(13-6-3, 29pts) (11-5-3, 25pts)
“It’s awesome to get (the first point) off my chest right away. Not that I focus too much on that because I just try and play a two-way game and make sure my line doesn’t get scored on. Today we were a plus, so that is good. And if I’m in the lineup tomorrow I just have to keep working hard and be better.” – Carl Hagelin
OPPONENT BLOG: Broad Street Buzz
So much for those three-day breaks huh? The Rangers get right back on the bike this afternoon against the red-hot Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers, looking to piggie-back off the momentum gained in yesterdays 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals in DC.
Offensively the Rangers were much better last night, and that’s something they’ll need to build on against a Flyers team that has already piled up 80 goals this season. That’s 26 more than the Rangers have managed to date, though conversely they’ve also given up 23 more. The Flyers were comfortable 3-1 winners over the Montreal Canadiens last night as they moved to within a single point of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Join me after the jump for the full pre-game.
Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin – Brian Boyle – John Mitchell
Sean Avery – Brandon Dubinsky – Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka – Steve Eminger
Henrik Lundqvist / Marty Biron
KEYS TO THE GAME
GOALTENDING - It’s a bit of a tired argument to mention Henrik Lundqvist in every pre-game, I know, but he showed again last night why it’s such a valid point against the big guns. Let’s analyse some numbers – Lundqvist is 8-4-3 this season with a .931 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average. That’s impressive, and he gives the Rangers a chance to win every night. High offense teams like the Flyers mean Lundqvist is even more important, and he’ll have to be sharp again if the Blueshirts are two pick up the two points. As I mentioned yesterday though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marty Biron, 9-7-2 lifetime against his former team, got the nod this afternoon in order to keep Hank fresh for the Penguins.
On the flipside, Ilya Bryzgalov’s numbers (8-5-2, .897, 2.89) aren’t great this season and he’s been very erratic since a three-game winning run at the start of the campaign. Get pucks to the net and test him as they did with Neuvirth yesterday. If Chris Pronger misses the game, coupled with Andreas Lilja’s injury, then that helps the Rangers too.
USE YOUR DEFENSEMEN - This is something James alluded to in yesterday’s post-game. Steve Eminger and Jeff Woywitka combined for 18 minutes of ice-time against the Capitals. Now, I can understand riding your best defensemen against the better teams, but a team like the Flyers will take advantage of the accumulated fatigue that the likes of Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh must be starting to feel. Torts needs to use his bottom-pairing guys a little more and have faith that they can put on a decent shift.
SEAN AVERY – This is the kind of game that Avery can have a big impact on. Obviously his leash is virtually non-existent with the officials at this point, but if he can get under the skin of Bryzgalov and the Flyers without crossing the line then it could be a big boost for the Blueshirts. HBO’s cameras are in town filming for 24/7 ahead of the Winter Classic on January 2nd, trust Sean to test the limelight.
SECONDARY SCORING – Sans another poor effort by Brandon Dubinsky, the Rangers secondary scorers did a fine job of supporting Marian Gaborik last night. Ruslan Fedotenko, Brad Richards and Brian Boyle all scored, while Ryan Callahan broke out with a great game and three primary assists. Against Philly and Pittsburgh, you need those guys to ease the burden on Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov consistently.
GIVE HAGELIN A CHANCE – Carl Hagelin was very good in his NHL debut last night. He and John Mitchell worked well with Brian Boyle and both assisted on Boyle’s second-period goal. Hagelin played just over 10 minutes against the Capitals and, at some point, I’d like to see how he’d work alongside Richards and Callahan on the second line. I feel his speed could be a real asset for a strong playmaker like Richards. Maybe today, maybe not.
Check back later for updated lines and any other breaking game news.