NHL on NBCSN: Flyers, Rangers battle in ‘huge’ game

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NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. ET.

After back-to-back losses, the Philadelphia Flyers have slipped to 13th place in the Eastern Conference and are five points behind their opponents, the eighth place Rangers.

At this point, it’s hard to look at the Flyers’ playoff chances as anything other than slim, but if they are to start a comeback, it needs to happen now.

“This week coming up is huge for us,” Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen said in a CSN Philly report. “And it starts tomorrow with the Rangers in the eighth spot. That is a huge game.”

The Rangers need every point they can get too. Their hold on the eighth seed is a thin one and after two straight defeats, they need to turn things around quickly or it will be lost. As it is, the ninth place Carolina Hurricanes are just one point behind despite the fact that the Rangers have a game on them.

For the Rangers, offense has been a big problem all season long. They are the second worst team in the NHL with an average of 2.26 goals scored per game.

That’s a massive step backwards from how they did offensively in 2011-12 when they won the Eastern Conference and the decline came in spite of the fact that they went out and got Rick Nash in the off-season.

The Rangers are close to getting back forward Mats Zuccarello to help in that regard, but he won’t be available for this contest.

Despite the Rangers’ struggles, Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will still be a key factor in this game. He turned aside 33 of 35 shots in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia on Sunday.

“Bryz was unbelievable. … If he plays like that, we’re going to be hard to beat,” Timonen said.

Conversely, if he struggles against the Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers will likely find themselves seven points out of eighth place with just 16 contests to go.

Probable goaltenders: PHI – Bryzgalov (13-13-2, 2.75 GAA, .900 SV%) | NYR – Henrik Lundqvist (13-12-2, 2.21 GAA, .921 SV%)

Top scorers: PHI – Jakub Voracek (13-19-32, 31 GP) | NYR – Nash (10-15-25, 27 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Philadelphia – Forwards: Daniel Briere (concussion), Jody Shelley (hip) Defensemen: Nicklas Grossmann (upper body), Chris Pronger (concussion), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion)
New York – Forwards: J.T. Miller (wrist) Defensemen: Marc Staal (eye), Michael Sauer (concussion)