Flyers vs. Rangers preview: Avoiding a season sweep

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: New York Ranger fan Glen Jacobson from Holbrook, New York rides the Long Island railroad dressed as Santa Claus to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on December 23, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

7 p.m., Wells Fargo Center
South Philadelphia

TV: CSN Philly, MSG 2
RADIO: 94 WIP
TICKETS: Starting at $58
NYR BLOG: Blueshirt Banter

It's easy to forget that we have other rivals after a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it's true: We hate the New York Rangers too. With a loss tonight, the Flyers will have been swept in the season series -- that's six games -- by the Rangers, something that's just about unthinkable.

The two teams haven't faced off in nearly two months, so it's safe to say we can throw those first five games out the window in terms of what they mean for tonight's game. The Flyers are playing perhaps their best hockey of the year, and they'll get goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov back in goal this evening, according to reporters. Of course, they'll be without Danny Briere and Nicklas Grossmann, who suffered injuries Sunday and are both essentially out until the playoffs.

The Rangers will clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference (and thus, the Atlantic Division title) with just a point tonight against the Flyers. It's just about inevitable that they get it anyway, just as it does not matter once they earn it. They've already missed out on one opportunity to clinch the spot on Sunday against the Bruins, a game in which the Rangers mounted a ton of pressure but Tim Thomas stood up to the task.

It should be typical Flyers vs. Rangers tonight, and both teams are playing really strong hockey heading into the playoffs. Tonight's game should be fun -- maybe not as fun as Sunday, but still fun.

Flyers Projected Lineup

We won't try to guess the lines, outside of the top line staying the same and uh ... Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley both playing on the fourth line. Other than that, tonight's lineup could see any number of combinations.

Timonen - Coburn
Carle - Kubina
Bourdon - Lilja

New York Projected Lineup

Hagelin - Richards - Gaborik
Anisimov - Stepan - Callahan
Dubinsky - Boyle - Fedotenko
Rupp - Mitchell - Prust

McDonagh - Girardi
Staal - Del Zotto
Bickel - Stralman

Henrik Lundqvist is in goal for the Rangers, as if you needed to be told that. Game thread at 5ish. Puck drop a little after 7 p.m. on CSN. Check our friends at Blueshirt Banter for more from the Pittsburgh perspective.

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