The 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is set to begin on January 2, 2012 at 1 PM EST, and will showcase one of the most heated rivalries in NHL history: the Philadelphia Flyers versus the New York Rangers. This historic event will be hosted in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, at Citizens Bank Park.
Obviously, the Flyers will have home-ice, or should I say, home-field advantage.
As it looks right now, the Philadelphia Flyers are not exactly playing their best hockey. The Flyers already lost to the New York Rangers both times that they've played them this season, and have lost their captain and All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger for the remainder of the season.
On top of that, the Flyers are already 0-1 in Winter Classics—not that it really means much.
The Flyers aren't the only team missing an important piece on the blue line, however. The Rangers are currently without the services of Marc Staal. While Staal has made strides in his recovery from his concussion symptoms 10 months ago, it is still uncertain whether he will play in the Winter Classic.
He was recently cleared for contact, and I expect him to play if he's feeling better (via the Wall Street Journal).
As it now stands, the New York Rangers are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference with 48 points—one behind Boston. The Flyers aren't far behind, however—currently sitting in fourth place with 46 points, so it's still a pretty tight race for the top spot.
Luckily for Philadelphia, they're starting to get healthy at just the right time. If you asked me a few weeks ago whether this team was ready for the Winter Classic, I probably wouldn't have had many positive things to say.
After all, they've lost multiple players on their roster in the past month—most notable Claude Giroux—who recovered from his concussion fairly well and got right back into game action.
Who do you think will win the 2012 Winter Classic?
Rookie forward Brayden Schenn (concussion), is now back in the lineup, along with Danny Briere (bruised hand), Andreas Lilja (high-ankle sprain) and the Flyers may even have Sean Couturier (mild concussion) back by Thursday's game against Pittsburgh.
Erik Gustafsson (wrist) is also making progress.
One thing is certain: It will be a hard-fought game, and I expect to see plenty of big hits and physical play. These two teams don't like each other very much, and I don't expect the Flyers to show much brotherly love when they step onto the ice on January 2.
So, what do you think will be the outcome?
Will the Flyers win their first game against the New York Rangers this season? Or will the Rangers continue their recent dominance of Philadelphia and upset the Flyers in their second and quite possibly final Winter Classic appearance for years to come?
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