A three-game winning streak has the Flyers gaining confidence, while the Rangers will look to rebound from their first loss in five contests when the Atlantic Division rivals meet at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.
The Flyers (18-18-2) and Rangers (18-16-4) both reached the playoffs last season, only to be eliminated in the opening round. The division rivals entered 2009-10 looking to build on their respective solid seasons, but they’ve both struggled.
Nearing the midway point of the season, New York is tied with Atlanta for eighth in the Eastern Conference, with Philadelphia two points out of a playoff spot.
The Flyers have some positive momentum now. They’ve started a six-game road trip with three consecutive wins - their longest winning streak since a five-game run Oct. 31-Nov. 12.
Philadelphia continued its strong play Sunday, beating the New York Islanders 2-1 to improve to 5-7-1 since coach Peter Laviolette took over for the fired John Stevens.
“Confidence is a key factor,” right wing Danny Briere(notes) said. “You’re not as bad as you think when you can’t find the goals to win and you’re not as good as you think when you get on a winning streak. You’ve got to find that even keel, and it’s a tough thing to do.
“We have to realize there is still lots of work to be done.”
Jeff Carter(notes) is one Flyer who could be gaining confidence, tallying two goals and one assist over the last two games after recording just one of each in the previous eight contests, six of them losses. The center is second on the team with 14 goals and 30 points after setting career highs with 46 and 84 last season.
The Rangers saw their four-game winning streak halted with a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Islanders on Saturday. Center Brandon Dubinsky(notes) scored twice in the third period - including one with 46.6 seconds to play - to give the Rangers at least a point in the standings.
Despite the loss, New York has put together a strong 4-0-1 stretch following an expletive-filled tirade from coach John Tortorella, who was furious with the team’s performance in a 1-6-2 stretch that culminated in a 2-1 loss to the Islanders at MSG on Dec. 16.
“Believe it or not, I think the athletes cared,” Tortorella said. “I thought we were embarrassed in our building last time. Obviously, that kicks up a little dust in meetings, in talks among the team.”
The message and lineup changes appeared to resonate in the Rangers’ last meeting with Philadelphia on Dec. 19, when New York won 2-1 behind Henrik Lundqvist’s(notes) 36 saves - 16 in the third period.
Lundqvist will likely be back in net for this matchup after making 19 stops Saturday. He’s helped the Rangers win four in a row against the Flyers, posting a 1.50 goals-against average while starting each of those games.