Upcoming games: @ Panthers Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m. ; @ Capitals Nov. 25, 4 p.m.; Flyers Nov. 26, 2 p.m.
Panthers (23 points, 3rd place Eastern Conference, 10-6-3)
Former Stanley Cup champ Kris Versteeg leads the team in goals (9) and points (22) while left winger Tomas Fleischmann is not far behind with 8 goals and 19 points. The new look Panthers have quietly crept into third place in the Eastern Conference for the time being. Jose Theodore has been pretty solid in net for the Panthers thus far with a .923 save percentage posting 7 wins, two overtime losses and one shutout in 14 games started. Defenseman Brian Campbell is third in the NHL in assists with 16. The Rangers can't take the trip to Florida lightly after their seven game winning streak was snapped rather convincingly by the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The Panthers won't part with two points easily as the Capitals are gunning right behind them for the Southeast Division lead.
Capitals (21 points, 8th place Eastern Conference, 10-7-1)
The Capitals continue to struggle with their identity. With the chess pieces for an elite team, the Caps are instead consistently inconsistent. They started the season on a tear with seven straight wins. November has not been as kind. In their last ten games, the Caps are 3-7. They've allowed 14 goals in their last three losses in which they've only scored one goal a game. The most embarassing thrashing came at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs who defeated them 7-1 on Saturday. Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 20 points. Although Alex Ovechkin leads the team with just seven goals, he has been far from dynamic. The Rangers must pounce early on the slumping Caps and take advantage of sloppy turnovers and lethargic battles for a W at the Verizon Center.
Flyers (25 points, 1st place Eastern Conference, 11-5-3)
The first meeting of the season between these future Winter Classic foes should be fiery. If winger Jaromir Jagr returns to the lineup from an undisclosed lower body injury he suffered last week against the Coyotes, it will be the former Ranger captain's first time back in the Garden. The Flyers have found their stride and scoring touch in Claude Giroux. Giroux is in the top five of the NHL in points (26), goals (11) and assists (15). The Broad Street Bullies also boast depth and grit with James Van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell. The Rangers must maintain their focus as the Flyers will be their second opponent in two nights off the heels of their game in Washington and of course the Thanksgiving holiday.
The road ahead will show how the Rangers compete with the best of 'em and if they can bring a consistent solid 60 minute effort on a packed schedule.