With or without Carter, Flyers need forwards to step up

The already-intense rivalry between the Flyers and New York Rangers is about to reach the boiling point.

New York, ninth in the Eastern Conference, is two points behind the eighth-place Flyers. The teams play each other in their final two regular-season games _ Friday in Madison Square Garden, and Sunday afternoon in Philly.

Let the chanting begin.

The Flyers and Rangers have split their four games this season, with New York notching a 3-1 win in the last meeting at MSG last month. (The night before that game, the Flyers’ train broke down en route to New York. It took them 6½ hours to get there from Philadelphia.)

The Rangers have a big edge in the nets, but the Flyers have a better offense, particularly if Jeff Carter is able to play. Carter, recovering from a broken left foot, will be a game-time decision.

The Flyers have gone 3-4-1 in games Carter has missed.

Flyers forwards have struggled to pick up the scoring slack in Carter’s absence.

That has to change if the Flyers, winners of two straight and still hoping to finish sixth in the East, want to maintain their momentum and carry it into the playoffs.

In the eight games that Carter has been sidelined, Arron Asham has led the forwards with three goals, followed by Simon Gagne, Dan Carcillo and Claude Giroux with two goals apiece.

Five forwards have scored one goal: Mike Richards (empty-netter), James van Riemsdyk, Ville Leino, Darroll Powe and Danny Briere.

Three players _ Scott Hartnell, Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere _ have failed to score.

The Flyers have averaged just 2.4 goals per game _ about a half goal less than their norm _ without Carter.

Breakaways. With a win Friday, Flyers would move from eighth to sixth in East.....Sixth-place Boston has two games left (Carolina and Washington), while seventh-place Montreal has one game remaining (Toronto)....The Flyers could suffer two overtime or shoot-out losses and they would still finish ahead of the Rangers, based on the tie-breaker (most wins).....The Flyers have outscored the Rangers, 6-1, in the first periods of their meetings……Blair Betts scored a shorthanded goal to help the Rangers defeat the Flyers in last year’s season finale, a loss that cost Philly the fourth seed. Now Betts is trying to help knock his ex-teammates out of the playoffs…..The Flyers’ power play is 4 for 14 (28.6 percent) against the Rangers. NY’s power play is just 1 for 14 (7.1 percent) against the Flyers…..Richards (Richards!) was named one of five NHL finalists for the Mark Messier leadership award....Flyers can still finish sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth.