At a glance: The New York Rangers aim to put together a three-game winning streak -- a feat they have accomplished only twice this season -- when they host their bitter divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. And aiming to protect home ice will be key for a Blueshirts squad that squandered its last lengthy stay at MSG. Both the Rangers and Flyers are in the midst of significant turnarounds following a poor start to the 2013-14 season. The Rangers have won seven of their last 10 games while the surging Flyers have secured nine wins in their last 12 to carve out the third-place spot in the Metropolitan Division.
Important match: Speaking of the division, in which the dominant Pittsburgh Penguins reign supreme with a 33-12-2 record and 48 points (18 points more than second-place Washington), Sunday’s game has significant implications for both the Rangers and the Flyers. The Blueshirts trail the Flyers by one point in the standings and have the chance to leapfrog both them and the Capitals. Washington plays Buffalo Sunday afternoon.
Power Rangers: Long maligned by their anemic power play, the Rangers’ specialty teams unit has made a dramatic improvement this season. With four straight games with a man-up marker and a 33-for-155 record, the Blueshirts are sixth in the league with a 21.3% success rate. They’ll have a tough test in the Flyers’ penalty killers Sunday night. Philly’s PK ranks sixth in the league with an 84.8% kill rate.
Downie and out: Flyers forward Steve Downie, acquired earlier this season from the Colorado Avalanche, appears to be in coach Craig Berube’s doghouse. Berube announced to reporters that Downie will be a scratch Sunday and criticized his “intensity level.” Tough guy Jay Rosehill will replace him in the lineup. Meanwhile, the Rangers will have ex-Flyer Daniel Carcillo in the lineup as an antagonist against his former club. The Rangers sent down forward JT Miller following Friday’s game to get him a pair of games this weekend with the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, CT.