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Gameday VS. New York Rangers: Homestanding Flyers Face Critical Contest

Philadelphia Flyers (1-7-0) vs. New York Rangers (2-5-0)
Wells Fargo Center -- Philadelphia, Pa.
TV: CSN Philly - Radio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic

Setting the Stage

Putting it lightly, this game contains a battle of two teams who have stumbled out of the gate to start. This matchup also features two new coaches trying to institute a new way of playing hockey on underachieving squads.

On one hand, the Rangers' tumultous start started with atrocious netminding between now-injured Henrik Lundqvist and now-retired former Flyer Martin Biron. Key parts of their lineup also find themselves out of this contest as well. Key injuries to Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash and Carl Hagelin have put a damper on Alain Vigneault's club.

On the other hand, the Flyers' inability to score or find any consistency has crushed them early on this season. Goaltender Steve Mason has done his part, playing to the tune of career-high marks in most statistical categories. Incumbent starters such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read, Sean Couturier, among many others, continue to search for goal number one this season.

What to Expect

Expect anything. Craig Berube's club has had a week to try and iron out what has ailed them. If the Flyers have any chance of winning, lacking scoring, punchless man advantages, extremely undisciplined play must all be erased in this matchup.

After Biron's retirement, and Lundqvist's "minor issue," turmoil seems to be the name of the game. How many more injuries can this team sustain? Many pundits have called this game a must-win. In terms of personnel, it might as well be considered a very winnable game.

Expect Vincent Lecavalier to return tonight after missing over a week.

The Masked Men

Steve Mason (1-5-0, 2.37, .923) will start once again for the Flyers. Perhaps compared to Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, if Mason could have received any offensive support so far, he would easily be NHL's first star.

Mason's latest outing included 31 saves on 34 shots against Pittsburgh in a 4-1 loss. In three of Mason's six starts, he has stopped more than 30 shots. He has faced over 30 shots in four of those starts. It will be up to a patchwork defense to block some shots tonight.

Cam Talbot (AHL: 4-0-1, 2.49, .924) will be starting his first NHL game. Talbot, an undrafted free agent, has toiled with the Hartford Wolf Pack for parts of five total seasons. Now 26 years of age, he will get his first chance with the big club. Talbot will likely be there to stay due to Biron's retirement.

Lundqvist will not back up Talbot tonight, so Jason Missiaen, a 6'8" goaltender, will take up that duty. Lundqvist has traveled with the Rangers, according to Vigneault, but he will not dress for this game.

Keys of the Game

1. Play like you mean it. Too many times this year, 50/50 puck battles have been lost. Go out there, dictate the pace, score early to get an advantage, and excite this fanbase into truly believing Claude Giroux's "make the playoffs" edict. This will be a statement game to that fact.

2. Score goals. Only the Buffalo Sabres (1.27 goals per game) have scored fewer goals than the Flyers (1.38), and they have played three more games than the Flyers as well. Who is right above them? The New York Rangers, of course (1.57)! This key goes to either side. Who will score more? Or fewer?

3. Win this game. No doubt about it, this game means a ton towards building something positive after a layoff. It has been a full week since losing to Pittsburgh. Berube gave this team three days off before eventful practices resumed during the week. 2-7-0 is better than 1-8-0. Winning tonight means everything.

Quotable 

"You can be mad about it, and you should be mad about it. But you have to do your stuff on the ice and show that you can still do stuff, what you used to do. But life goes on, and you have to be better. That's all." - Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen upon his demotion from top PP unit.

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Jordan Kuhns
Featured Writer
Twitter: @MSBN_Kuhns; @TCLFlyers
Email: jordan@thecheckingline.com