NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, October 11th (All times eastern)
New York Rangers (3-0-0) at Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - While the Rangers season is almost a week old, the Flyers are just getting started. Philadelphia begins its 2008-09 campaign tonight against well-traveled New York at the Wachovia Center.
New York has already played three games, including a season-opening two-game series versus Tampa Bay in Prague. The Rangers won both tests in the Czech Republic before defeating Chicago, 4-2, on Friday for their first 3-0-0 start since 1989.
Brandon Dubinsky scored and had two assists, while Nikolai Zherdev netted his first goal in a Ranger uniform. Aaron Voros and Wade Redden also scored in the win.
Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves for the Rangers, who tonight will try to win their first four games to start a season for the first time since the 1983-84 season.
Philadelphia enters this test well rested, and in an interesting note, will have Alaska Governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin drop the first puck in tonight's game as part of its "Ultimate Hockey Mom" promotion.
For the Flyers, they enter this season coming off one of the quickest turnarounds in NHL history. After posting a league-worst 56 points two seasons ago, Philadelphia recorded a 39-point improvement en route to an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Unlike a year ago, when Philadelphia overhauled its roster, adding the likes of Daniel Briere, Jason Smith, Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, the Flyers had a relatively quiet offseason. They added depth with the signings of forwards Arron Asham and Glen Metropolit, while also luring defender Ossi Vaananen back from Europe.
Philly does get former 40-goal scorer Simon Gagne back after the forward missed all but 25 contests a year ago due to post-concussion syndrome. He should team on the first line with Briere (31 goals, 41 assists) and 23-year- old Mike Richards, who makes his debut as team captain tonight.
Richards inked a 12-year contract extension last season, while fellow 2003 first-round pick Jeff Carter (29g, 24a) also signed an extension this offseason.
Depth at defense is of some concern heading into tonight's matchup. Smith, who served as the team's captain last year, departed to Ottawa as a free agent, while Derian Hatcher (knee) and youngster Ryan Parent (shoulder) both begin the season on injured reserve. That is also where Randy Jones could end up due to a right hip ailment.
However, the club still has Timonen as well as up-and-comer Brayden Coburn, while Vaananen, Steve Eminger (acquired from Washington) and 2008 first-round pick Luca Sbisa will be asked to step up.
That unit has a solid backing in goaltender Martin Biron, who went 30-20-9 with a 2.59 goals against average and five shutouts in 2007-08. He was also outstanding in the playoffs until the club ran into the Penguins.
New York won five of eight versus Philadelphia last year and have won seven of eight and 11 of the last 13 in the City of Brotherly Love.
10/11 10:31:10 ET