PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 04: The New York Rangers defend the net against Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the second period at the Wells Fargo Center on January 4, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Rangers do battle in big Metropolitan Division clash

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

It wasn’t so long ago that people were worried about Henrik Lundqvist and his string of poor performances.

From Jan. 3-17, Lundqvist played in six games and he came away with just two wins. What was even more concerning, was that he allowed four goals or more in all but one of those games.

Now, after rattling off three straight wins, it looks like he’s finally back to his old self. He was solid in last Thursday’s win over Toronto, but he really started looking dominant in a shutout of the Red Wings on Sunday and a big win over the Kings on Monday.

“You know, I think especially in this town, you just have to take a step back sometimes,” Lundqvist said, per the New York Daily News. “I don’t think you’re that bad, but you’re also not that good. It goes both ways. You have a couple of tough games and right away you have a lot of people asking questions, and the same thing when things are going well. You just try to stay cool and confident and keep doing the same things you’ve always been doing, because you know it’s gonna turn around for you.”

At this point, Lundqvist is projected to get the start tonight, but that still hasn’t been confirmed by head coach Alain Vigneault. Even if the Rangers do opt to rest him, the fact that he’s playing at such a high level gives everyone on the roster that much more confidence.

Rangers forward Derek Stepan summed it up perfectly after Monday’s win over the Kings: “If we’re gonna be great, we need Hank.”

Even though they’ve won three in a row, New York has slipped in the standings. Heading into tonight’s game, they sit in the top Wild Card spot with 63 points. They trail the Penguins, who are third in the Metropolitan Division, by two points (Pittsburgh has a game in hand).

There’s still a lot of race track left in the 2016-17 season, but if the Flyers want to make a push for a playoff spot, they’re gonna have to wake up soon.

They find themselves one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final Wild Card spot in the East. The problem is that the Leafs have three games in hand.

Philly is coming off a 3-2 OT win over the Islanders on Sunday, but prior to that game things had not been going well (understatement). They had lost five of their previous six games, and had allowed four goals or more five times during that stretch.

One of the biggest issues with the Flyers is that they consistently fall behind early. They’ve given up the first goal in 10 of their last 11 games, which is a recipe for failure on most nights.

“Playing with the lead is huge. . . . For us, starting games behind the eight ball isn’t easy for anybody, including goaltenders,” Steve Mason said, per Philly.com. “From a team mindset, we definitely want to strike first and have a good start.”

Another reason the Flyers are slumping is because of the lack of production from captain Claude Giroux. Thankfully for them, he was able to snap his 13-game goalless drought on Sunday. Hopefully, the goal gets him going in the right direction.

WATCH LIVE: Capitals at Flyers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals checks Brandon Manning #23 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBCSN features the Washington Capitals visiting the Philadelphia Flyers.

Both teams have been stumbling a bit here and there. The Flyers only have three wins since Jan. 31, though one of them came in their last game on Sunday. The Capitals lost both games since returning from their bye week.

The cost of struggles are easier for Washington to stomach, naturally. They’d rather make their Metropolitan Division lead insurmountable, but even so, they’re at least three points ahead of everyone else and have played the same or fewer games as their divisional peers.

The Flyers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Right now they’re on the outside looking in.

So both teams want this one, but the desperation level is higher for Philly. We’ll see how that impacts the game on NBCSN tonight. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

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— Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

— It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

— The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

— On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

— San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

— Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

Enjoy the games!

Bolts rule out Callahan indefinitely following second hip surgery

Ryan Callahan
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Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan, who’s only played 18 games this year while recovering from offseason hip surgery, has undergone a follow-up procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely.

The Bolts made the announcement on Wednesday, just hours after a big 4-1 win over Edmonton. Callahan wasn’t in the lineup to face the Oilers — he hasn’t played since early January, when he skated just under 15 minutes in a loss to Philly.

The nature of this ailment has to be concerning.

Callahan, who turns 32 next month, is in the third of a six-year, $34.8 million deal with a $5.8M average annual cap hit. And this lingering hip problem comes on the heels of a disappointing ’15-16 campaign, in which Callahan scored just 10 goals and 28 points — the lowest marks since his rookie campaign.

As such, Tampa Bay is now bracing for an immediate future without a huge part of its leadership group. Captain Steve Stamkos has resumed skating, but there’s no set date for his return from major knee surgery.

Callahan, who’s been an alternate captain in each of the last three seasons, won’t be playing anytime soon either.

 

Kadri ‘not worried’ after Chiarot predicts revenge for big hit (Video)

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Toronto forward Nazem Kadri drew the ire of Jets d-man Ben Chiarot on Tuesday night for a big — albeit questionable — hit in the Leafs’ OT win.

Chiarot was visibly displeased following the game and alluded to getting even.

“It’s not the right time or place to chase him down, but there will be a time down the line,” he said, per Sportsnet. “Might not be this year, might not be next year.

“But there will be a time where the shoe will be on the other foot.”

Today, Kadri responded.

“I’m not worried at all,” Kadri said, per TSN. “I’ll be here for hopefully a few years. But like I said, if that was one of my teammates getting hit like that, I probably wouldn’t be too happy, so I expect that kind of reaction.”

Kadri’s hit, which went unpenalized, drew the ire of Chiarot’s head coach as well. Jets bench boss Paul Maurice was also visibly displeased following the game.

“He’s six inches in the air when he makes contact,” Maurice said, per Sportsnet. “In my mind, from the rear view, the first thing that moves on Benny is the helmet. Didn’t like it.”

Kadri’s been involved in a few high-profile collisions this season. He pasted Sabres captain Brian Gionta in a game earlier this month, and avoided suspension for a controversial hit on Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin back in November.