The NHL is doing its best to optimize the weather conditions for Monday’s Winter Classic in Philadelphia. The league elected to push back the start of the tilt between the Atlantic Division rival New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers to provide the most ideal conditions for the fifth edition of the Classic. Admittedly, South Philadelphia will not be a winter wonderland this time around, but temperatures are expected to be chilly enough to cool down the cheesesteaks at Citizens Bank Park. There’s also another chill in the air, although this one will likely be felt between Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette and struggling goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who is mired in a four-game losing skid. The prized offseason acquisition broke protocol on Sunday by declaring himself a spectator for Monday’s game. “I have great news and even better news,” the 31-year-old Russian said. “Great news, I’m not playing (Monday). Good news, we have a chance to win the game (Monday).” Laviolette never divulges the starting netminder prior to the day of the contest - and rarely does so after the morning skate. With no goaltending controversy to speak of, New York has won six of its last seven to secure a two-point lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC
ABOUT THE RANGERS (23-9-4): While Philadelphia continues its traditional carousel of goaltenders, New York coach John Tortorella will send Henrik Lundqvist into action on Monday. The 29-year-old Swede has dominated the Flyers in both meetings this season, including a brilliant 29-save shutout on Nov. 26. He is 18-10-3 with four shutouts in his career versus Philadelphia. After collecting seven goals in a five-game stretch, RW Marian Gaborik has been held off the scoresheet in the last two contests.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (22-10-4): G Sergei Bobrovsky has been playing better than his fellow countryman. Bobrovsky (8-2-1, 2.52 goals-against average) has won his last three starts - including stopping 24 of 26 shots in a 4-2 win over the Keystone State rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot also burned their former club with goals to secure the win. C Claude Giroux, who sits one point behind Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin for the points lead, has one goal and five assists in four games since returning from a concussion.
1. Eric Lindros and Bernie Parent led the Flyers alumni team to a 3-1 triumph over the Rangers contingent on Saturday. Despite leaving the team under bitter circumstances, Lindros received a standing ovation from the Philadelphia faithful. As for Parent, he’s been one of the city’s most beloved athletes since delivering the franchise’s lone two Stanley Cups (1974, 1975).
2. Rangers LW Carl Hagelin has three goals and an assist in his last three games. The Swedish rookie scored a goal and set up another in New York’s 4-1 win over Florida on Friday.
PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Flyers 2.