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Dan Bylsma knows Rangers are different from the last version Penguins saw

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma sets up

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma sets up his team during an overtime period. (Oct. 27, 2013) Credit: AP

PITTSBURGH - Dan Bylsma and the Penguins certainly know the Rangers well. Just perhaps not as well as you'd think, given that they finished 1-2 in the Metropolitan Division standings.

In reality, the Penguins and Rangers last saw each other on the ice nearly three months ago in the Rangers' 4-3 shootout win here on the eve of the Olympic break.

The Rangers swapped Ryan Callahan for Martin St. Louis after that, so Bylsma isn't necessarily expecting to see what he saw back in February.

"Our games against them haven't been what they are now,'' Bylsma said Thursday. "You're looking at four lines, good lines right from the [Derek] Stepan line with more star power on the wings. But their next line with [Mats] Zuccarello, [Derick] Brassard and [Benoit] Pouliot has been tough to handle and then [Brad] Richards anchors the third line, good bodies on the fourth line. You can't forget about the goaltender they have. It's going to be every bit of a test and maybe one we haven't seen from them.''

Bylsma certainly is familiar with the Rangers, having coached two of the more prominent ones in Sochi. Stepan was a bit player for the U.S., but Ryan McDonagh was one of Bylsma's go-to players on defense. The Penguins, notably Sidney Crosby, certainly will see a lot of McDonagh beginning Friday night.

"Those two guys [McDonagh and Dan Girardi] are their defense,'' Bylsma said. "With them and [Marc] Staal, you're looking at those three guys getting the bulk of their minutes.''

There are a few similarities between the teams coming out of their first-round series wins. Perhaps the most notable is the zero-goal total for both Rick Nash and Crosby, who was named as a finalist for the Hart Trophy Thursday -- an award he is a lock to win after capturing the regular-season scoring race by 17 points.

Nash had his best game of the opening round in Game 7 Wednesday night and had four assists in the series against the Flyers. Crosby was a force in all six games against the Blue Jackets, piling up six assists, and he and the rest of his teammates were at their best in Games 5 and 6 as they closed out the big, physical Blue Jackets.

"He has that top-end talent, just like Sid. It sometimes takes a little bit to get rolling,'' Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said of Nash. "You have to contain a guy like Nash, take away his time and space. We'd like to keep him without a goal if we can.''

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