Flyers, Rangers renew playoff rivalry in NYC
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers will try to get by without their No. 1 goaltender when they visit the New York Rangers on Thursday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Flyers announced Wednesday that Steve Mason will not suit up for the opener of this best-of-seven series. Ray Emery will get the start instead and Cal Heeter, who made his NHL debut Sunday in a loss to Carolina, will serve as the backup.
In 36 career playoff games, Emery is 20-15 with a 2.57 goals-against average, .903 save percentage and three shutouts. He led Ottawa to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, but hasn't seen action in the postseason since playing for Anaheim in 2011.
Emery was the backup to Corey Crawford in Chicago's run to a Stanley Cup title last spring, but didn't get into a game.
"I get excited to play in these situations, especially the playoffs, especially with a group like this," Emery said.
Of course, Henrik Lundqvist will be the goaltender across the rink from Emery. The Rangers undisputed No. 1 netminder had another solid campaign in 2013-14, setting club records for regular season wins and shutouts along the way.
Although the 32-year-old Swede was 33-24-5 with a 2.36 goals against average and .920 save percentage it still was a down season by Lundqvist's lofty standards. His GAA was the highest its been since Lundqvist posted a 2.38 in 2009-10 and the netminder's save percentage was his worst effort since finishing the 2008-09 campaign at .916.
New York only has made it out of the second round once since Lundqvist took over the starting role in 2005-06, but it's hardly been his fault. In 67 playoff games, Lundqvist has posted a 2.28 GAA and .920 save percentage.
The Flyers and Rangers have been divisional rivals for decades, but this series marks the first playoff meeting between the clubs since 1997 when Philadelphia downed New York in five games for the Eastern Conference title.
Overall, Philadelphia has won six of the 10 playoff series between the franchises and has claimed three straight and four of the past five encounters.
The Flyers and Rangers split four meetings in 2013-14, with each team winning twice at its home arena. New York's home-ice advantage could loom large in this series, as the Blueshirts have claimed eight in a row at home against the Flyers, who last won at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 20, 2011.
The Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan Division and two points ahead of Philadelphia to capture home ice in this series.
Flyers captain and star centerman Claude Giroux only managed two assists in the four meetings with the Rangers this season and that's certainly not a good sign for Philadelphia. Forward Matt Read and defenseman Mark Streit were the best offensive players for the Flyers in the season series, posting one goal and two assists apiece.
Meanwhile, New York's best weapon against the Flyers this season was speedy forward Chris Kreider, who had two goals and two assists in three games against Philly but does not expect to play in this set. Brad Richards had one goal and two assists over four games, while Rick Nash had a goal and an assist in three outings.
Lundqvist went 2-1-0 with a 2.03 GAA against the Flyers this season. Emery did not face New York this season, but is 7-2-0 with a 1.87 GAA in 10 career regular-season games against the Blueshirts.
One concern for New York heading into the opening round is the health of No. 1 defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who sat out the last five games of the regular season with a bruised left shoulder. Although McDonagh expects to play in Game 1, it will be interesting to see how his shoulder holds up against the postseason grind.
McDonagh led New York's blue line this season in goals (14), assists (29), plus-minus (plus-11), penalty minutes (36) and shots (177). He also led the club with an average ice time of 24 minutes, 59 seconds and finished fifth on the team's overall scoring list with 43 points.
Rangers forward Derick Brassard left practice on Tuesday with a back issue, but expects to play tonight. Brassard was fourth on the team this season with 45 points off 18 goals and 27 assists.
Philadelphia's Steve Downie is out with an upper-body injury, but fellow forward Zac Rinaldo could play Thursday after completing a four-game suspension. Rinaldo received the ban for delivering a head shot against Buffalo defenseman Chad Ruhwedel on April 6.
New York will host the second tilt of this series on Sunday before the venue shifts to Philadelphia for Games 3 and 4.
The Rangers were 20-17-4 as the home club this season, while Philly was 18-16-7 as the guest.
04/17 11:04:34 ET