New York Rangers get back to work against the struggling Flyers

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Apr 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers scores a third period goal against Alex Lyon #34 of the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

An unexpected postponement against their biggest rival gave the New York Rangers some extra time to prepare for another struggling foe.

After a four-day layoff, the Rangers return to the ice Wednesday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers, who are looking to halt a six-game losing streak.

“Anytime a division opponent comes into town, we talk about it all the time, they’re four point games,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “You’ve got to be ready to play.”

Rangers get back to work

The Rangers were scheduled to host the New York Islanders on Sunday, but for the second time this season New York saw a game postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak on an opposing team. The other instance was Nov. 20 against the Ottawa Senators, and the Islanders were playing without seven players because of COVID-19 protocols before the game was postponed.

The Rangers are playing for the first time since rallying for a 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Friday afternoon. That followed up a 4-1 win in their debut at the Islanders’ new arena in Elmont, N.Y., two nights earlier.

After unexpectedly getting more time in between games, the Rangers are looking to follow up some aspects of their latest win. New York earned the win despite getting outshot 17-5 in the first period. They scored three goals in the third period, as Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome each collected a goal and an assist.

Those wins are part of New York’s three-game winning streak and 7-1-0 run in their past eight contests.

“I think we want to continue the momentum we have right now and put together a lot of wins,” New York defenseman Adam Fox said after a recent practice. “We know we’re in a pretty tough division, so I wouldn’t say you’re ever secure. I think every point matters.”

Rangers third line playing well

new york rangers philadelphia flyers
Apr 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at 9:24 of the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The Blueshirts third line of Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafrenière, and Julien Gauthier have been playing well of late.

“They’re skating and creating chances,” Gallant said. “Ever since Fil came back we put them together and they’ve played really well.”

In their last game, a 5-2 win against the Bruins, Gauthier picked up two assists and Lafrenière a goal. The head coach commented on Gauthier’s speed being a key.

“Gauthier adds good speed with them,” he continued. “Fil can skate too. You definitely see Gauthier’s speed when he comes down the wing. He’s getting more confident.”

Lafrenière, who was the benefactor of one of Gauthier’s good passes attributed their success to continuity.

“We’re still trying to figure things out at practice and in the games,” Lafrenière said. “As you play together, for sure you know where the guys are going to be on the ice. We’ll try to keep getting better as a line.”

Flyers looking for answers

The Flyers are 0-4-2 since a 2-1 overtime win on home ice over Calgary on Nov. 16. In the four regulation losses, Philadelphia has been outscored by a 20-7 margin. The losing streak is also part of a 2-6-2 skid over its past 10 games since a 2-1 win at Washington on Nov. 6.

It also prompted general manager Chuck Fletcher to hold a state-of-the-team press conference at Tuesday’s practice.

“I saw enough in the first 10 games to believe that we can be a good team in a tough division,” Fletcher said Tuesday. “To me, this is a massive week to get our house in order.”

Philadelphia also was supposed to play the Islanders on Tuesday, but its home game against them was postponed. That gives the Flyers extra time to focus on improving things after allowing three third-period goals in a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.

The Flyers allowed 35 shots on goal, marking the 12th straight time they allowed at least 30 shots. Philadelphia also was 0-for-3 on the power play and is 2-for-33 on the man advantage in the past 10 games.

“You’ve got to stick together,” Scott Laughton said after the Flyers did not score more than three goals for the 15th straight contest. “It’s better this happens in November than late in the year. We’re still in it. We’ve lost six in a row, but we’re still in it. You’ve got to stay positive.”

The Flyers are hopeful former New York center Kevin Hayes can return to the lineup. Hayes has missed the past six games due to an undisclosed injury, has played in two games this season but practiced Tuesday.

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–Field Level Media contributed to this report