NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — If you are an old school hockey fan you have to hope the Columbus Blue Jackets take the rest of the regular season off.
That way, the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers can resume a rivalry that’s among the most storied in the NHL.
The Rangers are currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 93 points and two games to play. The Flyers and Blue Jackets each have 91, but Philly has three games left, one more than Columbus.
Under the NHL’s new playoff format, the teams that finish second and third in each division meet in the first round of the playoffs. Whichever of these three teams ends up fourth will be a wild card and get either top seed Boston or No. 2 Pittsburgh.
Let’s assume, for the sake of wanting to see hated rivals do battle yet again, that the Rangers and Flyers do end up meeting in the first round. Rangers forward Brian Boyle said Wednesday he can imagine no better scenario.
“We’re not focusing on (the Flyers) yet, but in terms of them as a team, there’s no friends, really,” Boyle said. “They play hard, and it’s effective. Late in games they play hard. They’re willing to do whatever.
“It’s a pretty good rivalry,” he continued, adding, “because we hate each other.”
The Rangers and Flyers split four meetings this season, with the home team winning every game. On the other hand, the Blueshirts also split with the Blue Jackets, with the road team winning every game. So, regardless of who they play in the first round, the Rangers will in all likelihood have a fight on their hands.
The New York-Philadelphia playoff rivalry dates to 1974, with the teams meeting in 10 series since. The Flyers have won six times, including the last three. The teams last met in the postseason in the 1996-97 Eastern Conference finals, a series Philadelphia took in five games before being swept in the Stanley Cup finals by Detroit.
The Flyers have won 27 of 47 playoff games against the Rangers.
The Rangers have been excellent down the stretch this season, going 11-5-2 since March 5, and they’ve done it despite injuries to key personnel. That said, their all-hands-on-deck mentality will have to continue at least a little longer. Top defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is day-to-day with a left shoulder injury, participated in a full practice Wednesday for the first time since his injury. However, he will not play on Thursday against Buffalo, head coach Alain Vigneault said.
Vigneault also said it’s unlikely McDonagh will suit up before the playoffs begin.
Left wing Chris Kreider has skated this week, but has been unable to use his surgically repaired left hand. He is expected to miss at least the first round of the playoffs.
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