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Preview: Flyers are right back at it in New York tonight

Flyers seek to snap their four-game losing streak against the second-place Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a loss to the Atlantic Division’s second-place team last night, the Flyers will travel to Manhattan tonight to take on the Metro Division’s second-place team.

The Flyers are 21-36-11 for 53 points, a .390 points percentage, and last place in the division, taking on the 44-20-5 Rangers at 7 p.m. in Madison Square Garden. The Flyers are working on another pretty substantial losing streak, having dropped four in a row, with only one (a 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators) feeling close to a win at any point.

The biggest news out of yesterday’s loss to the Maple Leafs was probably the Keith Yandle-sized hole in the lineup. Yandle’s consecutive games played streak was snapped yesterday, as he was scratched in favor of Nick Seeler, igniting arguments all over the hockey world. In any case, Seeler left last night’s game with more than half of the third period left, meaning that the Flyers may have to insert Yandle right back in. The universe is pretty weird.

Tonight’s opponents, the New York Rangers, are coming off a loss to the Islanders, which snapped a four-game winning streak. That streak included three 5-goal games and two wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are now nipping at their heels in the race for home-ice advantage in their likely first-round matchup.

Seeing the Rangers be as successful as they are this season—not just second in the division but also fourth in the conference and fifth in the league—is especially frustrating even beyond the fact that they’re a pretty heated rival of the Flyers. The Rangers began their rebuild after the Flyers and are already seeing those seeds bloom. On top of three players very specifically only wanting to play in New York—not for the organization but for the city and the lifestyle—including a superstar scoring winger and a Norris-calibre defenseman in his early 20s, the Rangers also jumped up four spots in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and 11 spots in the 2020 draft. It’s enough to put the Rangers in the conversation as cup contenders this season and for the foreseeable future, while the Flyers are staring down the barrel of beginning another “retool” if not a full-on rebuild. What’s even worse is that—with the Flyers in the bottom four in the NHL, just a few points ahead of the bottom three teams—a lot of us Flyers fans would probably be pretty satisfied with a Rangers win tonight.

Projected Flyers lines

Noah Cates—Joel Farabee—Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom—Kevin Hayes—Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk—Morgan Frost—Owen Tippett
Zack MacEwen—Patrick Brown—Nate Thompson

Ivan Provorov—Cam York
Travis Sanheim—Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle—Ronnie Attard

Martin Jones
(Carter Hart)

Projected Rangers lines

Chris Kreider—Mika Zibanejad—Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin—Ryan Strome—Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafrenière—Filip Chytil—Julien Gauthier
Tyler Motte—Barclay Goodrow—Ryan Reaves

Ryan Lindgren—Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller—Jacob Trouba
Patrik Nemeth—Justin Braun

Igor Shesterkin
(Alexandar Georgiev)

Keep an eye on:

  • Ivan Provorov, who scored twice and assisted on the only other Flyers goal of the night last night. Provorov has been playing better recently than he was at the start of the season, which—given that these are meaningless games that the Flyers would probably benefit more from losing—isn’t the best time for that, but having him look like a first-pair guy is at least encouraging for his future or even his trade value.
  • Artemi Panarin, who is on pace for a career-high 97 points despite a near-career-low shooting percentage. This is probably the best team Panarin has played on since his geriatric rookie season for Chicago, with these Rangers scoring more per game than any of those Chicago teams, meaning that even though he’s not filling the net himself at his regular rate, he’s about to pass his career-high of 63 assists with 13 games left to play.
  • Cam Atkinson, who is still just chugging along as the Flyers’ top-scorer on the season with 23 goals and 27 assists. He’s been somewhat quiet lately, with just three assists in the last seven games, but then again, the Flyers are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL, with their anemic 2.57 goals per game only beating out the Canadiens and Coyotes by a hair.
  • Chris Kreider, who leads the NHL in power-play goals with 24 and is one away from the NHL lead in shorthanded goals with 3. He’s also got 19 even-strength goals, for a total that is fast approaching 50.
  • Justin Braun! He’s on the New York Rangers now, remember? And he used to be on the Flyers, remember that?

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers have played more regular-season games against the Rangers than they have any other franchise. They are 135-128-37-10 (W-L-T-OTL) in those 310 games, including 4-5-1 in the last two seasons.
  • With Kreider on pace for more than 50 goals, he would become the second American-born player to reach that mark this season and just the 11th to do so ever. Before Auston Matthews’ 50th goal this past week, no American had scored 50 goals in a season since John LeClair did it for the Flyers in 1997-98. If Kreider does pass 50, it’ll be the first time two Americans did so in one season since LeClair and Keith Tkachuk did it in 1996-97. Kreider would also become only the second over-30 American to do so, after Joe Mullen’s 51 goals in his age 31 season in 1988-89.
  • The Flyers are 2-5-4 in the second game of back-to-backs this season, including 2-3-2 on the road. Of the 14 games left this season, half of them are on consecutive days.
  • The Rangers’ first overall selection in 2020 and second overall in 2019 were the highest the franchise has drafted since before the league expanded beyond six teams in 1967. Their highest picks pre-expansion were Andre Veilleux at first overall in 1965, who never played an NHL game, and Brad Park at second overall in 1966, who played eight seasons in New York and eventually found his way to the Hall of Fame. The two highest picks in recent Flyers’ history were James van Riemsdyk at second overall in 2007 and Nolan Patrick second in 2017. The Flyers have only picked first overall once, in 1975, when they selected Mel Bridgeman.