Rangers vs. Flyers
Madison Square Garden, 12:30 p.m. Sunday
Rangers’ Record: 34-29-4
Flyers’ Record: 40-18-6
The Rangers continue their dire run to the playoff finish line in a matinee tomorrow afternoon against their Atlantic Division rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Hurricanes, Sabres and Maple Leafs are closing in and riding on their tail for the last two playoff slots in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers two game losing streak thanks to the Maple Leafs and Sabres has been most inconvenient for the Blueshirts. The Sabres’ 5-3 victory over the Flyers today makes the two points that much more critical. Buffalo now has 70 points while the Rangers have 72.
After a 4-1 explosive win over the Ottawa Senators Friday night, the Blueshirts need to ride the momentum. But they must take that victory with a grain of salt – the Sens are in last place for a reason – and come out swinging tomorrow.
Sean Avery and Erik Christensen, who have struggled this season, have played better of late by making their presence known, creating opportunities deep in the offensive zone and contributing some points. Avery energy could be just the X factor the Rangers need.
Wearing down the Conference leading Flyers early, who could be sluggish after back-to-back afternoon games, will give the Rangers a shot at victory and put last week’s three-game losing skid in the dust. An early one goal lead won’t do the trick. The Flyers carry some hefty depth on offense with Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux and Scot Hartnell. Newly acquired winger Kris Versteeg is starting to gel with three goals in his last two games.
The Rangers can’t fall asleep at the wheel. One escaped defensive assignment, one bad penalty, and one sluggish shift is enough to lose two points. One missed point is enough to miss the playoffs as the Flyers so aptly demonstrated last season.
Madison Square Garden hasn’t been home sweet home this season as the Rangers post a 14-16-3 record there. Hardworking efforts against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sabres and Minnesota Wild resulted in disappointment.
The Rangers can’t afford to drop anymore points on home ice.
Flyers’ goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has allowed seven goals in his last two games so it might be Brian Boucher who protects the net tomorrow. Henrik Lundqvist could make his 12th consecutive start with backup Martin Biron out for the season with a broken collarbone. Marian Gaborik (concussion) has been traveling and skating with the team but may not be ready to return if the headaches still persist.
The Broad Street Bullies won 4-2 the last time the two teams met on February 20.