Flyers Out to Ruin New York's Other Big Sunday Game

Flyers Out to Ruin New York's Other Big Sunday Game

OK so, few New York sports fans are terribly worried about what happens in today's 1PM visit from the Flyers to Madison Square Garden, where they'll take on the Rangers. The Super Bowl is finally here, pitting two pillars of the NFL's Axis of Evil against each other in Indianapolis. It's undeniably as big as it gets when one of your teams is still standing in February.

But that doesn't mean the appetizer is any less interesting in its own right, particularly for those of us watching the Super Bowl with only a passing interest (that being, New York teams losing at anything they attempt). On tap this afternoon is one of the top matchups in the NHL, the one that has received the most attention this season.

Can the Flyers shake off yesterday's disappointment and come in with the momentum gained in its latter half? To win today, they'll have to find a way to crack the man currently wearing the crown of the league's best netminder—Henrik Lundqvist.

Hank's behind only Brian Elliott in GAA with a gorgeous 1.82 mark and leads the league in save percentage at .939. He's currently riding back-to-back shutouts, broken up by his appearance in the All-Star Game. Lundqvist has been outstanding, but he's hardly done it alone. Loquacious backup Martin Biron also has a GAA south of 2.00, well below his career 2.59 mark and very indicative of the sound defense played in front of the Rangers crease regardless of who is in it.

The Rags are currently behind only Detroit for points in the league, and they've played four fewer games than the Red Wings (as well as two fewer than the Flyers, who are three points beneath them in the standings). We've seen enough of them to know they are bona fide Cup contenders this season, and along with a few others in the East, stand between the Flyers and the ultimate goal.

However, the Rangers did prove human during a January stretch that saw them lose four of eight as their offense went cold. They've played only once in February, winning a game that was scoreless after both regulation and overtime, decided in the shootout (how awful does that sound?).

SEEN THE LIGHTS… GO OUT ON BROADWAY
Part of the issue for the Rangers is an anemic power play lately. Katie Strang of ESPN points out that the game-winning goal on a man advantage in overtime (meaning it was scored 4 on 3) against the Bruins on January 21st was their first in eight games, and they haven't scored another since.

The Rangers be rested today, having only practiced since Wednesday (including a 40-minute power play session), a stark contrast to the Flyers' schedule that included games on Thursday and Saturday.

But if anything, the visitors should be champing at the bit to get back on the ice and see if they can erase the embarrassment of yesterday's loss and build on its final 30 minutes, during which they actually beat the Devils by a 4-0 count. Hopefully they'll have a bit better luck with the refs and their own discipline, because the Rangers certainly don't need any help.

Ilya Bryzgalov was in net for the second half of yesterday's see-saw match, and he'll draw the start today. Can he continue his trend of positive play and help the Flyers build some crease confidence during the stretch run?

Predictions?

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Howie Kendrick (oblique) finally ready to begin rehab assignment tonight

Phillies corner outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick is finally nearing a return. He'll begin a rehab assignment tonight with Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Kendrick has been out since April 15 with an oblique strain. He did defensive work during the Phillies' road trip and has been taking outdoor batting practice at home this week.

Kendrick was off to a hot start when the oblique injury sent him to the DL. In 10 games, he went 13 for 39 (.333) with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He batted second all 10 games.

The Phillies are in a bad offensive funk and could use Kendrick's bat over Michael Saunders' right now. The Phils' 1-2 hitters were among the most productive in the majors in April, hitting close to .350 for the month. They're down to .282 on the season as Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera have slumped in May.

With Clay Buchholz likely out for the season and Saunders providing little offense so far, the Phillies' trio of offseason veteran additions has not panned out through two months.

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

Supplement-free Lane Johnson heaviest he's ever been, feels he has much to prove

It's only natural to have some reservations about Lane Johnson after he was suspended for 10 games last season for his second violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. One more positive test and the Eagles will lose their starting right tackle for two full years.

Fortunately, Johnson seems determined to avoid any future run-ins with the league. The 27-year-old changed his entire approach this offseason, cutting out negative influences or any other voices at all while preparing for the 2017 season.

"I just trained by myself back in Oklahoma," Johnson said after the Eagles' first full-team practice of OTAs on Tuesday. "Trained by myself and everything went good. I came back, my body weight is about 325, so I'm heavier than I've ever been. I feel in good shape, and I have a lot to prove, so it's a big year for me.

"I did everything by myself. There wasn't going to be any mishaps."

Two suspensions totaling 14 games later, Johnson has gained a healthy fear of being unknowingly steered toward an illegal supplement.

Johnson tested positive for PEDs before the season last year after taking a banned substance known as peptides and was eventually slapped with the full 10-game penalty after a lengthy appeal process. The fifth-year veteran always maintained peptides were not listed on the label of the offending supplement.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the players' association in November after the suspension was upheld. Its status is ongoing.

Johnson also served a four-game suspension in 2014.

When he's not in trouble with the league office, Johnson is a vital cog in the Eagles' offense. They went 5-1 with him and 2-8 without him last season.

"I feel like whenever I'm playing, I try to be the best right tackle in the NFL," Johnson said. "My deal is to just stay on the field, play a complete season, and I think it will be a big year for me."

Johnson isn't concerned about losing a competitive edge, physically or mentally, after dropping supplements altogether.

"I've always been the athlete that I am," Johnson said. "That's what I'll continue to prove. I'm gonna go play and show people what I can do."

Signed in January 2016 to a five-year contract extension worth $56 million, Johnson has plenty to prove. He was working out in place of 35-year-old left tackle Jason Peters, who wasn't at the start of OTAs, on Tuesday and is expected to one day replace the nine-time Pro Bowl selection permanently.

Despite his checkered past, it sounds like Johnson knows exactly what's on the line, which is why he chose to go it alone this offseason. The only person you can trust is yourself.

Then again, Johnson still has his vices, which might raise some eyebrows with the news he's up to 325 pounds — eight more than his listed weight.

"My big deal is cutting out the ice cream, the Ben & Jerry's late at night — the stuff you want to indulge in," Johnson said. "If you get me on an ice cream binge, it's not good."

The Eagles can probably deal with a little extra ice cream, just as long as Johnson remains committed to keeping dodgy supplements out of his body.