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The Rangers will be seeking their fifth straight win tonight on the road and the team that stands in the way of that feat is that team we all love to hate; the Orange and Black. The Rangers have been on an absolute tear lately and have been finding all kinds of ways to win games. Against the Coyotes it was Chris Kreider's power play finishing and a monster game from Lee Stempniak that got the Rangers two points at the Garden to keep up their incredible streak of getting points in games. Tonight the Rangers will be looking to sweep theseason series against the Flyers who are 4-3-3 in their last ten games and are hoping to find a way to ruin the weekend for Rangers fans everywhere. If the Flyers lose tonight, they will have lost three games in a row.
But, before we take a look at my notes on tonight's game, let's look at two huge news items regarding the Rangers and the Flyers.
Zuccarello on the Move?
Zuccarello has no reaction to rumors that teams are being told he us available: "Ive got a game today...try not to think about things.'— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) February 28, 2015
Sens getting calls on Gryba, Wiercioch and Phillips. NYR listening to interest in Zuccarello.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 28, 2015
WHAT? Obviously these rumors will and should infuriate any Rangers fan with a pulse. Anyone who has watched the club play this season knows just how valuable and important Zuke is to the lineup. What is even more maddening is that the Rangers seem to be continuing to knock on the door about what it would take to land Tyler Bozak from the Leafs. None of this is good news for anyone who has ever even heard of metrics or cares about things like winning hockey games.
The gap between Zuke, his agent, and the Rangers' management is apparently considerable enough that Glen Sather is reportedly prepared to move him on or before deadline day to see what he can land instead of letting the Norwegian star leave the club empty-handed in the 2015 offseason. In all honesty, I'm rooting harder against this happening than I was for the similar situation Ryan Callahan was in last season. Replacing what Zuccarello does in this lineup will be a monumental task. I don't think there is any scenario that works out where the Rangers will move Zuccarello AND remain just as competitive as they are or actually improve. Hopefully someone takes another step towards the middle ground and a deal can get done before the Rangers are forced to watch Zuccarello turn into a lesser player with a more cap-friendly contract or, perhaps, some picks or prospects. Is this the kind of move that an elite team makes? Nope. Not at all. Absolutely infuriating. Cross your fingers for a good deal to get down on paper and signed by all parties involved because losing Zuccarello would be a big loss.
Timmonen a Blackhawk
So, we can all like Kimmo Timmonen again! The 39 year old Finnish defenseman was traded to theBlackhawks for Detroit's second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft. Timmonen hasn't played a game this season for the Flyers but could make a big impact on the blue line for the Blackhawks who have recently suffered a devastating loss with the major injury to superstar Patrick Kane. The Flyers are currently in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and trail the 8th place Boston Bruins by 6 points. I am a bit surprised that the Flyers moved Timmonen, but getting what they got for him (turning 40 next month and a UFA) given all the issues surrounding the team is probably a very wise move in the long run. The Flyers need to find a way to get out from under some of the contracts on their team in a big, bad way. It will be interesting to see if they make any more moves on or before deadline day.
The Rangers and Flyers are two teams that have had dramatically different seasons thus far, although there are a few similarities in their storylines. Both the Flyers and Rangers have had a big forward (or two, in Philly's case) have monster seasons that the club has hitched their hopes to for long stretches of the season, both clubs have dealt with recent devastating injuries to goaltenders, and both clubs were expected to be at the very least "good" this season after being in the playoffs last year. Despite those similarities, the Rangers are a very good hockey team and the Flyers are, well, not.
- Jakub Voracek- 19 G, 45 A
- Claude GIroux- 18 G, 41 A
- Wayne Simmonds- 24 G, 18 A
Voracek is currently knotted up in a four-man tie for the leading point scorer in the league. The Czech winger, an All-Star this season, has been enjoying the best season of his career and has been noticeably and threatening in the Rangers' previous games against the Flyers this season. Shutting down the Giroux line and attacking the Flyers' porous defense (which still features Michael Del Zotto) should prove to be the basic recipe for success tonight. I am sure that there are plenty of distractions in the locker room right now considering how beloved Mats Zuccarello is by his teammates, but tonight is an important game for the Rangers to win. Closing out February with a five game winning streak and getting even at the top of the division with the Islanders again would be a fantastic end to this chapter of the season.
The Rangers have simply been getting two points in any way that they can lately and honestly, as sloppy as it can look sometimes, I will always take the two points. With that being said, it would be nice to see the Blueshirts put together a consistent, charismatic, and dominating effort against the Flyers tonight on the road. This does, in many ways, feels like a game where the Rangers can only really beat themselves if they fail to show up or if they allowed themselves to lose focus because it is very unlikely that Steve Mason and/or the Flyers' defense will steal a game away from the Rangers tonight. Does the streak live on and continue into next month? Are we now counting down the games where we will see Zuke in a Rangers jersey? There are a lot of distracting questions tonight but the bottom line is that there is a game against the Flyers to win. It's time for some hockey.
One last thought to make you start crying again if you've calmed down:
AV: "I would say that if somebody thinks Glen is bluffing they should know that he traded his captain last year couple minutes b4 deadline"— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) February 28, 2015
Eep. Let's go Rangers.