All That Stands Between the Flyers and the Eighth Seed Is the New York Rangers (and Four Other Teams)

All That Stands Between the Flyers and the Eighth Seed Is the New York Rangers (and Four Other Teams)

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Sure, the New York Rangers may have beaten the Flyers 10 out
of the last 11 times they met. All that matters right now though is that the
Flyers must win tonight.

That record isn’t much of a confidence boost obviously, but
hey, it’s not like either club’s play has been very inspiring this season,
either. New York – thought to be one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup coming
into the year – is clinging to the eighth and final playoff berth in the East,
a mere five points ahead of the Flyers, and really it’s up for grabs for any
franchise not named the Florida Panthers.

So it goes without saying this is a huge two points on the
line for the Orange & Black. Then again they have all been huge for awhile
now, but it hasn’t always been reflected on the ice.

At least the Flyers demonstrated once this season they are
capable of defeating the Rags after they were swept in six tries last season. Philly
took the first encounter of 2013 in a hard-fought 2-1 victory, but it’s been
all New York again in the past two.

In their last matchup on March 5, the Bullies jumped out to
a 2-1 first-period lead, only for the Rangers to come roaring back – sound
familiar? Ryan Callahan and Rick Nash each potted a pair of goals to help the
bad guys secure a 4-2 win.

While the onus for that loss doesn’t fall entirely on Ilya
Bryzgalov, the Flyers will be searching for an effort more like what they’ve
been getting from the cosmonaut in two of his last three. He looked far more
confident in their win over New Jersey 10 days ago, and even against the
Penguins on Sunday night. However, Billy is just 1-5 versus the Rags over the
past two seasons with a 3.33 GAA and a .868 SV%.

Bryz could use a little help, too, this time from the
offense though. Philadelphia has fallen to 18th in the NHL in scoring with 2.61
goals per game, lighting the lamp two or fewer times in eight of their last 11.

That coupled with Danny Briere’s absence has led to another
shakeup in the lineup. Tye McGinn has been recalled, and joins Claude Giroux
and Jakub Voracek on the top line, while Peter Laviolette will try pairing
Scott Hartnell, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds. Panotch is calling that
second group a “Crash Line,” and suggests it could be a special grouping just
for New York.

 The Flyers begin a
five-game homestand tonight, and they have a chance to make serious headway
against opponents vying for those final playoff spots in the Rangers, the New
York Islanders on Thursday, and the suddenly-rising Washington Capitals on
Sunday. Win those, and yes, they will in fact control their own destiny.

Lose a handful of them, and, well… that’s pretty much what a lot of folks are
expecting at this point, is it not?

Earlier: Priced to Move? Examining the Flyers’ Options as the
Trade Deadline Approaches

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Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."