Rangers vs. Flyers Preview
PHILADELPHIA, PA (AP) - The Philadelphia Flyers have the league's best record but might have a tough time keeping it without one of their most important players.
No Eastern Conference player has spent more time on the ice over the last season and a half than Chris Pronger, but the Flyers will begin a lengthy stretch without the five-time All-Star when they host the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Pronger broke his right foot in a 5-3 win over Montreal on Wednesday, and Philadelphia (21-7-5) announced Friday he needs surgery and will miss four to six weeks.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Flyers -143 money line favorites for Saturday's game against the Rangers. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 60% of more than 175 bets for this game have been placed on the Flyers -143.
Including the playoffs, only Chicago's Duncan Keith has played more minutes than Pronger's 3,486 since the start of last season.
Pronger's injury leaves a big hole for a Flyers defense which has surrendered more than three goals only once in 12 games.
The good news for the Flyers is they have a light schedule coming up, with Saturday's contest and Monday's matchup with Florida being their only games in the next 10 days. However, Philadelphia then plays nine of 10 on the road, and Pronger probably won't return during that stretch.
The Flyers have won four straight and are 6-0-1 in their last seven, moving three points ahead of the Pittsburgh for the best record in the East.
Pronger's absence won't make things easier on rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the conference leader in wins with 15. One of those victories came in the Flyers' only meeting with New York (20-13-1) this season, as he made 20 saves in a 4-1 win Nov. 4.
That marked the Rangers' third consecutive loss in Philadelphia, but they've since won eight of 11 on the road.
Henrik Lundqvist is 5-1-0 with a 1.81 goals-against average in his last six road games, including a 4-1 victory over the Penguins on Wednesday.
Lundqvist should be back in net Saturday after backup Martin Biron started Thursday in a 4-3 shootout win over Phoenix.
It was the third straight win overall for New York, which last won four in a row Dec. 17-23, 2009.
Brandon Prust scored his fifth goal in 11 games - New York is 8-3-0 in that span - after having none through his first 23 games of the season. Prust, whose latest goal came short-handed, has been a key penalty killer since coming to the Rangers in a trade with Calgary in February.
"He is part of our core," coach John Tortorella told the NHL's official website. "He is not home-grown from our minor-league team but he has grown into us. He is a big part of who we are."
Another part of the Rangers' core is Erik Christensen. He has three goals this month, matching his total from the first two months of the season, and had the only one in Thursday's shootout.
Philadelphia has lost its last three shootouts but won the last one it played against the Rangers and it was memorable, winning 4-3 on the final day of the 2009-10 regular season to make the playoffs while keeping New York out.
Claude Giroux had what turned out to be the deciding goal of that shootout and he had two assists in last month's win over New York.
Giroux and former Ranger Nikolay Zherdev both scored for the second consecutive game Wednesday, when Philadelphia won despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period.
"We certainly weren't on our game 100 percent, but we found a way to get two points," defenseman Sean O'Donnell said.