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Rangers, Flyers meet in possible playoff preview

by Tal Pinchevsky

FLYERS (38-26-7) at RANGERS (40-29-4)


Last 10: Philadelphia 7-2-1; New York 7-3-0

Season series: The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will play what almost amounts to a postseason game when they meet for the final time this season. The home team has won the previous three, with the Flyers winning 2-1 on Oct. 24 and 4-2 on March 1 at Wells Fargo Center and the Rangers winning 4-1 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 12.

Big story: The atmosphere should be electric with the Rangers leading the Flyers by a point for second place in the Metropolitan Division and Philadelphia holding two games in hand. Under the new playoff format, it is looking increasingly likely that this will be a preview of a first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Team Scope:

Flyers: Philadelphia skated Tuesday after losing 3-2 to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday. The regulation loss, coupled with New York's 4-3 overtime win against the Phoenix Coyotes, allowed the Rangers to jump into second place in the division. The loss ended Philadelphia's five-game winning streak, although the Flyers continue to play well against many of the NHL's toughest teams.

Their recent streak included two victories against the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins and a 4-1 win Saturday against the St. Louis Blues, who at that time owned the NHL's best record.

A victory will put the Flyers back in second place in the division.

"It's extremely exciting being part of a playoff push. It's been a while for myself. With the Flyers missing the playoffs last year I think everybody was fed up with having a long summer," said goaltender Steve Mason, who is expected to start Wednesday and has won his past four games. "You have to keep pushing forward. [Wednesday is] going to be a great test for us."

Rangers: New York earned a much-needed day off Tuesday after coming back from 2-0 and 3-2 to defeat Phoenix in OT Monday. The day off is especially important for top-six forwards Derek Stepan and Martin St. Louis. They missed practice Monday with the flu but played in the win against the Coyotes.

As the game went on, however, it became apparent neither was healthy enough to compete at 100 percent. After deciding to limit their minutes against Phoenix, coach Alain Vigneault blamed himself for allowing them to play when they probably weren't ready.

"I made a mistake tonight. I shouldn't have played Step and Marty," Vigneault said Monday. "They didn't look good but they both said they wanted to play. At the end of the day, I've got to be better and I've got to take that out of their hands."

Forward Derek Dorsett missed two days with the flu before returning to the lineup Monday. Based on that precedent, St. Louis and Stepan should be ready for the Flyers.

Who's hot: Flyers forward Scott Hartnell has three goals and six points during a four-game point streak. Wing Wayne Simmonds has five goals in his past five games. Captain Claude Giroux has been on fire since December, collecting 20 goals and 56 points in his past 44 games. … Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh has two goals and five points in a four-game point streak. Center Derick Brassard has four goals in his past four games.

Injury report: Philadelphia is without forward Steve Downie (upper body). … New York said Tuesday forward Chris Kreider won't play, though they did not disclose any details. TSN reported Kreider is out with a hand injury and could miss up to a month. Defenseman John Moore (concussion) is out; Stepan and St. Louis are questionable.

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