Blueshirts look for more year-end success tonight
|RANGERS ON DEMAND
|NEW: Tortorella's Pregame Remarks from Today
|Tortorella Post-Practice Interview on Tuesday
|Players Talk About Prospal's Absence
• Game Notes
Broadcast Note: Tonight's game will be televised on MSG2. Pregame coverage begins on MSG2 at 6:30 p.m. Click here for complete MSG2 channel listings
Winners of four of their last five games -- including a hard-working 2-1 win on a snowy day in Philadelphia earlier this month -- the Rangers face off against the Flyers tonight at Madison Square Garden in their final home game of the 2009 calendar year.
The Rangers have not lost a calendar year-ending home game since 2002, going 4-0-1 since then. Just as they ended 2008 on a high note at home last year in beating the Islanders, they will look to make their Garden finale a special one against another divisional rival in the Flyers.
|Forward Ales Kotalik is one Rangers player who can expect to see more ice time tonight with injured top line winger Vinny Prospal missing from the lineup.
It won't come easily, however, because even though they rank below the Rangers in the standings, the Flyers have been gaining confidence during their current three-game winning streak. All three of Philadelphia's wins have come on the road, but The Garden has been rough on the Flyers, who have lost two straight at MSG.
The Blueshirts saw a four-game winning streak halted with a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Islanders on Saturday at MSG. Resurgent center Brandon Dubinsky
scored twice in the third period -- including one with 46.6 seconds to play -- to give the Rangers an important point in the standings. They are tied with Atlanta for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and have three games in hand over Montreal, which is sitting in seventh.
Recent lineup changes have helped the Rangers get back on track, but the key to success has been goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
, woh won the Dec. 19 game at Philadelphia with 36 saves, including 16 in the third period. Lundqvist has shut out the Flyers twice during his career, and both of those wins came at MSG. Overall the Rangers have won four straight games over Philadelphia, dating back to last spring. Lundqvist has started all four of those games, posting a 1.50 goals-against average.
Lineup changes will be in order again tonight without forward Vinny Prospal
in the Rangers' lineup. Prospal underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday and will be out for 10 days to two weeks. On Tuesday, Rangers head coach John Tortorella said that Christopher Higgins would be moving up to take Prospal's spot on the No. 1 line with Brandon Dubinsky
and Marian Gaborik
. He also said he expected that Ales Kotalik would see more ice time tonight.
Another player who could benefit from the extra ice-time is Erik Christensen
, who has shown flashes of his high-scoring potential in limited duty since being claimed off waivers earlier this year.
"We have to try to instill in our players that you have to play an even better team game. And it gives opportunities to other people. Every team goes through this (injuries), so we've got to deal with it," said Tortorella. "... I always look at it when you lose a key guy, other people get opportunities, and when that key guy, I think your team becomes better because those people have had other opportunities, and hopefully they grow."