Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 2/11/12

As we've discussed here on the blog in the past, the Rangers' dominance of the Atlantic Division this season has been key to their push to the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference. In particular, though, the Blueshirts have been stellar against their biggest rivals in the Philadelphia Flyers this year. In four games against Philly this season, including the Winter Classic, New York has went undefeated and has outscored their opponent, 14-6. Dominating the Flyers is not something we've seen this team do in the past, and by no means is Philly an easy club to take down. Only two more games remain on the Rangers' schedule against the Broadstreet Bullies, so they aren't far off from completing the season-sweep. 

The most recent meeting between these two teams took place last Sunday at Madison Square Garden when the Rangers defeated Philly, 5-2, in front of their home crowd. That, in addition to Thursday's overtime defeat of the Lightning, was the Rangers' most complete effort since the All-Star break at the end of January. They gave Philly problems in their own zone with a strong forecheck and a persistent work ethic, and that translated to a large amount of scoring chances. 

Philadelphia is only 4-3-3 in their last ten games, but they are coming off of a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. That was just two days after they were shutout, 2-0, against the New York Islanders. The Flyers certainly haven't had the start to the month of February that they would've liked, only gathering two wins over a span of five games. Still, though, they've maintained the fourth place spot in the East and are just four points behind the Rangers for the division lead. 

Now I know that head coach John Tortorella said that he and the team do not pay attention to the standings, but as far as I'm concerned, it's pretty crucial that the Rangers can keep hold of that division lead. Basically, when leading the division, you are untouchable and cannot be ousted from the playoffs or from getting home ice advantage, and I'd absolutely hate to see New York give that lead up to the Flyers. So today's matinee at Wells Fargo Center is a tad more important than some may believe. 

And the Flyers are entering this game as the underdogs having lost six straight to the Rangers dating back to last season, so there's not very much pressure on them to perform today. Jaromir Jagr also went on to make a comment about this game after practice yesterday...

"Even though they [Rangers] are a great team, I still believe we can beat them."

The Rangers need to do their best to prove their former captain wrong. 

Going over the gameplan against the Flyers seems repetitive since we've done it so often this year, so to keep things short and sweet, the less Philly has the puck, the more likely the Rangers are to win this hockey game. Seems logical, doesn't it? But that is not as simple of a feat to accomplish as it may sound, especially when the Flyers are skating in front of their home fans. The Rangers need to forecheck hard in this game and pin the Flyers in their own zone, but I'm sure coach Tortorella has his squad prepared to face some surges that will come not in their favor, because they most definitely will no matter how hard the Rangers try to prevent them.

Defense is always key in these match-ups, and the Rangers will have their options there this afternoon since they will be dressing seven blue-liners with Ruslan Fedotenko out of the lineup. Fedotenko left late in Thursday's game after taking a high hit to the head from Dominic Moore (Moore was only fined, not suspended) and was unable to complete practice yesterday in New York. The Rangers have not released any further information on his injury at this time, but it sounds like a concussion to me. We'll have to wait and see. 

But the Rangers will likely be double-shifting someone on the fourth line now with Fedotenko out, which is fine by me against a team like the Flyers. 

Stu Bickel will be the seventh defenseman to dress today for the Rangers. 

New York Rangers Lineup

 

 

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