Flyers-Rangers Preview

The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers have already stated
that they don’t like each other, and HBO’s cameras are looking to
capture more of that ahead of the highly anticipated Winter
Classic.

That outdoor meeting is still 10 days away, but a matchup at the
venue dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Arena” will certainly add to
the growing hype and indignation.

Despite an absence of the pomp and celebration that will be on
display at the NHL’s trademark event in the new year, the same two
points will be up for grabs when the Flyers face the Rangers at
Madison Square Garden on Friday night.

Philadelphia (21-8-4) is atop the Atlantic Division by two
points over New York (20-8-4), but lost 2-0 in the first meeting
this season on Nov. 26 at MSG.

That matchup got off to a physical start as Philadelphia’s Zac
Rinaldo and Brandon Prust of New York dropped the gloves
immediately following the opening faceoff. Prust also duked it out
with Wayne Simmonds in the first period, and went on to account for
12 of the 36 combined penalty minutes.

“It’s been a long time coming and we’ve been waiting for it. The
game was a little more in the spotlight and everyone is looking
forward to this Winter Classic,” Prust said following last month’s
meeting. “It always feels a little more like a playoff atmosphere
with Philadelphia.”

That rivalry has been at the center of the NHL’s marketing
campaign for the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Citizens Bank Park in
Philadelphia. It’s also the main narrative of the HBO documentary
series “24/7.”

That show is likely to see more intensity with another meeting
at the Garden, as the Flyers are 8-1-1 since their last visit to
the Big Apple.

The Rangers are also on a hot streak, going 10-3-1 in their last
14 games.

Two of the league’s top scorers – Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux
and New York’s Marian Gaborik – will be on display in this
game.

Giroux leads the NHL with 43 points, and his 17 goals are the
most on the Flyers. The star center still has those lofty numbers
despite missing four recent games with a concussion.

He returned from the injury Wednesday and didn’t miss a beat,
scoring a goal and setting up three others in a 4-1 win at
Dallas.

“He’s clearly established himself as a top player in the
league,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “He missed some time and
wanted to get back in there. He’s capable of that. It shouldn’t
surprise anybody.”

Giroux has a season-high six-game point streak that started
after being limited to two shots at New York last month. He’s
totaled four goals and 10 assists in that stretch, including two
four-point performances.

Gaborik has re-established himself as the Rangers’ top scoring
threat, tying three others for the league lead with 20 goals – two
shy of his total from last season.

The right wing has five goals and one assist during his club’s
three-game winning streak. He maintained that surge with a goal in
Thursday’s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.

Gaborik, though, has had little success against the Flyers since
joining the Rangers in 2009, tallying one goal and two assists in
12 games. He has no points in the past four home matchups.

After getting Thursday off, Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be
in net and that’s not good news for the Flyers. He’s a been the
biggest contributor in New York’s three consecutive wins over
Philadelphia, stopping 85 of 87 shots while recording two shutouts
at MSG in that stretch.

Lundqvist is 6-2-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average in his last
eight home meetings with Philadelphia.

He’ll face Jaromir Jagr for the first time with the Czech
superstar making his first appearance at Madison Square Garden
since leaving the Rangers for Russia’s KHL following the 2007-08
season.

Jagr spent three seasons with New York, setting a franchise
record with 54 goals in 2005-06. He totaled 55 over the next two
seasons before moving to Europe.

The Rangers and Flyers are tied with an NHL-low eight regulation
losses.