....is starting soon here on Broad Street...Newsday's Arthur Staple has joined me here for the game.
The press room food? No breakfast! Cheesesteaks...I'll pass, thank you.
Tortorella due to brief media at 1. Check back here in a bit, although I don;t expect anything illuminating except word on Callahan or Boyle...
Here's my piece from today's paper....and remember to follow me at twitter.com/stevezipay
PHILADELPHIA---The Bruins and Canadiens assured themselves of playoff spots yesterday.
Today, the Rangers and Flyers will determine the rest of the post-season lineup. Win or go home. The Rangers can finish no higher than 8th and face the Caps.
Exactly how did the Rangers arrive here for a Battle on Broad Street on the final day of the regular season?
Winning streaks bookended around a perplexing trough of inconsistency in a middling Eastern Conference, a conference where several of the lower seeds will not crack the 90-point barrier. And the performances of two world-class players.
Consider where the Rangers would be without a 7-1 record to open the season and a 7-1-1 run that was extended in a celebratory Madison Square Garden on Friday to put the Blueshirts on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup Championship series.
Consider the ugly 24-31-9 stretch that just two weeks ago had disgruntled longtime fans researching top five prospects in June’s draft.
Consider where the Rangers would be without workhorse Henrik Lundqvist, voted the team MVP for the fourth consecutive season, a franchise record. Or the 42 goals and 86 points, a career-high for Marian Gaborik, the Slovak sniper signed to a $37.5-million, five-year contract in the off-season.
Today in Wachovia Center, Lundqvist, who will appear in his 73nd game and 17th straight and is among the top ten goaltenders in the NHL in saves, goals-against-average, time on ice and save percentage, and Gaborik, who has six goals and seven assists in the past 11 games, will be critical to whether the Rangers don’t pack their gear and head to homes in North America and Europe this week.
Lundqvist, in particular, gives the Rangers an advantage in the net, where the Flyers have shuffled seven goaltenders due to injury and incompetence and will rely on 33-year-old Brian Boucher to save the season. “Any team that wants to get to where it wants to be, the goaltending has to be there,” said coach John Tortorella.
But one team-wide difference-maker, said Rangers left wing Vinny Prospal, will come in the early going, when the visitors will be tested. “It’s the start,” said Prospal, who played for Philadelphia in 1996-97 and 2007-08. “We didn’t have a great one (Friday).They’re going to try to come out hard and feed off the energy in the building. We have to be ready to play the same way.’’
Special teams also could play a huge role. The Rangers penalty kill is tied for second in effectiveness on the road (85.1 percent). The Flyers power play is the third best in the league (21.4 percent). The Rangers’ power play is 12th in the league, but third from the bottom on the road. Philadelphia’s PK ranks 13th at home.
Notes & Quotes
The Rangers have won three of five against the Flyers this season…Ryan Callahan, who reinjured his left knee Friday and didn’t practice yesterday, will be a game-time decision. If he cannot go, center Brian Boyle, who has missed nine games with a left ankle injury, will step in, rather than rookie callup Dale Weise, said coach John Tortorella. “He’s been here, he can play on the PK,” said Tortorella. “It’s going to be a little sore. But everything is,” said Boyle, who took shifts on wing with Chris Drury at center. “It would be a great opportunity.”