Flyers-Rangers Preview

The Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the New York Rangers from

playoff contention on the final day of the 2009-10 regular season.

While Sunday’s meeting may not possess the same immediate urgency,

a loss for the Rangers would be another hit to their fading stance

among postseason contenders.

New York looks to beat Philadelphia for the first time in five

games when they face off Sunday afternoon at Madison Square

Garden.

The Rangers (31-25-4) fell to 2-6-1 in their last nine games

with a 1-0 loss to New Jersey on Friday and have been held to two

or less goals in five of the last seven. Once contending for

home-ice advantage in the first round in the Eastern Conference

playoffs, New York has slipped in the standings and is 15 points

back of the first-place Flyers.

Marian Gaborik had a four-goal game Jan. 19, but has only two in

12 games since. Leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky had his four-game

point streak snapped against the Devils.

Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves but fell to 2-4-1 with a 3.00

goals-against average in his last seven starts. He didn’t get much

offensive support, as the Rangers finished with a season-low 15

shots.

“We were a step slow all night long in their zone, in the

neutral zone, and defending in our end zone,” coach John Tortorella

told the team’s official website. “It was especially so in the

first two periods. The third period I thought we were a little bit

better.”

Lundqvist has dropped a pair of 4-1 decisions to Philadelphia

this season Nov. 4 and Dec. 18. Martin Biron lost 3-2 in the most

recent meeting Jan. 16, allowing a goal to Flyers captain Mike

Richards.

However, Richards’ status for Sunday is uncertain after sitting

out Philadelphia’s 3-2 loss Friday against Carolina with flu-like

symptoms. It was the first game he’s missed in almost two full

years.

Coach Peter Laviolette had already turned in the team’s lineup

sheet which included Richards, who made a last-minute decision not

to play. The Hurricanes scored two goals within the first seven

minutes and the Flyers never recovered.

“It happened that fast,” Laviolette said of Richards’ absence.

“We were juggling (lines) a little bit at the beginning there.”

Philadelphia still has a solid lead atop the East despite the

loss. Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves but has lost three of five

starts after going 6-0-0 with a 1.83 GAA from Jan. 11-25.

Former Ranger Blair Betts scored his first goal since Nov. 4 and

Braydon Coburn tied the game in the third period with his second of

the season. However, the Flyers allowed the winner with just over

three minutes remaining.

Nikolay Zherdev was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive

game despite Richards being out of the lineup. Zherdev, who spent

the 2008-09 season with New York, has three goals this season

against his former team.

Philadelphia has won four straight and six of the last eight

meetings, but the Rangers have won four of the past six matchups at

MSG.