Back-to-back weekend games a big test for Flyers

Back-to-back weekend games a big test for Flyers

January 10, 2014, 12:30 pm
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The Flyers have losing records against both the Lightning and the Rangers since the 2011-12 season. (USA Today Images)

If the Flyers want to get a handle on just how far they have come under coach Craig Berube, this weekend’s back-to-back games against Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers should provide some insight.

These are two clubs the Flyers have had great difficulty winning against since the start of the 2011-12 season.

Since then, the Flyers are 2-5-1 against the Lightning, who they play Saturday afternoon, and 3-9 against the Rangers, who they meet Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

“Tampa, it's always a tough game against them,” Jakub Vorcek said. “They skate very well and it’s an early game. We’re at our best right now. It should be interesting to see how we handle them.”

The Flyers have won three straight and are 9-2 in their last 11 games.

“Since I have been here, I haven’t won a game yet at Madison Square Garden,” Voracek said. “Obviously, it would be a great feeling to get a win there. It’s such a tough building to play in. The Rangers have a good team with a lot of talented players.”

Two years ago, the Rangers swept the Flyers, winning all six games.

The good news?

Right now, the Flyers are ahead of the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division standings. They haven’t been able to say that in almost three seasons.

Berube’s Flyers beat the Rangers back in October, 2-1, in their only meeting thus far.

Flyers captain Claude Giroux is eager, as well, to see how the weekend plays out..

“The Rangers are rivals – the one year we didn’t win one game [0-6],” Giroux said. “That was crushing, but we won against them already this year and hopefully, we can stretch that out. They’re a good team and they will be right with us in the standings all year.”

As of Friday, the Flyers were in a playoff berth – second place in the Metropolitan Division - with 50 points. The Rangers are fifth in the division with 47 points and currently out of the playoffs.

“It’s a really good test this weekend,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We got Tampa and the Rangers, and our last couple games against the Rangers, I think we’ve been successful. But Tampa has been a thorn in our side.

“If we can keep within our structure for 60 minutes, which we haven’t done against Tampa Bay for a long time now, we’ll be successful.”

The Lighting even without Steven Stamkos have been playing very well. They occupy second place in the Atlantic Division with 56 points.

“The Rangers is a divisional game, so that’s a four-point game,” Simmonds said. “You look at Tampa first. We’re in our barn and we want to make a place where … teams fear to come in and play. We’re doing a good job of that, as of late and we have to keep that up against Tampa.”

The Flyers have won 10 straight at home but have not won at MSG since the 2010-11 season.

“With New York, we’re fighting for the same spot,” Simmonds said. “It’s going to be a huge game for us. If it goes down to the last couple points of the year, we’re going to have to play our best these next two games.”

Berube doesn’t quite look at it this way in terms of  how far his club has come against teams that have owned the Flyers in recent years.

“I don’t worry about the past,” he said. “The test is just staying motivated … You look at our division last night, they all won. That’s what you got to look at. Not who we’re playing or when New York beat us in the past, whatever. You got to be ready to go all the time. It’s game by game, you can’t take time off. We gotta be ready to go Saturday.”

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