Almost every team has to contend with injuries at this point of the season. The Philadelphia Flyers, though, are in a class by themselves.
Struggling Philadelphia will attempt to overcome the loss of several regulars Tuesday when it faces the New York Rangers at Wachovia Center in a matchup of Atlantic Division rivals.
Injuries to key players have been a major factor in the Flyers' (8-17-4) disappointing record.
Star center Peter Forsberg has missed the past three games with a foot injury and could be out much longer. Goaltender Robert Esche hasn't played since Nov. 18 due to groin surgery.
Center Jeff Carter has been sidelined 17 games with a fractured left ankle, right wing Sami Kapanen has missed the past two with back spasms and wingers Mike Richards and Geoff Sanderson both suffered abdominal injuries in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Washington and are scheduled for surgery.
Philadelphia's defense has been hit just as hard.Shoulder surgery has forced Denis Gauthier out of the lineup for 14 games, Mike Rathje has missed three straight contests with sciatica and Joni Pitkanen has been out the last two games with an abdominal pull.
Pitkanen is listed as day-to-day and could play Tuesday.
With all the injuries, the Flyers have had little choice but to become one of the league's youngest teams. Seven of their 18 skaters on Saturday had less than 60 games of NHL experience and 14 had played for Philadelphia's AHL affiliate in the past 18 months.
"The circumstances sometimes dictate that," general manager Paul Holmgren said. "We believe we have a lot of good, young players. A lot of them are thrown into the fire right now just because of the circumstances with all our injuries."
Saturday's loss was the third straight for the Flyers, who have scored 71 goals to tie New Jersey for the fewest in the Eastern Conference. The Devils and Rangers (16-10-4) are tied for first in the Atlantic.
Since allowing seven goals in a loss to the New York Islanders on Dec. 3, the Rangers have allowed only four during a three-game winning streak, matching a season high.
Kevin Weekes stopped 34 shots and red-hot Martin Straka set up both goals in New York's 2-1 victory over visiting Florida on Sunday.
Although Weekes played well, Henrik Lundqvist figures to be back in net Tuesday. Lundqvist has rebounded form a poor performance in the loss to the Islanders by allowing three total goals in wins over Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
Lundqvist, however, has struggled against the Flyers in two NHL seasons, going 2-2-1 with a 3.74 goals-against average.
Straka has seven goals and 11 assists during a career-best 10-game point streak.
"When you get a few goals and a few assists, your confidence gets a little bit higher," Straka said. "At the same time, Jaromir (Jagr) and Michael (Nylander) they make the game a lot easier for me."
These teams have split two meetings this season with the Rangers winning 5-4 in a shootout on Oct. 7 and the Flyers posting a 4-2 victory three days later at Madison Square Garden. New York has won four of its last five visits to Philadelphia.
|Mar 31 '07||NYR 6 at PHI 4||M. Straka|
|Mar 21 '07||PHI 0 at NYR 5||P. Prucha|
|Feb 17 '07||PHI 5 at NYR 3||S. Upshall|
|Jan 27 '07||NYR 2 at PHI 1||J. Krog|
|Jan 04 '07||PHI 2 at NYR 3||M. Straka|
|Dec 12 '06||NYR 3 at PHI 1||J. Immonen|
|Oct 10 '06||PHI 4 at NYR 2||G. Sanderson|
|Oct 07 '06||NYR 5 at PHI 4 - SO||M. Hossa|