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Rangers host Flyers in Winter Classic warmup

by Dave Lozo

FLYERS (21-8-4) at RANGERS (20-8-4)


LAST 10: Philadelphia 8-1-1; New York 6-3-1

Season Series:
This is the second of six meetings. The Rangers won 2-0 on Nov. 26 at Madison Square Garden behind goals from Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin and 29 saves from Henrik Lundqvist.

Big Story:
This is the final meeting between the clubs before the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2. On top of that, first place in the Eastern Conference before the two-day holiday break is also on the line. If the Rangers win and the Bruins lose in regulation, the Rangers will take over the No. 1 spot in the East from the Flyers.

Team Scope:

Despite a recent rash of injuries to star players, the Flyers have continued to cruise of late, save for a 6-0 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. They've won eight of nine and are coming off a 4-1 victory in Dallas on Wednesday. Claude Giroux returned from a four-game absence from a concussion to score a goal and add three assists.

"He's clearly established himself as the top player in the League," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.

Philadelphia improved to 13-3-2 away from home, the best road record in the NHL. The most-recent victory came after the Stars jumped to a 1-0 lead. It didn't deter the red-hot Flyers.

"I think [after Dallas' early goal] we just started to relax, play our game, get on the forecheck and make sure we don't do any mistakes out there," Giroux said.

Rangers: They've won three straight and enter Friday's game the same way the Flyers entered MSG in their first meeting -- at the end of a stretch of three games in four nights.

The Rangers held off the Islanders 4-2 on Thursday night behind goals from Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Del Zotto and John Mitchell. Backup Martin Biron filled in for Henrik Lundqvist, who will start against the Flyers, to pick up the victory.

Dubinsky said it's nice that the game is getting attention because of the Winter Classic, but there's more on the line than just that against the Flyers.

"There's a lot of buildup with the show, with the Classic and all that stuff, but for us, there's two teams at the top of the conference right now and four points at stake," Dubinsky said. "That's the way we're going to approach and that's what's going to get us excited and make the game intense and live up to all the buildup that's going to come with it."

Who's Hot:
Giroux has three goals and nine assists in his last five games. … Gaborik has five goals in his past three games for the Rangers.

Injury Report:
Flyers forwards Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are doubtful with concussions. Defensemen Chris Pronger (concussion), Andreas Lilja (ankle) andErik Gustafsson (wrist) are out. … The Rangers will be without defensemen Steve Eminger (shoulder), Michael Sauer (concussion), Marc Staal (post-concussion symptoms), Jeff Woywitka (ankle, illness) and forwardWojtek Wolski (sports hernia surgery).

Stat Pack:
The Rangers have allowed three power-play goals the last eight times they have been shorthanded. The Flyers have three power-play goals in their last nine chances.

Puck Drop:
"I don't think anybody has Christmas on their mind. I haven't even finished my shopping yet, and I don't plan to until that game's over." -- Brandon Dubinsky, on facing the Flyers before the Christmas break this weekend

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