Upcoming games: @ Flyers, January 2, 3:00 p.m.; Panthers, January 5, 7:00 p.m.; @ Penguins, January 6, 7:00 p.m.
Philadelphia Flyers (48 points, 4th place, 22-10-4)
Citizens Bank Park, the stage for the Superbowl of hockey is set. The Rangers and Flyers will face off in the Winter Classic tomorrow at 3 p.m. The start time was pushed back by the NHL to offer more optimal game conditions with another unseasonably warm weather forecast on the horizon. The Rangers are 2-0 against the Flyers this season. Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers $51 million dollar man in net announced he wouldn’t be starting in net, awkwardly -- and unprofessionally -- beating Coach Peter Laviolette to the punch. Bryzgalov allowed 16 goals in his last four starts. Sergei Bobrovsky, who gets the nod in the crease tomorrow, on the other hand is 8-2-1 this season with a .914 save percentage. The Flyers enter the Classic on a high note after snapping a two game losing skid with a 4-2 victory over the Penguins on Thursday. Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell continue to be a deadly offensive weapon. Hartnell is tied with Giroux for the team lead in goals at 17 and put up seven points in his last five games. A victory would tie the Flyers with the Rangers for first in the Atlantic Division.
Florida Panthers (47 points, 3rd place, 20-12-7)
The Rangers swiftly defeated the Panthers 4-1 last Friday in Florida. Hagelin, Richards and Del Zotto chased goaltender Scott Clemmensen out of the net after a three goal outburst in the first period. The Panthers got right back to work the next night though and defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in a victory that was marred by controversy. Panthers forward Krys Barch was ejected after reportedly directing a racial slur at P.K. Subban of the Canadiens. The league is still looking into the matter and the incident has not been confirmed by players on the ice, including Subban. Winger Tomas Fleischmann netted two goals in the win and has four points in his last five games. Goaltender Jose Theodore could potentially miss the next few games with a leg injury. He left the second period on Saturday after defenseman Dmitry Kulikov fell on him. The Panthers are expected to recall rookie Jacob Markstrom from the AHL. The Panthers are off until they face the Rangers on Thursday. The Blueshirts are 2-1 against the Panthers this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins (46 points, 5th place, 21-13-4)
The Rangers beat the Penguins 4-3 back on November 29 when they had just welcomed back their captain Sidney Crosby. The dynamic center is sidelined once again with concussion symptoms and hasn’t played since December 5. Center Evgeni Malkin is leading the team with 43 points and 28 assists. Malkin was named the NHL’s first star of the month for December after he tallied 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 13 games which included a nine game point scoring streak and a hat trick. The Pens offense couldn’t solve Martin Brodeur and the Devils though losing 3-1 on Saturday. Their second straight defeat came days after a 4-2 beating at home against the rival Flyers. The Pens have the fifth best power play and penalty killing unit in the league. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is second in the league with 19 wins. He's 3-2 in his last five starts and allowed five goals in the Pens latest straight losses. They are 5-5 in their last ten games.