Richards Skates, Haley Recalled

Brad Richards was back on the ice, taking part in the Rangers morning skate on Tuesday, two days after being on the receiving end of a vicious hit from behind delivered by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta during Sunday's game at The Garden. Whether or not Richards will be able to play tonight against the Flyers is still in question as the veteran center did not speak with reporters after the morning skate to discuss his playing status.

Shortly after the morning skate, the Rangers announced that rugged forward Micheal Haley had been recalled from the Connecticut Whale. There was no immediate word on if Haley would make his Rangers debut tonight, or if he had been recalled as a precaution should Richards not be able to play.

With Arron Asham still sidelined by a bad back, the Rangers have only 12 forwards---counting Richards and Stu Bickel, who has recently been playing on the fourth line. If Richards were unavailable, then Haley would need to play in this important contest this evening.

In 56 games with the Whale this season, Haley has scored nine goals and totaled 21 points, while also posting a +5 plus/minus mark. His 158 penalty minutes are the 11th most in the American Hockey League. He is closing in on his single-season high of 196 penalty minutes, which he set with Bridgeport during the 2009-10 season and the 25 points he accrued with Bridgeport a year ago.

The 26 year-old Haley has 43 games of NHL experience with the Islanders, recording two goals and an assist to go along with 151 penalty minutes.

Tonight's Rangers lineup will be announced later in the afternoon.

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So how crucial is it for the Rangers to finish their season-high four-game homestand with a victory tonight, to finish 3-1-0 as opposed to 2-2-0 or 2-1-1?

"I think just because we've played so many home games you have to put pressure on yourselves to have a good record at home knowing there's a bunch of road games coming up," explained Jeff Halpern after Tuesday's morning skate. "This is a huge game for us against a team we are competing with for a playoff spot. And with under 30 games to play, things are getting ramped up even more."

The fact that tonight's opponent is the Flyers just adds more fuel to the fire for the Rangers, as well.

"With the history of the rivalry, and with as close as the teams are right now, it becomes a huge game for our team," added Halpern.

Philadelphia enters play one point ahead of the Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, though the Blueshirts do have three games in hand.

 

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The Flyers enter the Garden winners of three of their last four games. Forward Scott Hartnell said it's important his team gets off to a quick start against the Rangers in hopes of snapping a five-game losing streak at MSG.

"Last year, I think everyone remembers we lost six straight to them," Hartnell told BlueshirtsUnited.com following the team's morning skate. "We have to come out hard and get a good start. Obviously they're going to want to get a good start at home. We have to try and take the crowd out of it. It's a great crowd. It's always exciting to play here."

Ilya Bryzgalov will be in goal for the Flyers tonight, and former Ranger Mike Knuble is expected to dress after being scratched for two games.

 

Former Ranger Ruslan Fedotenko, who is making his second trip to MSG after signing with the Flyers this summer, said he still keeps in touch with several current Rangers. But he said once the puck drops, they're the enemy.

 

"The group was really tight," he said. "Off ice, it's great. On the ice, they're the opponent and a division rival so it's a totally different game."

Are you concerned about Brad Richards' availability for tonight's game? And what do you make of Micheal Haley's recall? Share your thoughts and opinions below.