McCann: Depth, simple game key to success


To continue reading, log into your account:

[theme-my-login show_title=0]
Jared McCann. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

NEW YORK -- The Penguins have lost 64 man-games because of injury and illness so far this season.

That comes out to an average of a bit under four per game, and projects to 309 over an 82-game season.

Their total will rise again this evening, when Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist sit out their game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden at 7:38 p.m.

And while the quantity of games-missed is striking, so is the quality of players who have been out of the lineup.

When Crosby is scratched this evening, it will reduce the number of players who have appeared in all 18 games to seven, and Jake Guentzel is the only one of those to crack the top five in scoring.

Nonetheless, they are 10-6-1 and have held onto sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. This, despite having their lineup of choice intact for less than one full game all season.

"Obviously, we have a deep team," said Jared McCann, who will move into Crosby's spot on the No. 1 line against the Rangers. "We have a lot of guys who can step up. ... We've faced a lot of adversity, obviously, with injuries and everything going on, and it really brings us closer."

He added that sticking with the focused, sound two-way game that has been the Penguins' modus operandi for the past month is easier, when doing otherwise could risk defeat, if not disaster.

"Sometimes, you just have to simplify things," McCann said. "You just have to go out there, play hard, get pucks deep. You can't over-do plays and stuff like that."

• Sullivan, speaking with reporters today, declined to say whether Crosby, who sustained an unspecified lower-body injury against Chicago Saturday and will not play tonight, has been ruled out of the Penguins' game at New Jersey Friday. "Right now, our focus is on the game tonight, and he's out tonight," he said. He added that Crosby is "next-to-impossible to replace, with everything that he does for our team," but added that "we still believe we have what it takes to win."

• The Penguins' penalty-kill, which ranks third in the NHL with a success rate of 87.5 percent, should face a stern test this evening. New York has at least one power-play goal in each of its past games, going 6-for-13 during that span, and in six of its past seven games. Overall, the Rangers' power plat ranks sixth in the NHL, converting 24.1 percent of its chances.

• The Penguins are 4-0-2 in their past six games against the Rangers, and 7-1-2 in their past 10 at Madison Square Garden.

Sam Lafferty, who was summoned from the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre after Crosby was injured, said he is "a little more comfortable" than he was during his first 10-game stint in the NHL because he is more familiar with his teammates now.

Matt Murray will be in goal for the Penguins, which is not a major surprise. He is 9-0-1, with a 2.18 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 10 career games (regular season and playoffs) against the Rangers. That includes a 7-0 mark at Madison Square Garden.

• Rangers forward Artemi Panarin has an eight-game scoring streak. He has assisted on goals by nine teammates.

• New York has scored four or more goals in each of the past three games, and four of the past six.

• The Penguins are 3-0 inside the Metropolitan Division this season.

• Sullivan and Rangers coach David Quinn were teammates at Boston University and remain friends. "We laugh in the summertime," Sullivan said. "We play golf together. But certainly, when we play against each other, we want to make sure we beat each other. That's just the nature of this business."

To continue reading, log into your account: