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.

Looking to make the leap: Josh Ho-Sang

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This post is part of Islanders Day on PHT…

The New York Islanders made something of a gamble when they selected Josh Ho-Sang with the 28th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and now that bet could start to pay off handsomely.

Even before Ho-Sang was drafted he was attracting quite a bit of attention. He had the tools to be a big offensive threat, but there were concerns about his attitude.

“I don’t think it’s from unfair labels, it’s from stuff that I’ve done,” he told the Windsor Star back in June 2014. He later added, “I’ve just not done certain things the proper way. That’s just all part of maturity, so if that’s going to hurt me in the draft, that’s something that I’m accepting of, because that’s all me. It’s something that’s a part of growing up.”

Those statements of acknowledgment can be seen as encouraging, but the warning signs continued as he showed up late for the first day of training camp in 2015 and the Islanders addressed it by immediately returning him to the OHL. Fortunately since then there has been more encouraging news about Ho-Sang.

He went pro in 2016-17 and had an strong season in both the AHL and NHL. With the Islanders he scored four goals and 10 points in 21 contests while getting a solid 16:27 minutes per game. That left an impression on Islanders coach Doug Weight.

“Josh was great,” Weight said. “We were getting feedback from [Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson] about his attitude down there, and he was playing hard, learning the system and played with some passion. I think he showed that when he came up.”

Ho-Sang’s spot on the Islanders still isn’t guaranteed, but he’s put himself in a position where it’s very plausible that he’ll be part of the team’s opening game roster. If he plays well he could end up being a significant presence on the club throughout the season.

All the while he might be making the case that the Islanders’ gamble has turned into a steal.

Beauchemin signs on for third stint with Ducks (Updated)

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Francois Beauchemin will once again be playing for the Anaheim Ducks, according to TVA Sports and Renaud Lavoie.

Updated: The Ducks have since confirmed a one-year deal for Beauchemin.

The contract reportedly comes with a base salary of $1 million and the potential to earn roughly $500,000 more in performance bonuses.

This would be Beauchemin’s third stint with the team. He played with Anaheim for parts of four campaigns from 2005-06 through 2008-09. Along the way he averaged a staggering 30:33 minutes per game in the playoffs during the Ducks’ 2007 championship run. His second stint with the club spanned parts of five seasons from 2010-11 through 2014-15. As was the case during his previous run, Beauchemin was a workhorse and in the 2013 lockout shortened season he also finished fourth in the Norris Trophy vote.

Beauchemin spent the last two seasons with Colorado. Although he’s 37-years-old now, Beauchemin has only missed one game over the last two seasons and still averaged 21:31 minutes in 2016-17.

Despite that, Colorado decided to buy him out this summer, which freed up a protected list spot for the expansion draft and created an opening for the club’s younger defensemen as the Avalanche focus on rebuilding.

Given that defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen might start the season on the sidelines, adding another blueliner capable of serving in a top-four role like Beauchemin has the potential to be a big boost for the Ducks.

Gaborik unlikely to be ready for start of training camp

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Marian Gaborik‘s recovery from a non-surgical procedure to address his “chronic” knee issue will likely bleed into training camp.

“He’s progressing pretty well from the summer,” Kings GM Rob Blake told LA Kings Insider. “He still has some difficulty with some of the lifts and the strength. We’re probably not sure if we’ll see him in training camp right away, but again, he’s a guy that trains at a very high level and he’s made a commitment to stay in L.A. after he got married, get the rehab back on course. We’re hopeful he can get back to the level that he started last season and the World Cup at.”

Gaborik has been an elite scorer at times during his career, but injuries have been a recurring issue for him. Over the past four seasons he’s played in 220 of a possible 328 contests and he’s been limited to 43 points in 110 games over the last two campaigns.

That’s particularly worrying given that the 35-year-old forward still has four seasons left on his seven-year contract worth roughly $34 million. At the same time a bounce back campaign out of Gaborik would go a long way towards addressing the offensive woes Los Angeles endured in 2016-17.

Under Pressure: Jaroslav Halak

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This post is a part of Islanders day at PHT…

No goaltender went through a season that could be more accurately called a roller coaster than Jaroslav Halak.

The veteran netminder entered the campaign immediately following a superb showing in the World Cup, but he struggled in the first half of the season to the point where he cleared waivers and was then sent to the minors on Dec. 31. Rather than fade away though, he got a second wind in the AHL. That led to him being called up on March 23 and shining in the finals weeks of the campaign.

So after all that, what’s next for Halak? Will he excel like he did towards the end of the season, struggle like he did at the beginning, or end up being wildly inconsistent yet again?

He’s down to the final season of his four-year, $18 million deal and Thomas Greiss has emerged as a strong alternative for the starting gig with the Islanders. Greiss is entering the first season of a three-year, $10 million deal, so he is more firmly established as part of the Islanders’ plan than Halak, but Greiss’ contract isn’t so expensive or long-term that the Islanders can’t re-sign Halak too if the situation calls for it. Especially if Halak were to step up and become a major part of guiding the Islanders back into the postseason after their disappointing 2016-17 showing.

What the presence of Greiss does though is give Halak little leeway in order to reestablish himself as that type of goaltender. If Halak even has a bad October, he might find himself set more clearly in the backup role beyond that.

Perhaps the Islanders are looking to Greiss as their future though and have little interest in Halak beyond this season. Maybe they would prefer a younger and/or cheaper pairing with Greiss once given the flexibility that Halak’s contract expiring affords them. Even in that scenario, this would still be a critical season for Halak as he’ll need a strong showing in order for him to find a gig elsewhere. After all, it wasn’t long ago that the entire league said they didn’t want his contract and while he’s bounced back since then, he still needs to prove this season that he’s worth a new deal.

The goaltender market is always a tough one, especially for those seeking a starting job, but for a great netminder that’s a nonissue. Halak has played at that level at various points of his career. He needs more than ever to be that goaltender again.