NHL Scouts in the House for Latest Flyers-Rangers Tilt

NHL Scouts in the House for Latest Flyers-Rangers Tilt

Only four points separate the Flyers from the first place Rangers in the standings, though it feels the divide is far greater. In a practical sense, the Rangers have played two fewer games, so there is the potential for a more sizable gap to emerge, one more in line with the separation apparent between these teams on this ice so far this season. Although it appears clear both teams will make the playoffs, the discussion as to the Flyers' chances at true Cup contention will increasingly be at the forefront the rest of the way.

The Flyers are the top scoring team in the league, the Rangers the leaders in limiting scoring. Unfortunately, that hasn't amounted to the typical "unstoppable force meets immovable object" scenario. So far, the Rangers have won all four meetings between the two clubs, with the Flyers failing to score more than two goals in any meeting.

And yet, there's still time to turn the tables. Right?

A closer look at today's matchup, as well as why some players may be auditioning for an involuntary move to another team, below.

The beats in the box are tweetporting the presence of several NHL personnel people in the house today, presumably for the purposes of scouting future trade possibilities. Randy Miller says there are three from the Columbus Blue Jackets, including GM Scott Howson, as well as a Montreal scout, which makes sense given all the buzz on the Flyers interest in acquiring the USS Hal Gill. Dave Isaac adds Anaheim's Randy Carlyle to the guest list as well.

While it's doubtful the players on the ice are thinking about anything other than trying to get two points and maybe add an opponent's ear to their collection, it's interesting to think what the presence of those scouts means to current Flyers and Rangers. The players are currently playing for one of the two best teams in the conference, and the presence of those scouts—particularly those from CBJ—only serve as a reminder that they might not be at the end of this month.

That's a discussion for another day. Today, the Flyers desperately need to get one win against the Rangers. They were decimated and embarrassed in New York six days ago, a hell of an encore after the tight but decapitating loss in the Winter Classic.

The Rangers are currently the class of the East. That can change quickly though, and the Flyers could use a win to show themselves that they're not wholly inferior to their rival from Manhattan, and the Rags could use the reminder that the Flyers are legit. Right now, they're looking forward to playing Philadelphia, and not just because of the old "everyone gets up for rivalry games." Lately, this matchup has meant a fun day for the Blue Shirts.

•Will the Flyers will have better luck in their Winter Classic duds today than they did on January 2nd?

•Ilya Bryzgalov remains out with an illness, so Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start against King Henrik. Can he help the Flyers win their first meeting with the Rangers since March 2011?

•Stu Bickel's in the lineup again for the Rangers. Will he again be involved in multiple man-dances?

•Who steps up on the scoresheet today?

One final note: These teams have played each other 228 times since the Flyers joined the league. Each side has 114 wins. That's a rivalry for ya.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).