Coming off of their thrilling first win of the season---4-3 in overtime against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday---the Rangers (1-2-0, 2 pts) look to make it two wins in two nights when they faceoff with the Flyers (0-3-0, 0 pts) at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Thursday evening. In the process the Rangers will look to not only build some early-season momentum of their own, but keep their arch rival winless in the process.
It would be a safe bet to assume that Rangers head coach John Tortorella will keep his newly-formed top line of Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards-Rick Nash intact this evening after that threesome created matchup nightmares for the Bruins 24 hours earlier. Playing with high intensity and creativity throughout, the Rangers top line set the tone for the game rigth from the first drop of the puck and the rest of the Rangers followed suit with a much more energized performance than the first two games of the season. Not only did Gaborik record his 14th career hat Trick and score the overtime game-winning goal, he and his linemates accounted for 15 of the Rangers 33 shots on goal in the victory---with Gaborik and Nash finishing with a team-high six shots apiece. Quite simply, Tortorella and Glen Sather could not have hoped for much better results when the deal with Columbus for Nash was completed last July. Now that All Star threesome will have to gollow up their grand debut together with another strong performance against an angry, and very physical, Flyers squad tonight.
Of course it's never about one player---or three in this case---when a team wins a game, or achieves any kind of success, and that was evidenced Wednesday night as team captain Ryan Callahan led the gritty physical charge with a game-high nine hits and four blocked shots. The Rangers blocked 25 shots in total Wednesday---compared to just nine for the Bruins---and outhit Boston 28-20. In addition to Callahan, Michael Del Zotto (assist, 3 shots on goal, 3 blocked shots in 25:24) played a major role in the victory, and Taylor Pyatt scored a big second-period goal while playinga robust physical game.
One player who saw his ice-time slashed Wednesday was rookie Chris Kreider, who started the game on the second line with Callahan and Derek Stepan, but finished it on the fourth line. In addition rugged Stu Bickel played just three minutes while filling in at forward for Arron Asham (mild groin strain). So perhaps it is not a coincidence then that veteran Kris Newbury was recalled from the Connecticut Whale, joining the team in Philadelphia today.
As for the Flyers, they have been outscored 9-3 in losing each of their first three games, and they are coming off a 3-0 road defeat in New Jersey on Tuesday. To make matters worse for the struggling Flyers, they will play tonight without Brayden Schenn---who was suspended one game for leaving his feet on a hit against the Devils Anton Volchenkov---and heart-and-souls All Star Scott Hartnell, who suffered an undisclosed foot injury on Tuesday. They join Danny Briere, who has yet to play in 2013, on the sidelines, though the Rangers will take nothing for granted against an angry Flyers team which is desperate not to start the season 0-4-0.
Last season the Rangers had the Flyers number, winning all six contests against the Flyers, outscoring Philly 24-11 along the way. The Blueshirts won all three games played in Philadelphia, outscoring the Flyers 10-5 in two games at Wells Fargo Center, and winning the outdoor Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Ballpark 3-2.