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NHL New York Rangers

New York Rangers Face Biggest Test of Season vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports

For the New York Rangers, the most important game of their season looms Wednesday night against the rival Philadelphia Flyers.

The Rangers struggled following the Olympic break, posting only nine points in their first ten games. Following a 1-0 shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks, the team’s playoff prospects were in peril. The Rangers were in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and questions arose as to whether or not the team had what is takes to make the playoffs.

Since that game, the Rangers are 4-0-0, earning critical road divisional wins against the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, thrusting their way back into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Now comes the major test. Wednesday night, they face the Philadelphia Flyers, arguably the NHL‘s hottest team right now and a team one point behind the Rangers in the Metropolitan with two games in hand.

This is a very tall task for the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. They will go in without their rookie stud, Chris Kreider, who will miss more than a month with a broken hand. They will see the NHL’s hottest player, Claude Giroux, who has single-handedly willed the Flyers to the forefront of the division. He will be leading the usual Philadelphia agitators onto the ice such as Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell. If the Rangers cannot match their intensity and physicality, it may be a long night on Broadway. Expect things to get very chippy early.

The Rangers have a chance to validate their recent winning streak with this game. It also may be a first-round playoff preview.

If the Rangers fail to record two points in this game, is it fatal to their postseason prospects? Absolutely not. However, if they have any ambition of finishing in second place and getting home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs, then it behooves the Rangers to win this one.

Should the Rangers fail, they will fall behind the Flyers in the standings with the Flyers having two games in hand.

Matt Stillwell is a New York Rangers contributor for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattNYR12, “like” him on Facebook and connect with him on Google Plus for all NYR news and notes!