When the Rangers (2-3-0, 4 pts) host the Flyers (2-4-0, 4 pts) tonight at Madison Square Garden the home team will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time in this young 2013 season. Coming off a 5-2 home-ice victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Rangers continue to seek consistency in their overall game, and, as Brad Richards phrased it Monday, "to string some wins together" in order to put themselves on more solid footing within the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers will also be seeking a bit of redemption this evening against a Flyers team that bested the Blueshirts 2-1 last Thursday in Philadelphia, a game that the Rangers players and coaches were thoroughly displeased with. To their credit the Rangers bounced back with a much more complete effort in their next game against the Maple Leafs, and now are trying to build some momentum off their play in Saturday's victory.
Among the things the Rangers did well in their previous outing was to play a complete 60 minutes, control the puck and, by virture of that, control most of the game against Toronto, aggressively forecheck in the offensive zone, and diligently defend in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. While there were a pair of egregious breakdowns early in the game which resulted in goals against, the Rangers did not let those miscues alter their approach or gameplan. As Lundqvist stated after the game, perhaps what the Rangers did best Saturday was "stick to who we are, not get away from the gameplan...we trusted each other out there."
Of course when Marian Gaborik is flying on the ice and providing a four-point (2-2-4) night, good things usually result for the Blueshirts. Gaborik now has seven points (5-2-7) in his last two home games, which, not coincidentally, were both victories. He, Brad Richards, and Rick Nash have found a quick chemistry, though that threesome was stymied in Philadelphia last week---limited to just two shots on goal, and Gaborik's assist on a Taylor Pyatt power play goal. Head coach John Tortorella believes the success of Gaborik, Richards, and Nash is a double-edged sword of sorts because on one hand the coach is thrilled about the production the team is receiving from its three star forwards, but on the other Tortorella is concerned that there has not been better balance in the team's scoring. Tortorella continues to wrestle with whether or not to spread the wealth and split up the highly-skilled Gaborik, Richards, and Nash.
Included in that group of forwards of whom secondary scoring is expected and needed, only Pyatt---with three goals---has produced. Derek Stepan (0-3-3), Brian Boyle (0-1-1), Carl Hagelin (0-0-0), and even team captain Ryan Callahan (1-0-1) need to get going offensively. Tortorella is also intrigued by newcomer Benn Ferriero, who ended up centering the second line by the third period on Saturday.
The Flyers come into The Garden on a four-game road trip, which ends Friday in Washington. After a rousing start to the trip with a 7-1 win over the Panthers down in Sunrise, FL on Saturday, the Flyers crashed back to earth with a 5-1 defeat the next night in Tampa Bay. Danny Briere has returned to the lineup for Philly, as has the suspended Brayden Schenn, but the Flyers remain without heart and soul All Star winger Scott Hartnell, who will miss at least six weeks of action with a foot injury. To somewhat ease the loss of Hartnell, the Flyers signed 40 year-old free agent forward Mike Knuble late last week. The former Ranger, who has over 1,000 games of NHL experience, has one assist in his first two games with the Flyers this season.
Philly has been whistled for a league-high 42 penalties through six games this year, and their penalty kill is near the bottom of the NHL with a weak 69 percent success rate. The Rangers, who only have scored two power play goals themselves this season, scored their only goal last Thursday in Philadelphia with the man advantage. It could be an important factor in this evening's contest.
Lundqvist is expected to make his sixth straight start in goal for New York, while Ilya Bryzgalov---who watched Michael Leighton make the start on Sunday---will return between the pipes for the Flyers this evening.
So can the Rangers string together consecuitve victories and gain some redemption against the Flyers tonight? Share your thoughts and predictions below.