Jan Levine: Game 22: NYR-PHI, Ranger Kick off Back-to-Back Set in Philly, McD In Lineup

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The Rangers (9-8-4, 22 points) open up a back-to-back set against the Flyers (8-10-3, 19 points) in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon. New York, 2-2-2 in their last six games, comes in off a 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday while Philadelphia has lost six of their last seven games, including last week’s 2-0 Rangers shutout at the MSG.

In that contest, between the pipes was Cam Talbot, who will start in net on Friday, as well, while Henrik Lundqvist will start Saturday at MSG. A few keys for me today:

First and foremost has to be the return of Ryan McDonagh. Mack Truck, out since November 1 with his separated shoulder, joined the Rangers in contact practices this week. It was possible that the coaching staff would sit McDonagh today and possibly tomorrow as well to make sure he is fully healed, but it was confirmed shortly at 11am that he is in the lineup. McDonagh is paired again with Dan Girardi and should see his usual 25 minutes of ice time. Clog/Own the Neutral Zone. In the two wins over Philly and Montreal, the Rangers did a great job of limiting their opponents’ speed and transition game through the neutral zone. Wednesday, Tampa eviscerated the Blueshirts, by gaining control of the neutral zone, resulting in several attacks and counter-attacks that led to scoring opportunities. If the Rangers are able to slow down the Flyers, especially the Claude Giroux line, through the middle of the ice, they will have a good chance at winning today. Stay Out of the Penalty Box. Philadelphia’s power play comes in at 23.0% effectiveness sixth in the league, while the Rangers’ penalty kill is at 79.4%, 20th in the league. The penalty kill was obliterated by Tampa Bay on Wednesday, as they surrendered two power play goals. In addition, they have allowed a PPG in four of their last six games. In the past, the penalty kill was a strength of the Rangers; this year, with new personnel and combinations, the team has failed to establish any consistency while shorthanded. Getting McDonagh back will help here as well. Get Chris Kreider Going. When Kreider is using his speed and going hard to the front of the net, he is extremely dangerous. Lately, we have seen sporadic bursts of that from him, but nothing consistent. Kreider hasn’t score a goal in eight games, but hopefully Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis can get him going. Maintaining a Lead. Wednesday, the Rangers rallied from a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, for the 11th time in 17 opportunities this season, they yielded that lead, and in this case, never evened the score. In the past, when the Rangers had a lead, they usually were good in maintaining that advantage. This year, whether it’s the personnel or combinations or another reason, that has not been the case. Beyond today and this weekend, for the Rangers to show they are a true contender, the ability to hold and possibly extend a lead must be commonplace and not a rare instance. Lineups:

(taken from Bill Meltzer’s blog) RANGERS

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 – 63 Anthony Duclair

12 Lee Stempniak – 28 Dominic Moore – 19 Jesper Fast

27 Ryan McDonagh – 5 Dan Girardi

18 Marc Staal – 22 Dan Boyle

44 Matt Hunwick – 8 Kevin Klein

33 Cam Talbot

[30 Henrik Lundqvist]

Scratches: Tanner Glass (flu, was to be in the lineup with Duclair sitting for Stempniak. Now, Duclair is in his usual third line spot with Stempniak replacing Glass on the fourth line), John Moore (healthy) FLYERS

10 Brayden Schenn – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

12 Michael Raffl – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds

18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read

36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier

5 Braydon Coburn – 47 Andrew MacDonald

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz or 22 Luke Schenn

35 Steve Mason

[29 Ray Emery]

Scratches: Jason Akeson (on waivers, could be assigned to AHL if he clears), Luke Schenn or Nick Schultz (healthy), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Chris VandeVelde (lower body, IR).

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