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Gameday: It's been a while, Rangers

#4 Philadelphia Flyers (29-16-9, 67 pts) at #6 New York Rangers (30-20-6, 66 pts)
Madison Square Garden - 12:30 PM EST - Manhattan, NY
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 206
This is the open game thread.
Live Internet Stream
Behind Enemy Lines: Rangerland, NY Rangers Blog

Get ready to see a lot of the New York Rangers.

The Flyers and Rangers haven't seen each other since the first game of the season back on October 11. On that night, the Rangers stormed out of the gate with four first period goals before the Flyers came clawing back. The comeback would fall short as New York would win 4-3. Blame Sarah Palin.

That game can almost represent the season as a whole for these teams. The Rangers jumped out to a 17-8-2 record to start the season before coming back down to Earth. The Flyers played six games before notching their first win and eventually coming back to pass the Rangers in the standings.

Now New York is fledgling, winners of just one game in their last six attempts, and they think Sean Avery is eventually going to be their savior. Is it obvious why I think it's a good thing the Flyers are going to face the Rangers five more times, starting today?

Despite their problems though, they sit just one point back of the Flyers in the standings, albeit the Rangers have played two extra games. A big Flyers win today would expand the gap in the standings while killing a bit of the Ranger psyche. A big Ranger win today could be the lift New York needs to get it's season rolling again.

Scouting the Enemy: The Rangers are a team that relies on their goaltending perhaps more than any other in the league. They can't score, plain and simple. Offensively they're led by Markus Naslund who has 17 goals but is also rated minus-11. As a team, their 141 goals are the least among current playoff teams. The Lightning and the Thrashers have both scored more than the Rangers. Their power play is terrible -- 1 for it's last 26 and ranked 28th in the league.

So it comes down to the goaltending. When Henrik Lundqvist plays well, the Rangers have a shot. When he doesn't, winning becomes extremely difficult. The New York media likes to play up the idea that Lundqvist is the second coming of Jesus, and I'm not saying he's bad, but his 2.51 GAA is nothing special. As a team, the Rangers have only allowed four fewer goals than the Flyers this season. Not all that impressive for a team that relies on its goaltending so much.

Between the Pipes: Martin Biron is in net for the Flyers this afternoon thanks to Antero Niittymaki's case of the flu. If he performs like he did yesterday against the Islanders (38 saves, 1 goal), the Flyers have to feel good about their chances. If he performs like he did in the season opener against the Rangers, when he gave up four goals in about 15 minutes (blame Sarah Palin), the Flyers shouldn't feel good.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Henrik Lundqvist on the bench for the Rangers. Steve Valiquette usually seems to start games against the Flyers, and it's no secret why. Valiquette is 5-1-0 in seven career games versus Philadelphia with a 1.63 GAA and a .943 save percentage. Match that up with Lundqvist's numbers versus the Flyers -- a 3.03 GAA and a .891 save percentage -- and the equation becomes clear.

Valiquette, however, hasn't seen the ice since allowing ten goals against the Dallas Stars last Friday.

New York Rangers Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Dmitri Kalinin back 02/15/2009

Questions To Answer

  1. How do the Flyers perform on the second day of a back to back?
  2. Does Biron build on yesterday's strong effort?
  3. Does the Lupul-Carter-Hartnell line keep its magic going?
  4. Can the top line of Richards, Gagne, and Knuble get its magic started?
  5. How long does it take for the NBC broadcasters to piss off Flyer fans?

It looks like my internet problems are solved so count on me being around today for the game. Let's kick some Ranger ass. Go Flyers.