight-point advantage over Pittsburgh for third place in the Metro division, the next two games against their rivals to the west could change the complexion of how they handle the end of their season.
Take the next two over Pittsburgh, and the pressure to rush Lindgren back from injury decreases substantially. Anything less, and the Rangers will need to make sure they have their top players play and risk even more injury as the run to the playoffs reaches its apex.