The Flyers look to get back in the win column, and a matchup with the fading New York Rangers could be just what the doctor ordered.
After enjoying a long run of success, but no Stanley Cups, the Rangers blew it up this year and are rebuilding in the Big Apple. Gone are familiar names like Ryan McDonagh and Rick Nash. Heck even Henrik Lundqvist will not be between the pipes for the Rangers on Thursday.
That change is all good for the Flyers, who have struggled beating the Rangers in recent years. With the Flyers firmly in a battle for their playoff lives, getting a tamed down Rangers team will certainly be beneficial. The shootout loss in Detroit dropped the Flyers one point behind Columbus and into the first wild card position in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets, Flyers, Devils and Panthers are separated by just six points in the standings. Of those four teams, only three are likely to make the playoffs with one left on the outside looking in.
Philadelphia doesn’t want to be the team left out and holding serve at home against a Rangers team looking toward the future bodes well. The same could be said of Detroit on Tuesday, where the Flyers needed 40 minutes to wake up before overcoming a 3-1 deficit and earning a point out of that one.
With almost everyone around them hot in the playoff race, the Flyers know they need to come out swinging against New York or they’ll be kicking themselves at the end of the year by squandering these chances for points against mediocre teams. That said, with just eight games remaining, we are very close to must-win time if we aren’t already.
The Flyers dug themselves a 2-0 hole against Detroit and despite a third period charge, it could have very well been the difference between a point and third place in the Metro. Getting the first goal will also ease any tension as the team if well aware of some tough opponents upcoming in the likes of Pittsburgh, Dallas, Colorado and Boston.
Though the Rangers are a much different looking team than they were a few months ago, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and those guys can still score just as well. The Flyers should come out with energy, get a lead, and then salt away two important points against a team that isn’t really looking for them.
The Rangers have the NHL’s seventh-best powerplay operating at 21.9% and while the Flyers’ penalty kill has killed off eight-straight penalties, it’s still a glaring weakness the could rear it’s ugly head if they aren’t disciplined.
Given the importance of this game in the standings, the Flyers could ill-afford bad penalties that give the Rangers life.
The Flyers get their first look at Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev in this one while Alex Lyon looks to build on his stellar relief outing in Detroit on Tuesday.
While Petr Mrazek wasn’t at his best against his former team last time out, it was a lackluster effort from the Flyers for 40 minutes and not a great defensive outing overall. Even with a better effort from the club, Lyon will need to be sharp and give his team a better chance to win than Mrazek had lately. He’s been very good in relief, but has seen so-so results in his few starts.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Weal - Filppula - Simmonds
Lehtera - Laughton - Read
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Sanheim - MacDonald
Hagg - Gudas