Jaromir Jagr already has three points against Philadelphia this season. In 11 games against the Flyers since coming to New York, Jagr has registered 21 points.
Blueshirts visiting banged-up Flyers tonight
Rangers (16-10-4) at Philadelphia Flyers (8-17-4), 7 p.m. ET
There's a fundamental rule in sports that teams should never underestimate their opponents, and that is certainly true in the NHL, where even league powerhouses are vulnerable on any given night.
But just because you can't underestimate the opposing players doesn't mean you can't feel a little sorry for them. And one candidate for at least a bit of sympathy in this season's NHL is the injury-ravaged Philadelphia Flyers squad that the Rangers will face tonight at Wachovia Center.
The red-hot Rangers are going for a fourth straight victory, which could lift them into sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division (if New Jersey falls to Buffalo). They will get the golden opportunity to extend that streak against a Philadelphia team that ranks last in the entire Eastern Conference and only two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues in the race to avoid the NHL cellar.
Given Philadelphia's season-long woes, which included a six-game losing streak last month as well as their current three-game skid, it's nearly impossible to believe that the Flyers are just one year removed from being the Rangers' prime rival in the race for a division title.
At 8-17-4, the 2006-07 Flyers are on pace for their worst season in 16 years and perhaps even the fewest points in any season of the franchise's 30-year history. There's an obvious reason for the Flyers' downfall, though, and it's simple to understand: Philadelphia is hurting ⁈ ¦ really, really hurting.
To say that the Flyers have been decimated by injuries would be an understatement. Half the team is sidelined with injuries right now, including stars Peter Forsberg, Joni Pitkanen, Sami Kapanen and Geoff Sanderson. Goaltender Robert Esche is also injured, forcing the Flyers to use Antero Niitymaki in every game or be forced to give 21-year-old minor-leaguer Martin Houle a rather premature introduction to the NHL.
A total of nine Philadelphia regulars will miss tonight's game, and the Flyers also waived veteran Petr Nedved on Monday, clearing the way for six rookies to be in the lineup against the Blueshirts.
A majority of the players, who'll be on the ice for the Flyers tonight would probably feel much more comfortable playing in the minor leagues right now. Five of the six rookies are listed in the Philadelphia Phantoms' AHL media guide, with only forward Ben Eager originally projected to be with the Flyers this season.
This situation is reminiscent of what happened to the Flyers right following last season's Olympic break. Plagued by injuries and restricted by limited room within the NHL salary cap, Philadelphia was forced to call up several AHL players for a March 2 game against the Rangers at Wachovia Center. The result was a 6-1 Rangers thrashing of their hosts -- the team's widest margin of victory in Philadelphia since 1986-87.
Considering that the Rangers have even more firepower in their lineup this season -- and that the Flyers have even more minor-leaguers -- there is certainly a temptation to overestimate the Blueshirts' chances of success. Not only would that violate the cardinal rule mentioned above, it would also fail to recognize that there are enough veteran stars left in Philadelphia's lineup to cause concern.
The Flyers' top two scorers are still healthy for tonight's game. Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble have both performed well against the Rangers over the past two seasons, and they combined for four points in a 4-2 victory at Madison Square Garden back on Oct. 7. That was the last time these teams met, coming on the heels of a 13-round shootout win by the Blueshirts in Philadelphia. Those early-season games are hardly a good predictor for tonight, however, since seven Flyers who played in the October matchups are now out of the lineup.
In contrast to their hosts, the Rangers are in great shape at this point in the season and in position to extend their winning streak to a season-best four games tonight. To win No. 4, they will rely on the outstanding goaltending and team defense that has marked the first three outings. It starts in net, where over the last nine periods, Rangers goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Kevin Weekes have allowed only four total goals.
Another secret of the Rangers' recent success has been discipline. Following a Dec. 26 game vs. Buffalo when they allowed 10 power plays, the Rangers completely changed course in that area and have been avoiding the penalty box like the plague. As a team, they have allowed only 15 total power plays in the past six games, and they've killed off 12 of them.
Then, of course, there is the offensive prowess of the Rangers' own power play, which has scored at least one goal in six consecutive games -- a streak in which the man-advantage has converted at a phenomenal rate of 27.2 percent. One of the primary factors in that success has been the play of Martin Straka, who is currently on a career-high 10-game scoring streak and on pace for the first 100-point season of his career.
As of Monday, the Rangers had four players among the NHL's top 15 scorers. All three members of the No. 1 line ⁈“ captain Jaromir Jagr, Straka and Michael Nylander were there, as well as forward Brendan Shanahan. That's quite a contrast to Philadelphia's offensive picture, where the highest-scoring Flyers player (Gagne) ranks only 48th overall in the league.
Following tonight's game, the Rangers are scheduled for two more road games in Dallas and Toronto before returning to Madison Square Garden for a key divisional matchup with the Devils on Sunday.
solid win on the road...weekes surprised me with back to back good games although he only faced 16 shots cause rangers had control of the puck all night. great to see the kid immonen get his 1st goal of the season which was the GW and straka extending his streak with a sweet pass to nylander to put it away...keep it goin in dallas thursday...GO RANGERS!!