Game Four W2W4: Up 2-1, Rangers Seek Stranglehold On Series

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Players To Watch


Rangers-Derick Brassard: After leading the Rangers in scoring last spring with 12 points in 12 playoff games, Derick Brassard has just one assist through the first three games of this year's post-season. As he said on Thursday it's not like he and his linemates Mats Zuccarello and Benoit Pouliot are playing poorly, but he understands more production is expected of all three following their individual and collective strong play this season. Brassard scored a career-high 18 goals and finished with 45 points, the second highest total in his career, and had terrific chemistry with Zuccarello and Pouliot, forming the team's most consistent line in 2013-14. Brassard is right in saying that his line is playing well away from the puck and defensively, but more offensive production--starting with Brassard--would be key for the Rangers in Game Four on the road Friday, where an all-hands-on-deck approach is expected and needed if the visitors expect to skate to a 3-1 series lead with another road victory. Last year Brassard--in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs--proved to be a big-game player, rising to the occasion time and again through both rounds, in particular the first round series against Washington when he recorded nine points in seven games. The Rangers are looking for that same player to be in uniform on Friday night.


Flyers-Steve Mason: He's been the talk of the series and hasn't started a single game yet, while playing just the final 7:15 in relief of Ray Emery in Game Three on Tuesday, but now in Game Four Steve Mason returns between the pipes for the Flyers and they hope that their No. 1 goaltender is ready and healthy enough to be a difference-maker for a team that would be one loss from elimination if it dropped Game Four on home ice to the Rangers. The former Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's rookie-of-the-year five seasons ago in Columbus, Mason resurrected his career at age 26 this year in Philadelphia, earning a contract extension and the No. 1 job along the way. Mason tied his career-highs in both appearances (61) and wins (33), and was 2-1-0 in three starts against the Rangers, winning twice at the Wells Fargo Center. Several Rangers know him well as a teammate from Columbus--Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, John Moore, Derek Dorsett, and Anton Stralman--but that means Mason knows them well, too. This could lead to a real chess match between those players. Alain Vigneault said that the Rangers have a definite game plan against Mason; and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to his first start in two weeks after being sidelined by an unspecified injury believed to be a concussion or whiplash. Mason has appeared in four career post-season games and lost them all, back in his rookie season. There is no question that he is a real X-Factor Friday night and beyond in this series.