If the Philadelphia Flyers are going to pull themselves out of the NHL's basement, they'll have to do it without Peter Forsberg.
As if avoiding finishing with the league's worst record didn't appear to be tough enough, the Flyers go into a matchup Saturday with the New York Rangers knowing they will no longer have one of the league's top players to help them do it.
Philadelphia (15-34-8) is nine points worse than any other team in the league and traded Forsberg, the former NHL MVP and two-time Stanley Cup winner, on Thursday in a deal designed to help the team build for the future.
The Flyers acquired 23-year-old right wing Scottie Upshall, 19-year-old defenseman Ryan Parent and two draft picks from the Nashville Predators in exchange for the 33-year-old Forsberg, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
"When it became apparent that we couldn't sign Peter (to an extension), we took the opportunity to acquire some outstanding young talent which will help the team as we build for the future," general manager Paul Holmgren said.
The Flyers, though, have yet to win a game this season without their Forsberg on the ice. Philadelphia was 0-14-3 without its captain in the lineup, including a 4-2 loss to Toronto after Thursday's trade.
Forsberg, who had 11 goals and a team-high 29 assists in 40 games, was pulled from the ice during pregame warm-ups on Thursday to be notified of the trade. The Flyers responded by giving up three first-period goals.
"It was surreal," Mike Knuble said. "Five minutes before you go out on the ice, you can't play your game."
Knuble and Simon Gagne each scored a power-play goal for Philadelphia, but the Flyers couldn't overcome the early deficit.
"You could see that Peter's skates and equipment was not there," Gagne said. "It was not easy to go out and play that game right away."
The trade came on the heels of some of the Flyers' best play of the season. Since suffering its second nine-game losing streak of the season, Philadelphia is 4-2-3 in its last nine contests.
The Flyers will match up against a New York team that has won four of these teams' five meetings this season, including three in a row.
The Rangers (28-24-5) have won three straight overall and have converted six of their 11 power-play opportunities in that stretch, including a 3-for-3 mark in Thursday's 4-1 win at Carolina.
Karel Rachunek and Michael Nylander each had a power-play goal and an assist for the Rangers, who are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference but only three points behind the eighth and final playoff spot.
"It's only three games," New York captain Jaromir Jagr said of the team's win streak. "We need to win 20 more games. We've got 17 to go to make the playoffs."
The Rangers play eight of their next nine games at home, but have dropped five of their last seven games at Madison Square Garden. Only Philadelphia has fewer home wins than New York, which is 11-12-3 on home ice.