NHL Extra: Breaking down Rangers vs. Flyers

Looking for the numbers breakdown for how these two teams stack up? Look no further as we’ve got you covered as the Rangers take on the Flyers at 12:30 p.m. ET from Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Insider’s Preview

CSN Philly’s Ryan Bright takes a look at both teams.

CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio looks at the Flyers facing adversity for the first time this year.

Team scoring

We took a look at how rough scoring has been of late for the Rangers. Overall this year, the Rangers have scored 186 goals, a mark that puts them 11th in the NHL. Their average is not so hot though at 2.67 goals per game  – a number that puts them 20th overall in the NHL. That’s not very good, even more so for a team looking to make the playoffs. Brandon Dubinsky is their leading scorer with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists). Shockingly, Brian Boyle is the team’s leading goal scorer with 20. The team’s leading scoring defenseman is Dan Girardi with three goals and 23 assists. We’re a bit surprised ourselves to read that. The Rangers will get Marian Gaborik back in the lineup today and if all goes well he can get the offense generated for New York.

Philadelphia’s offense is a bit better. They’ve scored 208 goals this season, a mark that puts them fourth overall in the NHL. They goals per game average is a stellar 3.22, a mark that only trails Detroit and Chicago in the league. Claude Giroux is leading the team in scoring with 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists) while Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere are the top goal scorers with 28 each. Bad news today, however, is that Carter will not play because of illness. Matt Carle leads the scoring along the blue line with 29 points (1 goal, 28 assists) but Kimmo Timonen is just one point behind him. Scoring goals isn’t generally an issue for the Flyers.

Goaltending

There’s a stark difference between these two teams and it comes in goal. The Rangers come at you with all-world superstar Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist is 26-23-4 this season with a 2.33 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. With the Rangers in a push for the playoffs and regular backup Martin Biron out with a broken collarbone, it’ll be Lundqvist or bust the rest of the way for New York. If Lundqvist sees trouble and gets chased from the game, Chad Johnson is his backup. No, this Chad Johnson doesn’t have a show on Versus with Terrell Owens, this one instead went to the University of Alaska and saw some playing time last season with the Rangers as well.

Philadelphia has been working an effective two-headed monster approach in goal with Brian Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky getting the start against Buffalo yesterday afternoon, Boucher gets the start today. Boucher this season is 15-7-2 with a 2.33 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Should Boucher get into trouble today, Bobrovsky’s record is 24-11-4 with a 2.52 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. They’ve each had streaks of outstanding play this season and when things have cooled off, one relieves the other and runs with the starts for a while. Will that work in the postseason? We’ll see.

Special teams

New York’s ability to kill penalties is a boon for them. The Rangers PK runs at 83% efficiency, good for 11th in the NHL. Their power play, however, could use a little work as the Rangers score 16.2% with the man advantage. A rate like that is good for 22nd in the league. Considering how much of a hard time they’ve had scoring goals at all, this isn’t much of a surprise.

Philadelphia has about the same sort of luck on the power play scoring at 16.6% of the time, good for 21st in the league. If you’re banking on penalties and power plays deciding this game, perhaps hoping teams will decline them would be better off. The Flyers PK is outstanding killing 84% of the power plays they face, a mark good for seventh in the league.

Streaks and standings

The Flyers are the top team in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with 86 points. They’re two points better than Boston for the overall top spot in the conference while they’re now just two points ahead of Pittsburgh for first in the division. The Flyers three game losing streak of late and being losers of five of their last seven has helped the Penguins and Bruins both catch up to them. What once was a dominating lead is now a fight to the finish atop the standings.

New York is seventh in the Eastern Conference with 72 points. Their lead on eighth place Carolina is just one point and ninth place Buffalo lurks behind them by two points. With the Rangers struggles of late, the pack has come back to them and the Sabres and Maple Leafs are within one hot streak of jumping into the playoffs and taking over their spot. If the Rangers want to avoid a scenario like they saw last year, racking up wins now would be a good idea.

Fisticuffs and agitation

Jody Shelley is in the lineup for Philadelphia today. The former Rangers enforcer will be out there to keep the peace or to throw fists with the likes of Brandon Prust of New York. With pests Sean Avery and possibly Dan Carcillo also suiting up for this game, expect things to be their usual spicy selves between these two rivals.

NHL Extra

If you’d like to ask James and I questions and get our thoughts on today’s game, you can join us for NHL Extra online and follow along with the action that way. To join us for NHL Extra click here. We’ll be kicking things off at 12:30 p.m.

Rick Nash scores twice as Rangers edge Sabres 4-3

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Prior to Tuesday’s win, New York Rangers forward Rick Nash had gone 12 games without a goal.

They had lost three straight and the man they needed to start scoring again simply couldn’t.

But on Tuesday in a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nash found his stride.

And on Thursday night he notched two more in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on NBCSN.

Nash opened the scoring for the Rangers 1:24 into the game, taking advantage of a defensive mishap by Jake McCabe, who couldn’t handle a puck as the last man back and allowed Nash in on a breakaway.

The Sabres would respond by periods’ end, starting their first of three comebacks on the night.

Kyle Okposo brought the game to level terms with 1:19 remaining in the first period, completing a tic-tac-toe play on the power play.

The Sabres came into the game with the 31st ranking on the man-advantage, but managed to score twice with it in Thursday’s game.

The Rangers regained the lead through J.T. Miller in the second period.

New York just went through a power play without registering a shot on goal, but Miller was able to grab the puck at the right circle moments after the Sabres’ penalty had expired and rifled a wrist shot bar down behind Lehner at 8:26.

The Sabres engineered their second comeback of the game, tying it 2-2 the game later in the period from an unlikely source.

Justin Falk had gone 101 games without putting a puck in the back of the net. Not since March 6, 2015 had Falk seen his name in that category on the scoresheet.

But he shed that monkey off his back on a point shot low along the ice that beat Lundqvist through the five-hole with 2:50 remaining in the frame.

Nash scored his second at the 6:49 mark of the third period, following by Buffalo’s third successful comeback attempt at 14:59 when Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot found its way through a crowd and behind Lundqvist for a 3-3 tie.

Pavel Buchnevich scored the winner 1:03 later, finishing off a nice feed from Mika Zibanejad for his 12th and the Rangers second straight win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Los Angeles Kings

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

Los Angeles Kings

Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonTrevor LewisTyler Toffoli

Alex IafalloNick ShoreMarian Gaborik

Kyle Clifford — Michael Amadio — Jonny Brodzinski

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Kevin Gravel — Christian Folin

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Eric Lindros’ famed No. 88 retired in Philadelphia

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No. 88 has always hung from the rafters in the minds of Philadelphia Flyers fans.

The organization seemed to revere it as well. No one but Eric Lindros has ever worn the number.

And on Thursday night in the City of Brotherly Love, those fans could finally see it with their own eyes.

The Big E’s famous No. 88 in Flyers orange and black was retired at Wells Fargo Center, raised to hang next to the names of Bernie Parent, Mark Howe, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke.

“Without any doubt, this is the highest honor the organization can bestow on one of its members,” said Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who addressed the packed house. “Take a look at the rafters, only five players out of 600 to have ever worn the orange and black, and now that number will be six.

“When we raise your number in a few moments, know you’re back where you belong, and this time, it’s forever.”

Moments earlier, Lindros stood at center ice, waving at the standing ovation that engulfed the arena that encircled him.

“Wow. Haha. This is crazy,” Lindros said, peering out into the sea of orange and black as he followed Holmgren at the center-ice podium. 

“It’s no secret that when I left Philadelphia, it was under less than ideal circumstances,” Lindros said, crediting Holmgren and his wife Kina with helping him move.

Lindros sat out the entire 2000-01 season due to a contract dispute with Clarke and the organization.

Lindros was crushed by Scott Stevens in the playoffs in the previous season and was only cleared to play the following December. The Flyers had offered, and Lindros refused a two-way qualifying offer. Lindros, instead, wanted to be traded, with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs the preferred destination after his once-strong relationship with Clarke had deteriorated. Clarke refused to trade him at first, but finally did so in the following offseason, not to Toronto, but to the New York Rangers in the summer of 2001.

“Both, in their own ways, have taught me to move on, put in the past any differences of opinion, any hard feelings,” Lindros said. “It was time to remember the great moments I experienced here in Philadelphia, the friendships I’ve built in this great city and the respect I have for the fans of this team.”

Lindros was a member of the ‘Legion of Doom,’ a line that consisted of John LeClair and Mikael Renberg that dominated opponents and altered the game of hockey in the 1990s. Lindros acknowledged several people, including former general manager Russ Farwell, who brought Lindros, Mark Recchi and Rob Brind’Amour into the team and drafted Mikael Renberg.

Lindros also thanked Clarke, and said LeClair should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Lindros was one of the most physically gifted and dominating players to ever play in the NHL, a man who towered over most, skated better than most and score better than most.

Lindros won the Hart Trophy during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He played 486 games in Flyers threads, scoring 290 goals and amassing 659 points.

In 2016, Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Roberto Luongo could return to practice soon

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The mandatory off week for the Florida Panthers appears to have done wonders for injured goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Panthers No. 1 netminder has “turned a corner” as he continues to rehab a lower-body injury, Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said on Thursday.

The Panthers practiced for the first time since their mandatory break on Thursday, and although Luongo is still on pace for a return early next month, the news was good to hear for a team nine points adrift of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think he’s turned a corner a little bit,” Boughner told reporters after the team’s practice. “He’s showing some good improvement here in the last few days. We’re excited to hopefully get him back out on the ice during a practice at some upcoming point.”

Luongo hasn’t played since Dec. 4, when he was injured in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

The news of Luongo’s pending return was probably a little music to the ears of James Reimer.

Reimer has started Florida’s past 16 games, posting an 8-6-2 record with .924 save percentage during that span, but ran into the break losing four of his previous five starts.

Still, Reimer has performed admirably in Luongo’s absence, as he bounced back from an unfavorable start to the season that saw Luongo regain the starter’s reins.

The Panthers will have five games in-hand on Pittsburgh Penguins, who entered Thursday occupying the final spot. They play the Los Angeles Kings live on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

The Panthers return to action on Friday when they host the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

Reimer is expected to start No. 17.