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Winter Classic 2012 preview: Flyers top line needs to solve Rangers defense

In two games against the New York Rangers this season, Claude Giroux has zero points. In one game against the Rangers, Jaromir Jagr has zero points. In two games, Scott Hartnell has one point ... a secondary assist on an Andrej Meszaros power play goal.

If you want to understand why the Flyers haven't been able to beat the Rangers this season, there's your answer. The most potent offensive player in the league, and his two comrades, have been completely shut down by Henrik Lundqvist and the New York defense.

And we can talk all day about the elements and the atmosphere and all that stuff, and how it'll impact the game. But really, to me, this game comes down to this battle between the Flyers' top line and the Rangers attempts to stop them.

In the two games at Madison Square Garden, John Tortorella had the home ice matchup advantage. He used it to get his top pairing of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh out against the Giroux line, and they've had a ton of success in shutting them down.

At home, the Flyers need to win that matchup battle. With Marc Staal still out of the lineup, Michael Sauer down with a concussion and Steve Eminger now out for a few weeks with a shoulder injury, there are holes on the Rangers defense when you get past that top pairing. Michael Del Zotto has been really strong as the No. 3 defenseman, but overall, there's an area of weakness there that Giroux, Jagr and Hartnell can hopefully exploit.

UPDATE: There are rumors swirling that Marc Staal could play, so we'll just mention that that's a possibility and keep it at that. Obviously, that would throw a wrench into things, and who knows how he'd play if he does indeed see the ice. Also, McDonagh has the flu, but will still play, so that could impact things.

Lineups after the jump. They're based on the Pittsburgh game, and therefore totally subject to change on Peter Laviolette's whim. In goal, it'll be Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Henrik Lundqvist.

Flyers Projected Lineup

Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
Read - Briere - Simmonds
Talbot - Couturier - Voracek
van Riemsdyk - Schenn - Zolnierczyk

Timonen - Coburn
Carle - Bourdon
Meszaros - Lilja

Injuries/Scratches: Zac Rinaldo (healthy), Jody Shelley (healthy), Erik Gustafsson (wrist), Chris Pronger (concussion)

Rangers Projected Lineup

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

McDonagh - Girardi
Del Zotto - Stralman
Bickel - Woywitka

Injuries: Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia), Steve Eminger (shoulder), Michael Sauer (concussion), Marc Staal (concussion)

It's a pretty big day, huh? Remember, it's a 3 p.m. game time. Our thread will be up at 2 p.m., and you can tune into the pregame show on CSN at that same time. The action begins on NBC a little after 3 p.m., and if you're not near a TV, you can listen on 94WIP.

Go Flyers. Big game, and that has nothing to do with it being at Citizens Bank Park.

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