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Rangers battle the Flyers in crucial division matchup; Vigneault fuming after yesterday’s loss

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers-vs-flyers-10-3

Yesterday was an embarrassing game for the Rangers (26-13-1), who lost 4-1 to the Buffalo Sabres after showing almost no effort or fire in their game. The team needs a quick turnaround, because they take on the Philadelphia Flyers (20-14-5) on the road tonight in what could wind up being an important one for the Metropolitan Division standings.

The Rangers did almost nothing right last night, and were outworked and out-executed by one of the worst teams in the league. Alain Vigneault normally keeps his cool, but he was fuming after last night’s loss.

“There’s no doubt we didn’t do a good enough job in preparing our team for tonight’s game,” Vigneault told reporters. “I mentioned it many times. There are no easy games in this league. We weren’t ready when the game started, our execution was nonexistent. We didn’t have a ‘D’ that could make a pass, and our compete level was not good enough. I haven’t said this very often about this group since I’ve been here, but this was a very bad game where we got outworked badly, and we’re going to need to respond here.”

The Flyers haven’t been successful lately either, going just 1-4-2 in their last seven games after winning 10 games in a row from Nov. 27 to Dec. 14. In their last game against the Anaheim Ducks, firing 55 shots on goal but falling in the shootout to the Anaheim Ducks. Needless to say, they’ll be coming out of the gates just like the Sabres did; physical, fast, and looking to pounce on the Rangers early. They’ve spent the last nine games on the road and will be energized playing in front of their home crowd on national television. The Rangers will need to be ready.

This is the second of four meeting between the Rangers and the Flyers, and the second meeting in Philadelphia. The Rangers won the first game, 3-2, on Nov. 25 thanks in part to Henrik Lundqvist’s 40 saves along with goals from Kevin Hayes, Matt Puempel, and Derek Stepan. The Rangers have won four straight games against Philadelphia, and they’ve earned a point in nine of the last 11 games against Philly. Dating back to Mar. 6, 2011, the Rangers are 20-6-1 in the last 27 games against the Flyers.

Steve Mason has been the starter for the Flyers this season, but he’s been less than stellar. So far he’s 14-12-5 with a 2.76 GAA and a .904 save percentage in 32 appearances. Rookie Anthony Stolarz is waiting in the wings, appearing in four games and making two starts while owning a 2-0-0 record with a 1.79 GAA and a .938 save percentage with a shutout. Whoever starts, it’ll be a tall task for the Rangers, especially because it seems like Mason always plays well against them.

Jakub Voracek is the team’s leading scorer with 35 points in 39 games, but he’s been dominant on home ice. He’s tallied 25 points at the Wells Fargo Center with 10 goals and 15 assists in just 19 games there this season. He has a five game point streak going at home as well, with eight assists and 11 points in that span. Playing on the wing of Claude Giroux makes him even more dangerous.

Perhaps the biggest thorn in the Rangers side is Wayne Simmonds. Always a physical presence and a threat on the power play and in front of the net, Simmonds is extremely hard to play against. He can score in so many ways and will need to be accounted for whenever he’s on the ice.

With Henrik Lundqvist starting last night, I would assume that Antti Raanta is in net tonight. Raanta has been spectacular, posting a 10-4-0 record in 17 appearances along with a 2.28 GAA and a .921 save percentage. However, Lundqvist didn’t have a ton of work last night so there’s a chance Vigneault plays him again.

Derek Stepan is the team leader in points through the first 40 games, scoring nine goals and 30 points so far, as well as four goals and nine points in the last seven games. He’s played tremendously well against the Flyers in his career, with nine points (3 G, 6 A) and a total of 28 points (9 G, 19 A) in 30 career games against Philly. With the red-hot Chris Kreider on his wing, there’s a good chance for him to have some continued success tonight.

Last night was the first time I really noticed Brandon Pirri in a while. He still didn’t have a ton of success, but he had a couple of good chances and shot whenever he could. The goals have dried up, and Pirri hasn’t found the back of the net since Dec. 11 and just once since Nov. 15. He hasn’t been able to provide a real offensive spark with all of the injures the Rangers have, and has just 14 points (6 G, 8 A) in 38 games. That’s respectable for the contract he’s on, but a bit disappointing considering how good he was in the preseason and at the start of the season. If Pirri can start scoring more, the Rangers will be a lot better because of it.

The Rangers and the Flyers will faceoff at the Wells Fargo Center at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

EXPECTED LINES

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-Michael Grabner

JT Miller-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast

Nicklas Jensen-Marek Hrivik-Brandon Pirri

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Dan Girardi

Antti Raanta

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Posted on January 4, 2017, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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