PREVIEW: FLYERS VS. RANGERS
With both teams needing a win to push their record back over the .500 mark for the season, the Philadelphia Flyers (7-7-2) are in Manhattan tonight to take on the New York Rangers (7-7-4). Game time from Madison Square Garden is 8 p.m. EST. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.
This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season, and the first of two in New York. The teams will rematch in Philadelphia on the afternoon of Black Friday and then travel to New York for a game the following evening. The regular season series concludes on February 28 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Last season, the Flyers and Rangers split four games with each team winning twice on its home ice. In the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, the Rangers won each of the odd-numbered games (including Game Three in Philadelphia) and the Flyers won all of the even-numbered games (including Game Two at MSG). In the seventh and deciding game, the Rangers rode a dominating second period to a 2-1 series-clinching win that was primarily held so close by a brilliant goaltending performance by Philadelphia’s Steve Mason.
Following tonight’s game, the Flyers return home for a game tomorrow night against the Minnesoa Wild. Prior to the game, Eric Lindros and John LeClair will be inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame. The Rangers have tomorrow night off before a road game in Buffalo on Friday night. FLYERS OUTLOOK
Everything was looking up for the Flyers heading into a five-night break last week. The club had won three games in a row, having never trailed in any of them. The last five days and nights have been disastrous.
On Friday at home and Saturday in Montreal, the Flyers penalty killing blew a gasket en route to yielding three power play goals apiece to the Columbus Blue Jackets (4-3 loss) and Canadiens (6-3 loss). The Flyers never led in either game.
Yesterday, the club revealed that team captain Claude Giroux suffered a lower body injury (suspected to be an ankle) in Monday’s practice. He is day-to-day but is definitely out for tonight and probably for at least Thursday’s game as well. In Giroux’s absence, the Flyers moved Brayden Schenn from left wing to center a line with Jakub Voracek and R.J. Umberger.
Voracek enters this game with points in 15 of 16 games this season. He has points in 10 games in a row and has already recorded nine multi-point games. Schenn, who was moved onto the top line with Voracek and Giroux in the second period of Saturday’s game, brings a five-game point streak (three goals, four assists) into tonight.
Early yesterday evening, the Flyers recalled 2012 first-round draft pick Scott Laughton from the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Veteran forward Blair Jones, who cleared waivers earlier this month, has been assigned to the Phantoms.
Rehabbing defensemen Andrew MacDonald (right knee) and Luke Schenn (left shoulder) practiced in full-contact sweaters yesterday. Berube indicated that he feels both players, but especially MacDonald, need a few more days of practice to be ready to return to game action. Left winger Michael Raffl (right foot) skated on his own for part of Monday’s practice but is still a few weeks from being ready to play again. RANGERS OUTLOOK
The Blueshirts have had a forgettable November thus far, apart from a 5-0 home shutout win over the Penguins on the 11th of the month. Overall, the Rangers have won only twice in November, bringing a 2-3-4 record for the month into tonight’s tilt.
New York enters this game coming off one of its poorest games of recent seasons. On Monday night, the Rangers were non-competitive in an ugly 5-1 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning that perhaps even more lopsided that the final score suggests.
New York got outshot by a 30-16 margin. Not even a power play goal by longtime Lightning forward Martin St. Louis in the opening minute of the second period, which cut New York’s deficit to 2-1, generated any sustained momentum.
Backup goaltender Cam Talbot will get the call in goal tonight for Alain Vigneault’s club. Rick Nash enters tonight leading the club in scoring with 12 goals and 19 points in 18 games. Derick Brassard, who formerly centered a line in Columbus with Umberger and Voracek as linemates, leads the club with nine assists among his 15 points.
On the injury front, the Rangers are missing star defenseman Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder). Veteran forward Lee Stempniak took a maintenance day off from practice yesterday but is expected to be available tonight. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 3.19 (3rd), Rangers 2.72 (13th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.19 (26th), Rangers 3.00 (22nd)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.00 (17th), Rangers 1.03 (15th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 24.6% (T-3rd), Rangers 15.4% (22nd)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 71.2% (30th), Rangers 79.7% (18th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 50.2% (13th), Rangers 47.8% (25th) Projected lines (Subject to change, will be updated)
18 R.J. Umberger – 10 Brayden Schenn – 93 Jakub Voracek
24 Matt Read – 14 Sean Couturier – 17 Wayne Simmonds
36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier
76 Chris VandeVelde – 49 Scott Laughton – 42 Jason Akeson
15 Michael Del Zotto – 5 Braydon Coburn
8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit
26 Carlo Colaiacovo – 55 Nick Schultz
35 Steve Mason
[29 Ray Emery]
Scratches: Claude Giroux (lower body, day-to-day), Andrew MacDonald (right knee, day-to-day), Luke Schenn (left shoulder, day-to-day), Michael Raff (right foot).
61 Rick Nash – 16 Derick Brassard – 36 Mats Zuccarello
20 Chris Kreider – 21 Derek Stepan – 26 Martin St. Louis
62 Carl Hagelin – 13 Kevin Hayes – 12 Lee Stempniak
15 Tanner Glass – 28 Dominic Moore – 19 Jesper Fast
18 Marc Staal – 22 Dan Boyle
17 John Moore – 5 Dan Girardi
44 Matt Hunwick – 8 Kevin Klein
33 Cam Talbot
[30 Henrik Lundqvist]
Scratches: Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder, IR), Anthony Duclair (healthy).