Whatever good feelings the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers enjoyed during the Thanksgiving holiday figure to be long gone when they step onto the ice at Wells Fargo Center on Friday for the Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown (1 p.m. ET; NBC, NHL.TV).
The Metropolitan Division rivals are playing for the first time this season. The Rangers are coming off their worst performance of the season, a 6-1 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. The Flyers are back home after a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, a game in which they led 2-1 with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period.
Not surprisingly for teams that are less than 100 miles apart, the Rangers and Flyers have never been fond of one another since Philadelphia joined the NHL in 1967. Don't expect that to change any time soon.
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The Flyers' road to their first Stanley Cup in 1974 included a seven-game victory against the Rangers in the Semifinals. New York's most recent trip to the Final in 2014 began with a seven-game victory against Philadelphia in the first round. Emotions have always run high between these teams in a series that's as even as it could possibly be: Including playoffs, the Rangers and Flyers have faced off 339 times; each team has won 151, with 37 ties.
The Rangers will take the ice at Wells Fargo Center after having a day and a half to stew over the loss to the Penguins, a game in which they were completely dominated for the final two periods, New York led 1-0 after the first period but surrendered five goals in the second, including one that was scored after Pittsburgh controlled the puck in the offensive zone for 1:36. The Rangers went without a shot on goal for a span of 23:58 bridging the second and third periods, and were outshot 38-17 for the game.
Every team has a clunker or two during the season. But it's hard to expect a team that has won 14 of its first 21 games not to respond to a poor showing with a big effort in its next game.
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Getting back on track
A game against the Flyers might be just what Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist needs to wash away the taste of the loss to the Penguins. He allowed four goals on seven shots in the second period before being removed. But Lundqvist has had great success against the Flyers throughout his career. He is 31-13-4 against Philadelphia in his career; the 31 victories are more than he's had against any other team except the New Jersey Devils.
Going for it
Despite the blowout loss to the Penguins, the Rangers still lead the NHL in scoring by a sizeable margin. New York has 82 goals in 21 games, 17 more than any other team. The Rangers have already scored five or more goals 10 times this season. But the Flyers also know how to fill the net; they are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second with 65 goals. Don't expect either team to sit back; offense, not defense, should be the order of the day.
The Flyers enter the game with one of the NHL's best power plays; they are second in the NHL in power-play goals (19) and percentage (25.7). But they'll be facing one of the League's best penalty-killing units. The Rangers have allowed eight power-play goals on 58 attempts, and their penalty-killers are tied for first with three shorthanded goals. Though this is a strength-against-strength matchup, it's more important for the Flyers because they rely on the power play for more of their offense than the Rangers.
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