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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins always a formidable opponent

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby prepares to take

The Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby prepares to take a faceoff in the second period of a game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Pittsburgh on April 12, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Gene J. Puskar

PITTSBURGH - Since 2008, when the Rangers and Penguins last met in the playoffs, the Igloo (or Civic Center) was torn down, Jaromir Jagr became a Devil, the Pirates became competitive and the H.J. Heinz company was sold to Warren Buffett.

But some things, as the years march by, stay the same here. Native son Joe Grushecky still plays some dates with Bruce Springsteen, you can tour the historic coal mines outside of town, and some folks of a certain age and constitution remain advised to avoid the overstuffed sandwiches at Primanti Brothers.

And then there are the Penguins, who knocked out the Rangers in five games in the conference semifinals in 2008 when Sidney Crosby was 20 and Evgeni Malkin 21. They still are near the top of the NHL heap.

The 2013-14 Penguins, a crew still led by Crosby and Malkin, finished with 109 points, second in the Eastern Conference. They beat the Blue Jackets in six games in the first round and now are ready for the Rangers.

The Rangers reviewed video Thursday before flying to Pittsburgh for Game 1 Friday night. The teams haven't played since Feb. 7, but Alain Vigneault and his staff know what to expect.

One priority: Containing Crosby. No. 87 factored into 43 percent of the Penguins' goals this season, the highest of any NHL player. He led the league in scoring and is a finalist for the Hart Trophy, given to the MVP.

In the past, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky were tasked with putting bodies on Crosby whenever possible to get him off his game. They no longer are here, so another forward will have that job, with defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi following up.

The Rangers failed to score on their last 21 power-play chances against the Flyers. That won't cut it against the Penguins, who scored 21 goals against Columbus -- six on the power play and three shorthanded.

One major change since February for the Rangers has been the addition of Martin St. Louis in the deal that sent Callahan to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. "Callahan was always a thorn in our side," Bylsma said. "We've seen Marty quite a bit in the playoffs. He's done some damage. He plays really big, but he's slippery and a tough guy to play against. We're keenly aware of his big performances in the past. And there's [Henrik] Lundqvist right there in the middle of it always."

Lundqvist -- the fourth goaltender in NHL history to win four straight Game 7s, joining Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour and Cam Ward -- is the third-ranked goalie in goals-against average (2.11) left in the postseason.

For the Penguins, there's some slippage in Marc-Andre Fleury's game in the playoffs, a trait that began last season against the Islanders. The Blue Jackets scored 18 goals, many on questionable decisions and stoppable shots. He has a 2.81 GAA.

As for x-factors, the Rangers have two, with one on the sideline. Rick Nash, who showed signs of rebirth in Game 7, is overdue after failing to score in the first round. Chris Kreider, who scored 17 goals this season, is improving daily from left hand surgery on March 28 and could play in the series.

New York Sports