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Win streaks collide as Flyers host Rangers

by Adam Kimelman /
RANGERS (20-13-1) at FLYERS (21-7-5)


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

Season series --
This is the second of six games between the Atlantic Division rivals. On Nov. 4, Mike Richards, Blair Betts and Nikolay Zherdev scored in a 10:08 span in the first period to lift the Flyers to a 4-1 win in Philadelphia.

Big Story --
The Flyers have won four straight to take the top spot in the League, but the Rangers will bring their own three-game win streak into Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

Team Scope:

Rangers --
The Rangers blocked 17 shots in Thursday's win against the Coyotes, the third straight game they've had at least that many, including a remarkable 22 Wednesday against Pittsburgh. The Rangers' 559 blocked shots lead the League, three more than second-place Philadelphia.

It's a number coach John Tortorella is proud of, but all those blocked shots have come at a price -- Chris Drury missed 31 of the first 32 games this season with a broken finger, and now Ryan Callahan will miss 6-8 weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his left hand blocking a shot in the first period of the game against the Penguins.

"There's a risk/reward that comes with that, but I think it's a huge part of our game that we have to have in order to compete," Tortorella told the New York Post. "It's a huge part of our culture. We're not going to change."

Flyers -- Much like last spring's playoffs, when coach Peter Laviolette struck gold when he put a struggling Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino together on a line, he might have worked some magic again with the trio of Jeff Carter, James van Riemsdyk and Zherdev.

Claude Giroux had been centering a line with Carter and van Riemsdyk and Zherdev had been playing on the fourth line. But when Laviolette put Giroux on the wing with Richards, Carter moved back to his natural center spot, and Zherdev was promoted to join them.

Both van Riemsdyk and Zherdev have spent time as healthy scratches, but in two games alongside Carter, they have combined for 5 goals, including four of the five in the Flyers' 5-3 win against Montreal on Wednesday.

"They were terrific from start to finish," Laviolette said after Wednesday's win. "I thought that that line had plenty of jump. Carter was flying, (Zherdev) was flying, JVR looked like he had great legs under him. They generated a lot of speed. I thought they dominated a lot of their shifts."

Who's Hot --
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi has a three-game scoring streak, during which he has 1 goal and 4 assists. … Giroux has goals in two straight games, and his 16 in 33 games this season match the 16 he scored in 82 games last season.

Injury Report --
Besides Callahan, Derek Boogaard is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. … Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger will undergo foot surgery after being injured in the second period of Wednesday's game and miss 4-6 weeks. Defenseman Matt Walker was placed on the long-term injured list and will need surgery on his left hip. He was working his way back from surgery on his right hip when he was injured.

Stat Pack -- The Rangers lead the League in blocked shots and hits (988). Since the 1997-98 season, no team has led the League in both categories. The closest was Colorado, which led in hits and finished second in blocks -- to the Rangers, coincidentally.

Puck Drop --
With Jody Shelley's two-game suspension ending, Laviolette has to make a tough decision on his lineup. He's never been afraid to bench talented players before -- Zherdev, van Riemsdyk and Andreas Nodl have spent multiple games in the press box this season. But all three are playing key roles, which means it could come down to playing either Shelley or Daniel Carcillo.

While the two play similar hard-hitting, physical styles, the Flyers are 14-2-2 with Carcillo in the lineup, and just 7-5-3 without him.

"I can't speak for the record, but any time you take out pieces of your lineup, you lose something," Laviolette told the Philadelphia Daily News. "When we've been flat, we talk about not having that physical presence on the ice or that danger on the bench of somebody going out and changing the direction of the game with a big hit or a fight -- and Danny gives you that element."

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