Penguins hoping to pounce on run-down Rangers

Luke Schenn #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers hits Carl Hagelin #62 of the New York Rangers in Game...

Luke Schenn #22 of the Philadelphia Flyers hits Carl Hagelin #62 of the New York Rangers in Game Seven of the First Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 2014 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP)

Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 PM ET

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins are hoping to take advantage of a potentially tired opponent in the New York Rangers.

By the time the puck drops in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal on Friday night, the Penguins will have had a healthy rest since eliminating the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.

The Rangers, meanwhile, will be playing their third game in four nights after knocking the Philadelphia Flyers out in Game 7 of a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Once Game 3 of this series is done on Monday, the Rangers will have played six games in nine days.

“I can’t help but think it is going to be part of the story line and even part of the game planning,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said on Friday.

“They are playing a lot of games in a lot of nights. We have to make it as hard as we possibly can on them and make it a factor. We have to use that to our advantage.”

The Penguins will have centre Brandon Sutter and winger Joe Vitale in the lineup at the Consol Energy Center. Both were hurt in the series-clinching game against the Blue Jackets. Defenceman Brooks Orpik, however, remains on the sideline with an undisclosed injury.

Many eyes will be on Penguins Sidney Crosby, who has gone 11 consecutive playoff games without a goal. It’s not clear yet whether Crosby will again play with Evgeni Malkin, a duo that worked well together in the latter stages of the opening round once Bylsma put them together.

No matter who Crosby plays with — his wingers in the morning skate were Chris Kunitz and Lee Stempniak — it’s a safe bet he will see plenty of the Rangers defence pair of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh.

Then there’s Rangers forward Rick Nash, who scores during the regular season but not in the post-season. Nash has two goals in 23 career playoff games, including just one in 19 games with the Rangers. He has none in his past 10.

In the big picture, the Rangers don’t view the amount of hockey they’re in the midst of playing as such a bad thing.

“I just think about getting ready for the first period,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “I don’t want to go bigger than that. I don’t need to and I shouldn’t go there. I think we all know it is going to be a lot of work.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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