By Brian Monzo
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The Rangers will head into Sunday's divisional battle with the Flyers in first place in the Atlantic Division -- and more importantly, first in the Eastern Conference.
This will be the first time these teams have met since the memorable Winter Classic. The Rangers are 1-0-1 coming out of the All-Star break, with both games going to the shootout. For the most part, these battles with the Flyers are low scoring, and full of hard hits.
The Rangers are 3-0-0 against the Flyers this season.
Playing a ridiculous amount of defense has gotten the Rangers where they are. The Flyers have a ton of offense. If it's not Claude Giroux, it's Scott Hartnell, Matt Read or some guy named Jaromir Jagr finding ways to score. As the season continues to wind down these divisional games will become more and more critical heading into the playoffs.
It's going to be key for the Rangers to pick up this victory.
If they are going to do this, here is the most efficient way:
-Whether it's Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky in net, shoot from every direction. Amazingly enough, Bryzgalov has not stepped in be the marquee goalie the Flyers expected thus far. Both of these goalies are prone to the weak goal. If the Rangers keep firing, a few are bound to hit the back of the net.
-Start the game by taking the body. This really goes for any game, but the Rangers need to expect the Flyers to come out angry since they've been handled by New York so far this season. Whether it be Brandon Prust or Ryan Callahan, someone needs to set the tone early. If it's the Flyers doing it, the Rangers could be in for a long afternoon.
-Get the defense involved in the offense. Since the Rangers' offense is pretty spread around, success has come in games when their defensemen have scored goals. Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman both can get involved when need be, but Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal should both be joining the rush as much as possible. Fortunately for the Rangers, their goaltending has been extraordinary enough that if this backfires, Henrik Lundqvist should be able to handle any odd man rushes.
This isn't a key to this game, but a key to the rest of the season: they really need to find a way to get Brandon Dubinsky more involved with the offense. He played just over eight minutes against the Sabres. You're not going to get much from any player playing that amount of time. If I'm the coach, I am giving Dubinsky playing time on the top line. He'd be starting on Sunday with Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan in efforts to get the most from a productive player.
The point is, the Rangers have found ways to win with basically nothing from Dubinsky, a player who has scored 20 or more goals twice now. If he can find his offensive game, it would make things a lot easier.
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