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Sidney Crosby's return has the Pittsburgh Penguins surging and atop the Eastern Conference.
Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers feel they can beat anyone, and they're proving it at Madison Square Garden.
Crosby looks to continue his torrid scoring against one of the stingiest teams in the NHL Tuesday night when the Penguins face Lundqvist and the Rangers for the first time this season.
The Penguins (14-6-4) have gone 3-0-1 since getting Crosby back from a concussion that sidelined him since Jan. 5, with the Pittsburgh captain totaling two goals and seven assists.
The superstar center's latest scoring display included two assists in a 4-3 overtime win at Montreal in the opener of this four-game road trip.
"It's still a process and adjusting," Crosby told the team's official website. "To get that many games in for the first week is good."
Crosby has 10 goals and 12 assists during an 11-game point streak against the Rangers. He has been held pointless only eight times in 37 games against them, tallying 20 goals and 32 assists.
Teammate Evgeni Malkin has been much quieter, recording two goals and four assists in 14 visits to MSG. Malkin, though, has eight points during a four-game scoring streak, and all three of his goals in that stretch have come on assists from Crosby.
After facing the Islanders, St. Louis, Ottawa and Montreal, this figures to be Crosby's biggest challenge since his return.
New York (12-5-3) is allowing an average of 2.05 goals to rank second in the NHL, and is 6-1-1 at MSG for its best start there since 1992-93.
The Rangers' home winning streak reached six with Saturday's 2-0 win over Philadelphia. They've outscored opponents 22-7 in that run, and haven't had a longer winning streak at the Garden since opening 1990-91 with eight victories in a row.
"They've been playing very well," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's going to be a huge challenge for us and maybe something we haven't seen in terms of a big-time game."
That success is partly why the Rangers' confidence is growing, and they feel they have something to prove against Crosby and the Penguins.
"We want to be up there, and I think we can beat anybody," Lundqvist told the team's official website. "Being an elite team is not so much being a lot better than everybody else, it's about being more consistent. That's how you stay up there.
"You always have to keep challenging yourself and play another good game and be consistent at all times."
Lundqvist hasn't had much trouble doing that himself and he figures to be back in net after making 29 saves in his 37th shutout Saturday. He's won four straight home games behind a 1.23 goals-against average, and compiled a 2.29 GAA in helping the Rangers go 4-1-1 against Pittsburgh last season.
Brad Richards is giving New York an offensive spark, scoring four goals in the past six games while his 16 points are second on the team to Marian Gaborik's 17.
"He brings the same thing to every team he's played on. That's a pretty intelligent hockey player, good on the power play, great shot," Crosby said of Richards. "He's a complete player and will help any team he plays for.
"With the team that they have and games we've had against them, it should be pretty good hockey."
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't fared too well at MSG, posting a 3.33 GAA in 17 games. He allowed five goals on 31 shots in his last appearance there, a 5-3 loss Feb. 13.
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