Tonight’s contest against the New York Rangers could be a turning point for the Philadelphia Flyers. The team is coming off of a four-day break that has allowed the team to both rest, get healthy and get to know head coach Craig Berube a little better. Berube has been shuffling the lines over the last few days in practice, looking for boosts and chemistry through every possible combination.
The Flyers will get Vincent Lecavalier back from an injury that has kept him on the shelf since October 11. His outstanding hockey IQ and vision won’t hurt the offense one bit, but for a team that has yet to score three goals in a game this season, the focus should be on New York’s net.
Henrik Lundqvist won’t play, and Martin Biron was forced into retirement after being waived after a few lousy periods of play. The Rangers are limping along just as badly as the Flyers, and this game is a big chance for Philly to try to right the ship, score a boatload of goals and secure their second win of the season.
They need to make life miserable for Cam Talbot and the rest of the banged up Rangers. New York is without Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan up front and will be leaning on youngsters like J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider in their top-six. If ever there was an opportunity for the likes of Claude Giroux or Jakub Voracek to get going, this is it.
It won’t be an easy contest. The Rangers are still professional hockey players and the Flyers are still slumping badly. The opportunity for a big win is there though. One victory can snowball into two, and then into three and suddenly no one is asking Philadelphia’s players why they’ve been so awful during every media scrum.
If stressing this one contest seems silly, consider the seismic impact of the San Jose Sharks thrashing of the Rangers a few weeks ago. San Jose has yet to skate away without a point, while New York has only won one game since. They’ve only won a single game anyway, but it was against the Sharks that the Rangers had their identity severed and their pride wounded.
This is a chance for the Flyers to play a game worth building on. They haven’t played a game like that this season. Toss all the cliches into a blender and give it a spin. That’s the kind of game Philly needs to play. The full 60-minute effort. Get pucks on net. Get bodies to the crease and so on.
If the Flyers make a charge to the playoffs, they could point to this game as a turning point. If they lose tonight, it’ll just be another lost opportunity to turn a slowly dying season around.