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Rangers Look to Head Into Break on High Note

Plus injury updates to Staal and Fast

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

The Rangers are riding a three-game winning streak into tonight's meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers at The Garden, their final match before the four-day All Star break commences Thursday.

This week's break marks the third recess in just over a month's time, with the three-day Christmas stoppage preceding the team's bye week earlier this month.

With the Metropolitan Division as tight as it - seven points separate the fourth place Rangers from the division-leading Capitals - New York wants to head into the break on a high note that could only be accomplished with a victory against the Flyers at home.

"We all want to finish strong here and go into the break and feel good about our game and where we are," said Henrik Lundqvist, who is 7-0-1 in his last eight appearances against the Flyers, including both wins this season in Philadelphia. 

Thursday is the third of four meetings between the two teams, and the first at The Garden. The Rangers most recently topped the Flyers, 5-2, on Jan. 4 at the Wells Fargo Center.

That night in Philadelphia saw the Rangers answer the bell physically, with Chris Kreider and Brandon Pirri each picking up fighting majors. Lundqvist is expecting more of the same Wednesday, and why should he not after 50-plus seasons of Rangers-Flyers physicality? 

"Every time we played the Flyers it's an intense game. Good physical game," Lundqvist said. "We have to expect they're going to come into our building and play a hard game. It's a good test for us right before the break here."

Captain Ryan McDonagh said he expects the Rangers to be challenge defensively against the Flyers, who have one of the best forward units in the NHL lead by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and All-Star Wayne Simmonds. 

The Flyers have one of the most potent power plays in the League at 21.4 percent, effective enough for ninth in the NHL. McDonagh said the Rangers have to play physical, but also play smart, and doing so could lead to offense.

"Playing at home here against them, we're going to try and go into the break feeling good about our game and continue to be challenged defensively," McDonagh said. "They've got some skill and a good power play, so we've got to play disciplined. We've got to make sure we take care of the puck in our own end and that'll lead to some offensive looks."

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Forward Jesper Fast skated in a non-contact jersey at today's morning skate at The Garden. He's missed the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Defenseman Marc Staal took part in the full skate but will not dress for tonight's game against the Flyers.

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