(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of struggling division rivals meet Thursday in the City of Brotherly Love, as the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers in a Metropolitan Division clash at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers and Rangers had a long-standing rivalry as members of the old Atlantic Division, but Thursday's contest is the first between the clubs since they joined the Metropolitan Division as part of the NHL's realignment plan for the 2013-14 season.
The Rangers won three of five meetings against the Flyers last season, but Philadelphia claimed two of the three encounters on its home ice. New York has won 11 of the past 13 overall matchups in this series.
The two rivals are currently occupying the bottom two spots in the division, as the 2-5-0 Rangers are two points ahead of the last-place Flyers, who are 1-7-0 and off to the worst start in franchise history.
Philadelphia has lost four straight in regulation since winning its only game of the season on Oct. 8 against visiting Florida. However, the Flyers enter Thursday's game well rested, having not played since last Thursday's 4-1 home setback against Pittsburgh.
Wayne Simmonds scored the only goal for Philadelphia in last Thursday's loss. As a team, the Flyers have managed only 11 goals this season. Steve Mason continued his solid play in net, making 31 stops for Philadelphia.
Philly hopes to get a boost Thursday from the probable return of forward Vincent Lecavalier, who has sat out the last three games with a lower-body issue. Lecavalier, a natural centerman, played right wing alongside centerman Claude Giroux at practice on Tuesday and he could take on that role if he's able to go Thursday against the Rangers.
"It was my first time in my career that I played the wing," Lecavalier told the Flyers official website after Tuesday's practice. "But, I'm really comfortable on the right side and I feel there are more plays I can do playing on the off wing. Playing with (Claude Giroux), he's a special player. He's a guy who can get you the puck. I thought things went well today."
Lecavalier, who signed a five-year deal with Philadelphia over the summer, has one goal and two assists in five games. Giroux has three assists, but has yet to score a goal in eight contests.
Flyers winger Scott Hartnell, who also has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, has been skating but is questionable for Thursday. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen (lower body) also is questionable for tonight.
Meanwhile, the Rangers, who are already missing captain Ryan Callahan (broken thumb) and top offensive weapon Rick Nash (concussion), will be forced to play without star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on Thursday.
Lundqvist is suffering from an undisclosed injury and was coming off a poor performance in New York's last game, a 4-0 setback Saturday against New Jersey. The former Vezina Trophy winner allowed the Devils to score four goals on just 19 shots.
"I just need to come up with more saves and give the team a little more confidence," a dejected Lundqvist said after the loss to the Devils. "It's tough to get the game going as a team when you fall behind like that."
With Lundqvist's former backup Martin Biron having announced his retirement earlier this week, rookie goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to make his NHL debut on Thursday. Jason Missaien has been recalled from Hartford of the AHL to serve as Talbot's backup.
The Rangers are nearing the end of an epic, season-opening nine-game road trip. After tonight's tilt in Philadelphia, New York will head to Detroit on Saturday before finally playing its first game of the season at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden on Tuesday against Montreal.