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.