Rangers host Flyers in Winter Classic preview

In a little over a month, the Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers will square off in the league's annual Winter Classic.

The two teams engage in the first of a pair of encounters in New York this afternoon before the big game looking to pick up some early momentum in the series.

The Flyers were selected to host the Rangers at Citizens Bank Park, home of baseball's Philadelphia Phillies, on Jan. 2 in what is sure to be a heated rivalry in the cold winter's air.

Today, the two franchises meet for the first time this season and the Rangers will also host the Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23, a little over a week before the Winter Classic.

Philadelphia had won five in a row over New York before losing the final two meetings last year, including a 7-0 thumping when the teams last met in New York on March 6. Ryan Callahan had four goals for his first career hat trick and Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves to post the shutout.

Callahan had three assists in yesterday's 6-3 win over the Washington Capitals, while Lundqvist made 18 saves. Ruslan Fedotenko led the attack with two goals.

"I thought in both areas we forechecked better and I thought our back pressure was much better also," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. "I thought we were up in fives and back in fives. We scored some timely goals and it was one of our better games out of the past four or five."

Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle and Brad Richards also scored for the Rangers, who avoided a third loss in a row by winning for the eighth time in 10 games.

New York also split a four-game road trip and plays its next two at home, where it has won five in a row.

The Rangers return to MSG without Andre Deveaux, who was suspended for three games on Friday for an elbow to the head on Florida's Tomas Fleischmann on Wednesday. He serves the second game of that ban today.

The Flyers were also in action on Friday afternoon and they posted a 3-1 home win over the Canadiens. Claude Giroux continued his excellent season with a pair of goals, giving him four tallies and 10 points in his past six games.

Giroux, expected to help on the scoring end after the offseason trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, is second in the league with 13 goals and 29 points this season. Pittsburgh's James Neal also has 13 goals.

"I think this year he's really spread his wings," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. "It goes back to the playoffs two years ago, he really started to come out and really show what he's capable of doing on the ice. Last year he was consistently one of our top forwards and now he's consistently one of the top forwards in the league."

Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves and Jakub Voracek scored a goal and assisted on another for Philadelphia, which has won five of seven.

The Flyers hope they are a bit more healthy for the Winter Classic than they will be in today's game. Jaromir Jagr sat out for the third time in four games due to a lower-body injury, while defenseman Chris Pronger missed his third straight due to a virus.

James van Riemsdyk also sat out Friday's win due to an upper-body injury that will sideline him for 1-to-2 weeks, while blueliner Andreas Lilja sustained an ankle injury that is expected to shelve him for six weeks.

Philadelphia kicks off a four-game road trip and is 4-1-1 in six games as the guest this month.