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No love lost for Valentine’s Day rematch between the Rangers and Flyers

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs Flyers 2-6

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but there will be no love or affection shown on the ice when the Rangers (38-16-6) take on the Philadelphia Flyers (24-20-10) as they rematch back at Madison Square Garden in what is likely to be a physical, high intensity contest.

The games between these two rival clubs always have another level of intensity to them, but it will be even higher tonight following Wayne Simmonds giving Ryan McDonagh a concussion following a sucker punch to the face. Simmonds received a match penalty and Ryan McDonagh remains out of the lineup.

The Rangers lost in their last game on Friday, surrendering a late goal to the Los Angeles Kings and falling in overtime. The Blueshirts trailed 2-0 after 12 minutes, and wound up scoring three straight goals, and then making it 4-3 late. Viktor Stalberg, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes all scored.

This is the fifth and final matchup between these teams this season, and the second game in just eight days. Last week, New York battled back to beat the Flyers 3-2 in a shootout in Philadelphia. Keith Yandle forced overtime with just 12.9 seconds remaining in the game, while Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan both scored in the shootout to seal the win. The Flyers won the only game at the Garden this season, with Steve Mason shutting out the Rangers 3-0.

The Rangers are still at home, which is great news for them. They’ve got a nine game point streak (7-0-2) going on at Madison Square Garden, and they’ve collected a point in 11 of their last 12 home contests. They’ve posted a 19-4-2 record in their last 25 home games, and they lead the NHL in points (17) and are tied for the league lead in wins (eight) since January 16th.

The Flyers played last night, losing to the New Jersey Devils in overtime. Shane Gotisbehere scored the only goal for Philly, giving him 10 goals and 30 points in just 36 games for his rookie season. He’s also riding an 11 game points streak, picking up 14 points (3-11-14) in that span. He tallied a goal and an assist in 23:01 of ice time against the Rangers in the last game, and he’ll be a central part of the Flyers game plan tonight.

Michal Neuvirth returned to action last night, which means that Steve Mason will start for the Flyers again against the Rangers. He’s been fantastic when facing New York, including a solid 26 save performance in the last game. Mason is 13-14-7 with a 2.65 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

Wayne Simmonds didn’t get a chance to have an offensive impact on the game, but he probably will tonight. In the three full games he has played, Simmonds has scored three goals with an assist. He’s scored 20 goals with 36 points this season and has been an effective power forward alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. He’ll be looking to prove himself after last game, and I have no doubt that he’ll be skating hard.

Henrik Lundqvist will be back between the pipes following a shaky outing from Antti Raanta against the Kings. Lundqvist made 26 saves against the Flyers in the last game, and has a personal four game win streak going, allowing two goals or less in those games. In his last start, Hank made 34 saves while shutting out the Penguins. He’s at the top of his game now, posting a 10-3-1 record with a 1.90 GAA and a .932 save percentage in his last 14 appearances, while stopping all 53 shots he has faced at even strength in the last two games.

I’m putting Tanner Glass as a player to watch. Not because I expect him to contribute much in the way of offense, but because he’s openly admitted that he wants to fight Wayne Simmonds. This is going to be a physical game, and Glass will be at the center of it.

Over the last nine games, the line of Miller, Brassard and Fast have recorded 24 points (11-13-24). Miller is tied for third in the league in goals since January 16th (nine). Brassard has nine points (3-6-9) with a plus-10 rating in the last seven games. Fast has six points (1-5-6) in the last seven games. Watch out for this line.

Mats Zuccarello scored a goal and an assist on Friday, tying his career high of 19 goals. He’s collected six points (1-5-6) in the last five games, and he seems to be clicking alongside Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider.

Keith Yandle will continue to play around 25 minutes a night with McDonagh out, and he has been spectacular since the captain has been sidelined. He picked up a power play assist against LA, helping snap a 2-50 power play skid the Rangers were on. He has three points in the last five games and leads all Ranger defensemen with 30 points (4-26-30).

The Rangers and the Flyers will face off at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

EXPECTED LINEUP

JT Miller-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Daniel Paille

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Dan Boyle-Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on February 14, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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