Ryan McDonagh and Wayne Simmonds will be jostling in front of the net all series long. Credit: Getty Images
Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size, specifically as it pertains to the real estate in front of Henrik Lundqvist.
"We obviously have to play tight coverage in our zone," Anton Stralman said of thhe Rangers' defensemen when asked about the Flyer forwards propensity to create traffic. "Really pack it in and make sure we have numbers in front of [Lundqvist] and ready to box it. They're a strong team going in there, and they have some big forwards [who] like to play [down low]. The key is always going to be to always have support, if one [gets] burned in the corner we still need more guys in there that can help out."
Stralman disagreed the strategy would limit the opportunities for the Rangers defensemen to move the puck and join the rush.
"I don't necessarily think so," Stralman said. "Our game is playing fast and outnumbering [the opposition] when we have the chance. If the puck is stuck in the corner, make sure we get there quick and breakout clean from that. That way we can limit their offense. Obviously in the neutral zone we have to get through clear and not [commit] any bad turnovers."
Work has had its rewards for Andrew MacDonald.
The former Islanders defenseman signed a five-year, $30 million extension with the Flyers Tuesday. Had he not signed, MacDonald was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Instead, he is set to be a key cog on the Philadelphia back end for the foreseeable future.
"Philly was a great spot," MacDonald said after the Flyers' morning skate at the Garden prior to Game 1 of the Metropolitan Division semifinal series Thursday night. "A great fit for me. I think it's obviously great to get rewarded for the work you put in over the years, and I think the Islanders gave me a great opportunity to establish myself. It was a little bit longer than I would have liked with [his first contract with the Islanders] but it gave me lots of opportunity to show what I can do. I really appreciate the [opportunity]."
The Flyers acquired MacDonald from the Islanders on March 4 for a package that included prospect Matt Mangene, a 2014 third-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick.
MacDonald was expecting a trade, and that he was dealt to a team he was familiar with--including former Islanders teammate Mark Streit--has made the adjustment easier.
"Things have been going pretty well," MacDonald said. "I'm pretty familiar with the team and obviously playing with Mark makes the transition a little bit easier, you know a guy in the room and I knew a couple of the other guys, too, just from weddings throughout the summer. Obviously the familiarity can help, but they put me in a good situation to do well and [head coach Craig Berube] did a great job of getting me prepared, showing me the systems."
Fast doesn't practice
Right wing Jesper Fast did not participate in the Rangers' morning skate, due to what head coach Alain Vigneault termed "maintenance." In the three games he has played with the Rangers since being called up on April 7, Fast has been on a line with Brad Richards and Carl Hagelin.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.