The New York Rangers do battle against the rough-and-tumble Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m., as part of a day with NHL games with starts at that time. With a 31-16-7 record, 69 points (two more games played), the Flyers are only four points behind the Rangers (34-13-5, 73 points), but they haven't been able to solve them in four meetings this year.
The Blueshirts will look to continue their success against their division and Eastern Conference foe. At Madison Square Garden the last time out, the Blueshirts put on an impressive defensive showing (allowing 23 shots) and scored three goals in the third period to put the Flyers away, 5-2. It was a game that featured four fights, two from physical rookie defenseman Stu Bickel, who will dress Saturday as Ruslan Fedotenko deals with what appears to be a concussion from Domonic Moore's hit in Thursday's game. New York will go with seven blueliners for the first time this year, but Bickel is ready-made for a game like this. Henrik Lundqvist will also get the nod in net, with Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes at the other end.
Interestingly, even though the Flyers have one home game (Winter Classic) against New York, this will be the first one played in their home arena. Philadelphia is 18-8-2 at home; New York is 17-7-3 on the road.
Philadelphia recently snapped a three-game skid when they topped the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, on Thursday. It's a very high-scoring group, second in the league, yet their goaltending and defensive woes keep dragging them down (ninth-most goals allowed per game in the league). As always, coach John Tortorella will do his best to match the Dan Girardi-Ryan McDonagh pairing against Flyers' leading scorer, Claude Giroux, who has 61 points and 21 goals. Alongside him is Scott Hartnell, who is enjoying a career year with 26 goals and 48 points. Jaromir Jagr has 13 goals and 39 points.
The Rangers hope that Brad Richards' overtime game-winner gets him going and in effect, gets another line flowing again. Marian Gaborik has enjoyed a fine season with 26 goals and 44 points, but New York needs its other high-priced player to step up. It's lucky that the offense has been so well-rounded -- despite not being overwhelmingly potent just yet. Artem Anisimov has shown signs of life, as well, over the last few games: he has four points in his last three games ... three of which came against the Flyers last Sunday. The Blueshirts need more progression from the Russian pivot. They also need more from Brandon Dubinsky, who had a goal against the Flyers in their last game, but has just six and 22 points this season. The defense and goaltending has been so stout this year -- which is the main reason for their success. Getting more on offense (13th-ranked) and the power play (No. 27) makes them all the more dangerous.