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Rangers, Flyers set to drop the puck on 2012 Winter Classic

by Dave Lozo
RANGERS (23-9-4) at FLYERS (22-10-4)


Last 10: New York 7-3-0; Philadelphia 6-3-1.

Season Series: This is the third of six meetings between the teams. The Rangers won the first two games at Madison Square Garden, 2-0 on Nov. 26 and 4-2 on Dec. 23. Six Rangers have scored against the Flyers while defenseman Michael Del Zotto leads the team with 3 points, all assists. 

Big Story:
Rangers defenseman Jeff Woywitka comes to Philadelphia to face the team that drafted him in the first round in 2001. That story might get lost in the shuffle because it's also the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park, home of baseball's Philadelphia Phillies. This is the fifth Winter Classic and seventh outdoor game in NHL history. The weather reports are encouraging, as temperatures are expected to be in the low-40s for the 3 p.m. ET puck drop.
Team Scope:

Rangers: They enter Monday's contest playing some of their best hockey of the season. The Rangers had their five-game winning streak snapped in Washington Wednesday, but they rebounded with a 4-1 victory against the Panthers in Florida on Friday.

Brad Richards had a goal and an assist to snap out of his recent scoring slump that saw him register 4 points in 12 games.

"It was good to get back on the board tonight," Richards said. "You lose the other night, that's when it gets you even more. You want to help the team win. We've got a good team game and guys have been chipping in all through the lineup. It's been good, but I've got to get going a lot more than I was the last couple of weeks if we want to get to where we want to go."

Flyers: Much like the Rangers, the Flyers are also coming into the Winter Classic on a high note. Jaromir Jagr had a goal in his return to Pittsburgh, a Flyers' 4-2 victory Thursday.

The big news is backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 18 saves in the win, will get the start over Ilya Bryzgalov against the Rangers. Bryzgalov has scuffled this season, with a 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage.

Coach Peter Laviolette wouldn't tip his hand on his starting goaltender, but Bryzgalov did following practice Sunday.

"I have great news and even better news," said Bryzgalov. "OK, great news is I'm not playing (Monday), and better news is we have a chance to win the game (Monday)."

Who's Hot: The Rangers' Marian Gaborik has no points in his last two games, but he has 7 goals and an assist in his last seven games. … Scott Hartnell has 2 goals and 5 assists in his last five games for the Flyers.

Injury Report: Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is still working his way back from a concussion, but he's yet to rule out playing in the Winter Classic. Forward Wojtek Wolski seems ready to return from sports hernia surgery, and the Rangers sending Sean Avery down to the minors could be a sign he'll be on the roster for the Winter Classic. Defensemen Michael Sauer (concussion) and Steve Eminger (shoulder) are out. … Philadelphia captain Chris Pronger is out for the season with a concussion.

Stat Pack: A fast start will be key for the Flyers, who are 14-0-1 when leading after the first period. That shouldn't deter the Rangers who are 4-5-2 when trailing after one period, the eighth-best mark in the League.

Puck Drop: "I think you look at Peter's patterns about who plays and not, and he usually, if a guy is hot, he plays him. I think this being as big a game as it is, and Bob had a big game in Pittsburgh and kept us in there and we were able to get some goals and he got the win, it makes sense." -- Braydon Coburn, on Peter Laviolette starting Sergei Bobrovsky over Ilya Bryzgalov in the Winter Classic
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