Rangers (32-33-8) at Flyers (37-25-12)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center
BROADCAST & STREAMING: NBCSP, NBCSports.com/live, 93.3 FM
KEY PLAYERS: The Flyers are just as close to first place (five points) in the Metropolitan Division as they are from Florida, the surging team that is trying to grab the final wild-card spot and has three games in hand on Philadelphia.
And, so, yes, this is a critical game for the Orange and Black.
The Flyers have points in their last three games (2-0-1) but they are coming off Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Detroit, which took a 10-game losing streak into that contest. In that game, the Flyers were outplayed in the first 40 minutes before finally showing urgency and dominating the game’s latter stages.
Sixty minutes of urgency is needed Thursday.
Like the Red Wings, the Rangers are also virtually out of the playoff race and are playing the role of spoilers. The Blueshirts have points in four of their last five games (2-1-2) and are 5-3-3 in their last 11 games.
The Flyers will have to contain the Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Jesper Fast line, which has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) over the Rangers’ last three games. Fast has a six-game point streak.
Rookie goalie Alexandar Georgiev will get the call for the Rangers. He is 3-2-1 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
Alex Lyon (3-2-1, 2.42, .914), who is also a rookie, is expected to get the start for the Flyers. Replacing the injured Michal Neuvirth, he stopped 25 of 26 shots in relief on Feb. 18 as the Flyers whipped the host Rangers, 7-4, for his first NHL win.
MVP candidate Claude Giroux (26 goals, 61 assists) — who is fifth in the NHL in points, tied for second in assists, and fourth in faceoff percentage (58.5 percent) — leads the Flyers and is coming off a three-assist performance in Detroit.
Sean Couturier (30 goals, 70 points, plus-27) is having a career season. Ditto Travis Konency, who has 14 of his 20 goals in the last 28 games.
The Giroux-Couturier-Konecny line has been lethal for the Flyers, who have had more scoring balance and a stingier defense than the Rangers.
Shayne Gostisbehere (13 goals) is fifth among NHL defensemen with 55 points.
New York has better special teams — it is seventh on the power play and seventh on the penalty kill. The Flyers are 17th on the power play, though they went 2 for 4 on Tuesday — and 27th on the PK. Over their last four games, the Flyers are 8 for 8 on the PK.
THINGS TO KNOW: The Rangers are 7-2 in their last nine games against the Flyers…..Jake Voracek is tied with Giroux for second in the NHL with 61 assists….Wayne Simmonds leads the Flyers with 11 power-play goals….Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey and Gostisbehere helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship…..Lyon and the Rangers’ Rob O’Gara were teammates at Yale for three seasons….Kreider has seven goals in 16 career games against the Flyers….In shootouts, the Flyers are 2-7, and the Rangers are 3-5…..After going 10-1-2 in February, the Flyers are just 3-6-2 in March.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Flyers and Rangers have split a pair of games this season, both at Madison Square Garden. New York scored a 5-1 win on Jan. 16, and the Flyers defeated the Rangers, 7-4, on Feb. 18. The Flyers lead the all-time series, 123-122-37-9.
UPCOMING FLYERS GAMES:
Sunday: 12:30 p.m. at Pittsburgh
Tuesday: 8:30 p.m. at Dallas
Wednesday: 10 p.m. at Colorado