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Rangers look to make most of home ice vs. Flyers
Question of the Day
Here are five things to look for in the latest installment of this close-quarters rivalry:
MINDING THE NETS: The Rangers have no concerns in goal with Lundqvist, who set club records this season for career wins and shutouts. The Flyers already have issues as No. 1 netminder Steve Mason hasn’t recovered yet from an upper-body injury sustained last weekend in a collision against Pittsburgh, and will miss at least the series opener, coach Craig Berube said Wednesday. So Ray Emery will be the first to face the Rangers on Thursday. Emery was 9-12-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average in 28 games. He is 7-2 with a 1.87 GAA and .936 save percentage in 10 career games against the Rangers, but lost 4-1 to them on Jan. 12. Mason was 2-1 with a 2.01 GAA and .937 save percentage in three starts against New York.
“They have two very good goaltenders. We’re prepared for both,” Vigneault said Wednesday.
COACHING COMPARISON: Vigneault is in his first season with the Rangers, but is no stranger to the postseason following earlier head coaching stints with Montreal and Vancouver. He has reached the playoffs eight times in 12 seasons, advancing to the Stanley Cup finals with Vancouver in 2011. Berube is new to all of this, becoming an NHL head coach for the first time this season when he took over for the fired Peter Laviolette just three games in (0-3). With a club that few thought would reach the playoffs, Berube went 42-27-10 behind the bench the rest of the way and vaulted into the conversation among NHL coach of the year contenders.
SPURRING THE OFFENSE: The Flyers rely on captain Claude Giroux, their leading point-getter with 86, to power the club. Philadelphia was 21-2-1 this season when Giroux netted a goal and 33-15-4 when he recorded at least one point. Rick Nash tied the Rangers record by scoring nine game-winning goals this season. Nash, who had a team-high 26 goals, tied for third in the NHL in winners.
GETTING HEALTHY: Star defenseman Ryan McDonagh is expected to be back in the New York lineup for Game 1 after he missed the final five games of the regular season because of a shoulder injury. Derick Brassard left practice early on Tuesday with a back ailment but was back on the ice Wednesday and should be in the opening lineup. Derek Dorsett is a question mark for Thursday. Outside of Mason, the Flyers have a full complement, including seven who were in all 82 regular-season games. That was the club’s most since the 1974-75 squad had six suit up for the full 80-game campaign.
STIFLING DEFENSE: During their home winning streak against the Philadelphia, the Rangers have outscored the Flyers 31-9. New York has allowed two goals or fewer in each of the last eight home games and 14 of 17 overall versus the Flyers. Lundqvist is 8-0 with a 1.13 GAA, a .960 save percentage and two shutouts in his past eight home meetings with Philadelphia.
By Richard Rahn
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