The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers bring different perspectives on their quest for berths in the Stanley Cup Playoffs into this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
The Rangers appear safely ensconced in the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and are two points behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers have struggled during the past five weeks and are in a tangle of teams scrambling for the second wild card in the conference.
The Rangers have dominated the series in the past few seasons (11-1-0 in the last 12 games at Madison Square Garden, 5-0-0 overall in the past 12 months, including 2-0-0 this season). With a lot on the line for each team, here are 5 reasons to tune in:
After one of the worst three-game stretches of his NHL career, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has rediscovered his game. Lundqvist has allowed four goals on 84 shots to help the Rangers win their past three games; that streak followed one in which he lost three in a row and allowed 16 goals on 76 shots. Lundqvist was at his best Monday in a 3-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings, making 36 saves in a game where his team was outshot 38-17. As he goes, so go the Rangers.
Desperation time for Flyers
Not a whole lot of good things have happened for the Flyers since their 10-game winning streak ended Dec. 17. They are 4-9-3 in their past 16 games, and a Stanley Cup Playoff berth that once looked like a sure thing is hanging by a thread. But they're coming off a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Islanders on Sunday in which they rallied from a two-goal deficit and capped their comeback with Claude Giroux's overtime goal. With nine teams separated by five points, the Flyers need victories badly.
Video: PHI@NYI: Gostisbehere finds Giroux for OT winner
'Grab' and go
The Rangers got a huge bargain last summer when they signed unrestricted free agent forward Michael Grabner. With more than a third of the season remaining, Grabner leads them with 21 goals. He's done it despite averaging 13:46 of ice time in 47 games and playing a total of 3:13 on the power play all season. Grabner leads the NHL with 20 even-strength goals and is tops on the Rangers at plus-23. His speed makes him an excellent penalty killer and a breakaway threat any time he's on the ice.
Simmonds an All-Star
While his teammates head for a few days of rest after this game, Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds will be flying to Los Angeles for the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game. The first-time All-Star leads the Flyers in goals (19) and is second in power-play goals (nine). Making the weekend a little more special for Simmonds is the fact that he was drafted by the Kings in the second round (No. 61) of the 2007 NHL Draft and played his first three seasons with them before being traded to the Flyers on June 23, 2011. He's scored at least 28 goals in his first four 82-game seasons with the Flyers and is on pace to match his NHL-best of 32 goals, set in 2015-16. His goal late in the second period sparked the Flyers' come-from-behind overtime win against the Islanders.
Video: PHI@NYI: Simmonds goes top shelf off fortunate bounce
So is McDonagh
Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh will be a teammate of Simmonds when they play for the Metropolitan Division at the All-Star Game on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). In the meantime, McDonagh will spend much of his night trying to slow Simmonds and his teammates. McDonagh leads the Rangers in average ice time per game (24:14), plays in all situations and is by far their best defenseman. The Rangers have a hard time winning on any night McDonagh isn't at his best.
Video: MIN@NYR: McDonagh scores from the blue line