New York Rangers (23-9-4) @ Philadelphia Flyers (22-10-4)
I think it’s great for our game. It’s great for our league, but as a coach I am thinking about one thing: it’s a divisional opponent, it’s two points, and we want to win the hockey game. – John Tortorella
OPPONENT BLOG: Broadstreet Buzz
Well, it’s finally here. The day when all our birthday’s, Christmas’s and New Years roll into one. I know some people feel the idea of the Winter Classic has already run its course as a spectacle in the NHL, but I am most definitely not one of those people. Rangers/Flyers outdoors? Doesn’t get much better than that.
The big thing for Rangers fans to take from yesterdays practice drills was the presence of Marc Staal alongside Dan Girardi. Now I know this was because Ryan McDonagh left the ice with flu-like symptoms, but it’s interesting to note EJ Hradek say this morning that he “won’t be totally shocked if he [Staal] returns today”. And to add to this, ESPN’s John Buccigross tweets unconfirmed reports that Staal will indeed return to the Rangers line-up this afternoon. Of course, John Tortorella announced the same line-up yesterday, but things can and do change.
Let’s get to that and the rest of the pre-game after the jump.
If Staal is indeed good-to-go, does that mean Ryan McDonagh’s flu-like symptoms have worsened overnight, or has he simply impressed Torts enough to earn an advance return over, say, Jeff Woywitka? I guess we’ll soon find out either way.
PROJECTED LINES (at least until we have confirmation on Staal…)
Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Brandon Dubinsky – Brian Boyle – John Mitchell
Ruslan Fedotenko – Mike Rupp – Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Anton Stralman
Jeff Woywitka – Stu Bickel
KEYS TO THE GAME
POINTS, POINTS, POINTS – While the Winter Classic understandably carries far more fanfare than a regular-season game on Long Island in late November, the key point to be made here is that both offer the same reward for a victory. It’s the Winter Classic and it’s played outdoors, but it’s still two points on a divisional opponent in the grand scheme of things. It’s important that the Rangers don’t get caught up in the bright lights and forget that.
ADAPT TO THE CONDITIONS – There’s going to be an adjustment period for both sides, that’s a given. Practice is practice, but in-game it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a slow first period as both teams adjust to the ice and its surroundings. One of the Rangers, I can’t remember who, said there wasn’t much life off the boards during yesterdays practice.
PENALTIES – If ever a game heightened the chances of a dumb penalty or five, it’s this one. Stand up for your teammates, of course, but let the Flyers be the ones to take them. The less time Jagr and Giroux spend on the powerplay, the better.
GOALTENDING – Henrik Lundqvist vs. Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky’s sporting very reasonable statistics over his last 8-10 games, but Lundqvist is arguably in the midst of his best season in the NHL. I’ll admit, I was surprised to see Bobrovsky getting the nod over Ilya ‘The Universe’ Bryzgalov, but given their respective form of late it really isn’t that much of a shock. It’s an area of the game that the Rangers should feel confident in.
Prediction: Tight, low-scoring. 2-1 Rangers.