Game Two Morning Skate: The Latest From Pittsburgh

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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After a day off Saturday the entire team took part in the Rangers morning skate at the CONSOL Energy Center on Sunday morning. Coming off their 3-2 overtime victory in Game One on Friday, the Rangers are looking to grab a 2-0 series lead with another road win in Pittsburgh tonight against the Penguins.

"It's a great opportunity for us," said Rick Nash Sunday morning. "We need a big night tonight because we know how important it would be to go back home with the two wins."

Coming in to Pittsburgh to start this series one would think the team's unstated goal would be to gain a split nd go back home having stolen home-ice advantage; but by winning that first game, the Rangers now are hungry to make a real defining statement by winning two straight on the road, heading into Game Three tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden.

"I think we are excited for the challenge tonight," offered Marc Staal. "You want to win your road games, absolutely, in the playoffs. We have three games in four nights, so if you can rattle off a few wins in the playoffs, that's huge. Our focus right now is on tonight, try and do our job, and win this one."

New York is 2-2 so far on the road during the playoffs, after winning a franchise-record 25 times on the road during the regular season. Pittsburgh is 2-2 at the CONSOL Energy Center in the post-season after winning 28 games on home ice during the regular season.

Players from both teams stressed that the start to the game will among the biggest keys tonight, though by watching the momentum swings of Game One, the game's start will play just part of the story of who wins and who loses this evening in Game Two.

"We'd like to (have a strong start) because that's something I think we didn't do a good enough job of in Game One," stated Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, a minus three in the opener. "I think our desperation was dictated by situations, and I think we just have to be committed to play a certain way. It's something we're aware of."

On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist said after the morning skate, "It's important that we set the tone and play our way. We don't want to sit back. We want them to react to us."

The Rangers have lost seven straight Game Twos, including a 4-2 decision to the Flyers in the opening round this spring. They also own a dubious NHL record of having lost 12 consecutive games when having taken a lead in a series--something they did three times against Philly.

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On Saturday Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault alluded to the fact that he was considering some changes among his personnel on the Ranger power play units. At Sunday's morning skate there was one minor change, with Anton Stralman replacing John Moore at the point alongside Dan Girardi on the second unit.

Vigneault said not to read too much into Stralman being out there practicing the power play, but the Swedish blueliner has played power play in the past, though not so much since Vigneault became the team's head coach.

Stralman has five career power play goals, including four with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10. This past season as he emerged as a solid second-pair defenseman alongside Marc Staal, Stralman scored one goal and totaled 13 points--all at even strength.

"I'm happy with the game I have and the role I play, but hopefully I can help this power play right now," said Stralman, who played nearly 23 minutes in Game One on Friday. "As of late my game has been good, so hopefully I can carry that over to the power play, but I'm not putting any extra pressure on myself. I still need to play good defensively and do the job there. If the power play works out, it works out."

New York was 0-for-4 on the power play Friday and is currently in a 0-for-25 funk dating back to Game Two of the opening round against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Certainly a revived power play tonight could help the Rangers in their quest to grab a 2-0 series lead.

"It's a great opportunity, and I think everybody's looking to this game, feeling really good about our last game and hoping we can carry that over to tonight," Stralman said. "It's a big game. If we can get out of here with a 2-0 lead that would be great."