espn

Nothing at stake when Penguins visit Rangers

On Sunday, the final day of the NHL's regular season, there are a few games that will decide either a playoff spot or postseason seeding.

When the New York Rangers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden, that will not be the case.

The Penguins are locked into the second seed in the Metropolitan and host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. The Rangers have been ensconced in the first wild-card spot for seemingly forever and hit the road to face the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round series.

But that doesn't mean the Penguins and Rangers won't be looking to sharpen their games in the regular-season finale.

The Rangers have been scuffling for nearly a month, having gone 3-5-4 since March 9. Some of that has to do with resting players -- like they did during a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon -- but some of it has to do with poor play.

While Henrik Lundqvist will get the night off, others in the lineup will look to go into the playoffs on a positive note.

"I think we've got enough old guys in the room here and veteran guys that we can let everyone know that it's not gonna be like the last two games here and we need to pick it up," Dan Girardi told the New York Daily News of the team losing its past two games in regulation. "There's no little play. Hopefully we can just have a good, solid team effort (against Pittsburgh) and then get on our horse and get going."

Seven regulars did not play against Ottawa and coach Alain Vigneault has not announced what he will do with his lineup Sunday.

"It's tough, there are a lot of guys out right now," Girardi told the New York Post. "We want to win a game, but if we don't, we want to make sure we're good structurally. Hopefully (Sunday) night -- I'm not sure what the lineup is going to be -- but get a few guys back in maybe and play a little better, for sure."

The Penguins also rested a few key players for their 5-3 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist were among the regulars that did not play, while Sidney Crosby scored his league-leading 44th goal.

While the Rangers need a positive showing before the postseason, the Penguins had won four straight before their meaningless loss in Toronto. The Penguins fought the Leafs hard, but their need to clinch a playoff spot proved too much.

"What's important is the playoffs," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to TribLive.com. "Playing back-to-back right before we start probably is not the best thing, so I knew it was going to be a busy night."

The Rangers won't have anywhere close to the desperation of the Leafs, so Sunday's contest should provide the Penguins with an equally interested opponent.

No matter what happens -- barring an injury -- Penguins defenseman Ron Hainsey will play his final regular-season game before his first postseason game after 906 regular-season contests without a postseason game, the longest streak in NHL history.

"I'm ready," Hainsey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It was great to lock up home ice on Thursday. We have a week to get prepared and get ourselves fully focused on Columbus. I'm very excited to get going and be part of what we hopefully can turn into a great run here."

Related Topics:
sportsespnnhlnew york rangerspittsburgh penguins
(Copyright ©2017 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.)

Load Comments