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Numbers suggest Classic matchup closer than ever

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Numbers suggest Classic matchup closer than ever
Numbers suggest Classic matchup closer than ever
PHILADELPHIA -- By numbers alone, the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic figures to be the closest matchup in the five-year history of the NHL's outdoor event.

Only two points separate the Rangers and Flyers, rivals that have combined for 45 wins and 98 points this season.

Last season's game also featured two top teams -- the Capitals and the Penguins combined for 102 points by the time they met at Heinz Field -- but the disparity between the teams was greater. There was a four-point difference in the standings and the Penguins were first in the East, the Capitals were fifth.

How do Rangers-Flyers stack up?

New York leads the Eastern Conference with 50 points, including 22 non-shootout victories, in 36 games. Two of their non-shootout wins have come against Philadelphia.

The Flyers, who have also played 36 games to date, are fourth in the East and second in the Atlantic Division with 48 points. They also have 22 non-shootout wins.

The Rangers enter the event fresh off Friday's 4-1 win against Florida. They've won six of their past seven games, with the lone hiccup coming in Washington this past Wednesday.

The Flyers will walk into Citizens Bank Park a few days after Thursday's emotional 4-2 win in Pittsburgh. However, they're just 2-3-1 since starting the month of December with seven straight victories.

Therefore, Monday's matchup between the two bitter rivals -- separated by 100 miles -- has more meaning than just Winter Classic bragging rights. It's possible that the two points on the line at Citizens Bank Park could determine the winner of the Atlantic Division, which delivers a guarantee of home-ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

How will it shake out?

Well, that's still to be determined, but here is a helpful guide -- complete with some tidbits for you history buffs -- to help you decide for yourself before the first puck is dropped.

 
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