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Flyers-Rangers preview: Philly hungry to stop losing skid    

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Cam Atkinson Flyers Gritty T-Shirt
Cam Atkinson has been on a hot streak, and he leads the Flyers with 15 goals -- four more than Claude Giroux and Joel Farabee.

The Philadelphia Flyers are in the exact same predicament Saturday as they were when they faced the New York Rangers last month, only this time the game is at the Wells Fargo Center.

Once again, they are trying to snap a six-game losing streak.

“Obviously, this New York team is really good, and these are important points for us for late in the season,” said Joel Farabee, the Flyers’ 21-year-old left winger who has seven goals over his last 12 games.

Back on Dec. 1, the Rangers defeated the Flyers, 4-1, and handed them their seventh consecutive defeat.

Since then, the Blueshirts have been on a certified roll. They have climbed atop the Metropolitan standings with a 24-10-4 record (52 points), though they have played four more games than second-place Carolina (50).

The Flyers (13-16-7) have been wildly inconsistent. They lost 10 straight, followed by a seven-game point streak, followed by their current six-game skid.

They desperately need to start another points streak because they have fallen 11 points behind surging Boston, which holds the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers are expected to be without Alexis Lafreniere and Barclay Goodrow,. Julien Gauthier and Ryan Reeves came off the COVID list Saturday.

The Flyers are missing Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen, Derick Brassard, Patrick Brown, and Nate Thompson.

Storylines

This is the Flyers’ second straight game with most of their players who had COVID back in the lineup. After a ragged first period Thursday in which they fell into a 2-0 hole, they played much better over the last two periods before losing in Boston, 3-2. With the rust removed from the returning players, can the Flyers put together a solid three-period effort Saturday?

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The Rangers will try to exploit the Flyers with their speed. They can take more chances on offense because they have a defense and a goaltender who can bail them out if they get caught up ice. New York has the league’s second-best overall defense.

Flyers’ projected lineup

Line 1: Claude Giroux centering Farabee and Cam Atkinson.

Line 2: Scott Laughton centering Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny. (Konecny is goal-less in his last 19 games and has been stuck on 99 career goals.)

Line 3: Kevin Hayes centering James van Riemsdyk and Gerry Mayhew. (Max Willman sent to Phantoms.)

Line 4: Morgan Frost centering Jackson Cates and Zack MacEwen.

Defense: Ivan Provorov and Justin Braun;  Cam York and Travis Sanheim; Keith Yandle and Nick Seeler.

Goalie:  Carter Hart.

Numbers Dept.

The Rangers have the NHL’s No. 2 defense, allowing just 2.45 goals per game; they are 20th in scoring (2.84 per game). The Flyers (27th, 2.56 goals per game) are near the bottom of the league in goals scored per game, and are just 23rd in the NHL in goals allowed (3.31) – nearly a goal per game more than New York.

Who’s hot

Atkinson, who leads the Flyers with 15 goals, has eight points (three goals, five assists) over the last five games.

Chris Kreider, an All-Star selection who had two goals in the Rangers’ 3-0 win Thursday in San Jose, has four goals over the last five games.

Projected goalie matchup­­­

Hart has a 2.93 GAA and .912 save percentage, and will be trying to build off a strong performance in Boston.

After missing three games because of the COVID-19 protocol, Igor Shesterkin made 37 saves in Thursday’s 3-0 win  in San Jose; it was his second straight shutout. His numbers are gaudy: a 16-4-2 record, a 1.99 GAA, and a .939 save percentage. Somehow, he’s not on the All-Star team.

How to watch

NBC Sports Philadelphia at 7 p.m.

Money line (FanDuel)

Flyers: plus-130.

Rangers: minus-156.

Prediction

Rangers 3, Flyers 2 in a shootout.

 

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