Flyers relish challenge of showdown with Rangers

From the general manager on down, the Philadelphia Flyers say

enjoying the challenge is the key to their Sunday showdown with the

New York Rangers that could decide the final playoff spot in the

Eastern Conference.

“If you can’t embrace this situation and give it your best,

there’s something wrong,” general manager Paul Holmgren said

Saturday. “I expect us to play a good game.”

The game in Philadelphia will mark only the third time in Flyers

history a playoff spot will be determined in the final game of the

season and the first time since 1972.

“I’ve never seen anything this close, anything like it, but we

might as well embrace it, enjoy it,” said fourth-line right wing

Ian Laperriere. “I know our fans are going to go crazy tomorrow.

We need that and it’s going to be a fun game to play.”

The Flyers have played well of late at home and hold a 23-14-3

mark at the Wachovia Center, while the Rangers are 20-16-4 on the

road. New York leads the season series, 3-2.

The two teams go into the game tied with 86 points.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said his team has to be more

consistent than it was in Friday night’s 4-3 loss at Madison Square

Garden. The Flyers got off to a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds into the

contest, then Philadelphia’s Daniel Carcillo took a double-minor

for high-sticking Brandon Prust and New York scored, taking the

momentum away.

“They had the better of us for that first period,” Laviolette

said. “We need to be more powerful than them for longer stretches.

It’s a big game tomorrow, we’ll need some big-time

performances.”

In Friday night’s game, captain Mike Richards gave his strongest

performance since the Olympic break. His message to his team:

“Look forward to playing the game. Don’t be tentative. Just make

plays.”

Richards had his first two-goal game since Feb. 1, but the rest

of the Flyers had a difficult time getting scoring chances.

“I thought we may have been a little bit nervous,” Richards

said. “But we’re coming to a place where we’re comfortable. We

play well there, so everybody should be confident.”

Flyers leading goal-scorer Jeff Carter did not practice on

Saturday after returning in Friday night’s game at New York from an

eight-game absence because of a broken bone in his foot. The Flyers

said they gave Carter the day off to avoid aggravating the injury,

but expect him to play Sunday.

Chris Pronger figures this game might come down to which team

brings the most desire.

“It’s about being determined and having that single-minded

belief that you’re going to end up on top,” Pronger said. “It all

boils down to one game and how we play. We’re going to need to be

an aggressive, up-tempo physical team. We need to make sure we’re

imposing our will on them.”