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Rangers at Flyers, 11/2/2012


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From http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog/Bill-Meltzer/Flyers-Gameday-21112-vs-Rangers/45/42064

PREVIEW 12:05 AM EST

Regular season hockey doesn't get any tougher or more grueling than this: playing games on back-to-back days against the top-ranked teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences on the final two days of a stretch of seven games in 10 days.

That's what the Philadelphia Flyers (31-16-7, 13-8-5 at home) face this weekend, starting with a Saturday matinee at the Wells Fargo Center against the New York Rangers (34-14-5, 17-7-3 on the road). The game starts at 1 PM and will be broadcast on CSN Philly.

This is the fifth of six meetings between the teams this season, but the first at the Wells Fargo Center (due to the Winter Classic being played at Citizens Bank Park). The Rangers have won all four previous games in regulation and have currently beaten Philly six times in a row.

The single biggest factor in the games to date has been goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist has been sensational for New York, not allowing a single soft goal among the six that have gotten past him. Philly has received inconsistent goaltending from both Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky. Both Flyers netminders have started out strong in the games against the Rangers this year, but have let in at least one costly questionable goal somewhere along the way in every game.

Of course, goaltending hasn't been the only factor. New York has blocked a lot more shots than the Flyers have, forechecked better and taken better care of the puck in at least three of the four games to date. The Flyers blew a 2-0 lead in the Winter Classic but otherwise have had to play from behind against the Rangers in every other game.

Scoring first against the Rangers is not a guarantee of victory. However, giving up the first goal to New York is a virtual guarantee of defeat. The Rangers boast an NHL-leading .889 winning percentage (24-1-2) when scoring first.

In terms of mounting a third-period comeback against New York, it's virtually impossible. In their last 51 games where they've held the lead after two periods, New York is a staggering 49-0-2 (20-0-2 this season, a perfect 29-0-0 last year).

The fact that making comebacks against New York is extremely difficult made the Flyers' loss last Sunday in New York that much harder to take.

Although generally outplayed, the Flyers battled hard to erase a 1-0 deficit on a Brayden Schenn breakaway goal in the second period, only for Bryzgalov (who had played very well up to that point) to allow a horrendous goal by Marian Gaborik with 5 seconds left in the second period. Philly then battled back to tie the game again on an early third-period power play marker by Wayne Simmonds but Bryz allowed a rather routine shot to get through the five-hole on the next shot. From there, all the air went out of Philly's balloon.

Even if the Flyers manage to score first, the Rangers are still a formidable foe when they are the team playing catch-up. The Rangers rank 7th (the Flyers are 6th) in the NHL this season with a .400 winning percentage (10-12-3) when trailing first.

On Thursday, the Blueshirts pulled off a comeback 4-3 overtime win against Tampa after trailing by a goal heading into the third period. Including the Winter Classic, New York has pulled off five third-period comebacks (4-9-1, 9 points) when trailing after two periods. The Flyers have rescued five points (2-14-1 record) when losing at the second intermission.

The Flyers enter today's game coming of an energetic 4-3 win over Toronto. Scott Hartnell recorded his second career "Gordie Howe Hat Trick", while Claude Giroux, Max Talbot and Brayden Schenn rounded out a balanced attack. Bobrovsky played a big part in Philly successfully slamming the door with a one-goal lead in the final period.

With Bryzgalov still at home with the flu, Bobrovsky will get the start today against Lundqvist. On the injury front, the Flyers remain without James van Riemsdyk (concussion) and Chris Pronger (LTIR for rest of season and playoffs, concussion). New York is without former Flyers forward and long-time nemesis Ruslan Fedotenko (head injury) and defenseman Michael Sauer (concussion). It appears that Rangers' coach John Tortorella will dress seven defensemen for the game.

The Flyers have had their share of problems killing penalties at home this season. The team's 78.6 percent success rate at home ranks 26th in the NHL. However, the Rangers' power play is one of the few areas that have not been very good for the team. New York ranks 27th overall on the power play (13.4 percent, with three shorthanded goals against) and is a dismal 9.8 percent (28th in the NHL) on the road.

Philadelphia's power play ranks 4th in the NHL at a 20 percent success ratio (19.3 percent at home). However, apart from Simmonds third-period game-tying goal last Sunday, they have had precious little man-advantage success against the Rangers this season. New York enters this game with the 5th-ranked overall penalty kill (86.7 percent) and the 4th-best on the road (87.6 percent).

When the teams met last week in New York, Tom Sestito had three fighting majors for the Flyers. Chances seem good he'll pick up at least one more in this one, especially following an accusation of hair pulling last week during a fight with Brandon Prust.

PROJECTED LINEUPS (subject to change)

FLYERS

Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr

Schenn - Briere - Simmonds

Read - Talbot - Voracek

Sestito - Couturier - Rinaldo

Timonen - Coburn

Carle - Bourdon

Gustafsson - Meszaros

Bobrovsky

[bacashihua]

RANGERS

Hagelin - Richards/Mitchell- Callahan

Anisimov - Stepan - Gaborik

Dubinsky - Boyle - Prust

XXXXX - Mitchell/Richards - Rupp

McDonagh - Girardi

Eminger- Staal

Strålman - Del Zotto

Bickel - [Girardi, others]

Lundqvist

[biron]

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