With the two separated by just one point in the standings, tonight at the Garden doesn't figure to be any different, especially with both teams playing some of their best hockey of the year.
The Rangers (23-20-3, 49 points) are a season best 3 games over .500 and winners of 2 in a row, while the Flyers (23-18-4), under new coach Craig Berube, have risen from the ashes after a 1-7 start.
Philly isn't the offensive juggernaut they've been in the past, but Berube has cleaned up the sloppy play in their own end, while Steve Mason, with a .918 SV%, has so far broken the longstanding Philadelphia goaltending curse.
Offensively, the Flyers do appear to be finding their way though. After dreadful starts, both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek averaged over a point per game in December.
The Rangers, despite being the only team in the league to not have a single player with 12 or more goals, have been better offensively of late as well. Over their last 10, the Blueshirts have averaged exactly 3 goals per game, excluding the 2 goals they get credit for "scoring" in shootout victories. Not coincidentally, they're 7-2-1 over that stretch.
The Rangers' suddenly not groan-inducing power play has keyed the stretch of offensive competence. In the last 10, the power play is 10-30, and has vaulted all the way up to 6th in the league (21.3%). If you're doing the math, that means 1/3 of the Blueshirts' goals over that stretch have been scored with the man advantage.
Everyone's favorite Norwegian Hobbit-Wizard, Mats Zuccarello, has unsurprisingly played a major role in the power play Renaissance–he leads the team with 15 PP points, quarterbacking the Rangers "2nd" unit featuring himself, Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot.
It's the best the Blueshirts' power play has looked since running the iso-Jagr PP of the early Renney years.
-It will be Henrik Lundqvist (14-16, .908) vs. Ray Emery (5-7, .897) in net. With those numbers, no wonder why Sugar Ray is more interested in fighting than stopping pucks.
-The Rangers lineup, with only one extra player currently on the roster (Justin Falk), is expected to stay the same.
-With a win, the Blueshirts (9-10-3) can get back to .500 at home for the first time since November.
-Steve Downie will be a healthy scratch for Philly, meaning Dan Carcillo will have to look for a new dance partner. He won't have to look far. Noted face-puncher and non-hockey player Jay Rosehill takes Downie's place.
-Derek Stepan has no goals and just 4 assists in his last 10 games. The Rangers desperately need more from him.
-Remember when it was a big deal that the Flyers signed Vinny Lecavalier? He has no goals and 3 points his last 12 games, and is a team-worst minus-12.
-The Flyers lost to Tampa 6-3 yesterday afternoon.
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