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RANGERS (2-5-0) at FLYERS (1-7-0)
TV: MSG, CSN-PH
Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between the Metropolitan Division foes. The New York Rangers won three of the five games between the teams last season. However, the Philadelphia Flyers won two of three at Wells Fargo Center.
Big story: Two struggling teams hope a few days off will do them some good. The Flyers haven't played in a week; the Rangers have been off for five days. Philadelphia has lost four in a row, while New York will look to rebound from a lackluster 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in its most recent game.
Rangers: At age 26, Cam Talbot feels he's as ready as he'll ever be for his NHL debut. Talbot will start against the Flyers in place of Henrik Lundqvist, who is day-to-day with what the team has called a "minor issue."
"I have been waiting a long time for this, working towards this, so I'll be ready if I get the call," Talbot said. "I am extremely excited. It's every kid's dream that grows up playing hockey to one day get the chance to play in the NHL. I just can't wait until that time comes. I'll have to approach it like any other game. It'll be tough to control those emotions, but I'll have to do my best to settle myself down and just focus on the game."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Talbot has earned his opportunity.
"I basically told [Talbot] he's in, to enjoy it," Vigneault said. "He's obviously been waiting for this opportunity a long time and he's played real well so far this year at our training camp and in Hartford [American Hockey League], so he's ready for this opportunity."
Flyers: When the Flyers signed Vincent Lecavalier in July, one of the interesting thoughts was shifting Lecavalier, who has played center for his entire 14-season NHL career, to the wing to get Lecavalier and Claude Giroux on the same line.
Lecavalier is questionable for the game Thursday due to a lower-body injury, but in practice Tuesday he skated at right wing on the top line, alongside Giroux and left wing Michael Raffl.
"It was my first time in my career that I played the wing," Lecavalier said. "But I really comfortable on the right side and I feel there are more plays I can do playing on the off wing. Playing with [Giroux], he's a special player. He's a guy who can get you the puck. I thought things went well today."
"I thought they looked really good," coach Craig Berube said.
The change to the first line had a trickle-down effect on the other three lines, including Brayden Schenn going back to center between Tye McGinn and Jakub Voracek. Sean Couturier centered the third line, flanked by Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read, while Adam Hall was at center on the fourth line, between Maxime Talbot and Zac Rinaldo.
The staying power of those lines, however, depends on Lecavalier's availability for Thursday.
Who's hot: Rangers center Brad Richards has rebounded from a rough 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs to enter Thursday leading the team with seven points. He has four of the team's 11 goals this season. … Despite his 1-5-0 record, Flyers goalie Steve Mason has been solid with a 2.37 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
Injury report: Besides Lundqvist, the Rangers are missing Carl Hagelin (shoulder), Ryan Callahan (thumb) and Rick Nash (head). … Flyers forward Scott Hartnell is out with an upper-body injury.
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