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Rangers start do-or-die home-and-home with Flyers

by Dave Lozo
FLYERS (40-34-6) at RANGERS (37-33-10)

Last 10 -- Philadelphia 3-6-1; New York 6-3-1

Season series --
The two teams have split the first four meetings this season, and Friday's game is the start of a season-ending home-and-home series.

Big story -- This game could decide the final playoff spot in the East. It could also set up a winner-take-all showdown Sunday in the finale in Philadelphia. Just about everything is riding on this game for both teams.

Team Scope:

Flyers --
Yes, they've got just three wins in their last 10 games, but they've won two in a row. Brian Boucher has been shaky since taking over as goaltender, but he's allowed just four goals in his last three starts, the last two victories.

A regulation win at Madison Square Garden gets the Flyers into the playoffs. That's the only thing they are focusing on right now.

"It's clear as day now," Daniel Briere told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We all know what's on the table. Our confidence is high, we've played the right way three games in a row now. If we play the way we have, we will be fine. It will be a lot more satisfying to do it ourselves."

Rangers --
They control their destiny. Two regulation wins, and they will return to the playoffs for the fifth straight season. But a loss to the Flyers could be devastating and perhaps season-ending.

No matter what, it's in the Rangers' hands.

"You don't have to look at the board anymore," coach John Tortorella said, "because it's right in front of us."

The team has played extremely well since what looked to be a season-crushing loss in Boston two weeks ago. They've ripped off a 6-1-1 streak that has them right where they need to be. But whether the Rangers have enough left in the tank to push all the way through remains to be season.

Who's hot -- There's been no one hotter on the Flyers of late than Boucher, who has stopped 79 of 83 shots (.952) in his last three games. … Marian Gaborik has been the Rangers' best player when it's mattered most, posting 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games.

Injury report --
Flyers leading scorer Jeff Carter (foot) is a game-time decision, but he could be declared ready by Thursday's morning skate. Backup goaltender Johan Backlund (groin) is getting closer to returning. … For the Rangers, Sean Avery (knee) is done for the regular season. Brian Boyle (ankle) is healthy, but unlikely to get back into the lineup.

Stat pack --
The Flyers' PK has been clicking of late, having killed of 19 straight penalties. … Getting a lead after one period could be huge for the Rangers. The Flyers have won just 21.9 percent of games when losing after one period, the third-worst mark in the League.

Puck drop --
"It's fun to be here. A couple of weeks ago I thought we were out, but we never gave up and we're back in the race. The whole season comes down to the last two games." -- Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist

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