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Flyers-Rangers Preview @NHLdotcom
Flyers-Rangers Preview

GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (30-13-8) at New York Rangers (29-15-7).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

The New York Rangers want more than their first playoff appearance in seven seasons. They want a division title as well.

To get a step closer to that goal, the Rangers will need to beat the Atlantic Division leaders when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers Monday at Madison Square Garden.

New York has lost four in a row and six of seven at home to the Flyers.

The Rangers, who have already exceeded their 27-win total from 2003-04, are looking for their eighth win in 11 games after three straight overtime losses from Dec. 31-Jan. 5.

Coach Tom Renney said winning is expected.

"I felt we had a reasonable chance of making the playoffs," he said. "Earlier in the year when this (success) was happening to us, it was pretty neat. We have an expectation now."

A large part of that success has been from the play of rookie goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who needed to make just 13 saves Saturday in a 7-1 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We know we can beat every team in this league. When we play our best, there's no doubt about that," he said.

Lundqvist is 14-3-2 at home with a 1.56 goals-against average, and is 7-0-3 overall against Atlantic Division foes.

League points leader Jaromir Jagr overcame a severe cold to score twice and rookie Petr Prucha added his 25th of the season, tying him with highly touted Sidney Crosby for third in the league among rookie goal-scorers.

Jagr knows this game will be big.

"First off, it's going to be a different team than Pittsburgh was," he said . "It's going to be a big test for us. As long as we play the same way as we did today, we'll have a chance."

The Flyers, meanwhile, have lost six of their last eight, including one in overtime and one in a shootout. They also have allowed hat tricks in each of their last two games.

Montreal's Jan Bulis scored four goals on the Flyers' Robert Esche in the Canadiens' 5-3 win Thursday and Tampa Bay's Fredrik Modin scored three off backup Antero Niittymaki in a 6-0 Lightning victory Saturday.

"That was an absolute embarrassment," Flyers forward Mike Knuble said after the loss to Tampa Bay. "We're at the low point of our season. As far as reasons why, that's what we're all searching for. There's not a guy who doesn't look in the mirror and wonder what they're doing."

The short-handed Flyers played without star center Peter Forsberg (groin), captain Keith Primeau (concussion), defenseman Eric Desjardins (shoulder) and forward Branko Radivojevic (ankle). Defenseman Kim Johnsson also left the game because of dizziness.

Still, coach Ken Hitchcock wouldn't blame the team's recent woes on the slew of injuries.

"We're in a tough state right now," Hitchcock said. "We have some real adversity. Every mistake is in our net. We can't score on the chances we get. We can't kill penalties."

STANDINGS: Flyers - 68 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division. Rangers - 65 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Flyers - Simon Gagne, 34 goals; Forsberg, 47 assists and 62 points; Knuble, 62 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 32 goals, 43 assists and 75 points; Darius Kasparaitis, 67 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS : Flyers - Power play: 18.4 percent (56 for 304), 11th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.7 percent (235 for 295), 26th. Rangers - Power play: 15.8 percent (45 for 285), 23rd. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (261 for 309), 8th.

GOALTENDERS: Flyers - Esche (12-5-2, 0 SO, 3.13 GAA); Niittymaki (18-8-6, 2, 2.92). Rangers - Lundqvist (21-7-5, 2, 2.10); Kevin Weekes (8-8-2, 0, 3.11).


LAST MEETING: Jan. 5; Flyers 4-3. At New York, Gagne scored the game-winner seven seconds into overtime, handing the Rangers their third straight overtime loss.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Flyers - 16-5-3 on the road; Rangers - 16-6-4 at home.

Associated Press
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