The New York Rangers are turning their season around and climbing the ladder in the Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers, who have gone 7-2-1 in their last ten games, now take aim at one of two team's sitting just ahead of them in the division when they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.
New York's recent surge has left it sitting on 49 points -- good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference -- heading into this matchup with the Flyers, who are tied with Washington for second place in the division at 50. First-place Pittsburgh has 66.
Mats Zuccarello has been one of the keys for the Rangers (23-20-3). The winger is tied for the team lead with eight points, including four goals, over the last 10 games.
Zuccarello had an assist and Rick Nash scored the go-ahead goal in a 3-2 victory over Dallas on Friday that opened a four-game homestand. It was the third win in the last four at home for New York, which is 9-10-3 at Madison Square Garden and plays six of its next seven games there.
The Flyers, whose 10-game home winning streak ended with a 6-3 loss against Tampa Bay on Saturday, have won five of their last six on the road. Philadelphia beat the Rangers in the first meeting between the two this season, 2-1 at home on Oct. 24.
"They've been hot, too. We have to expect a tough game, it's an important game, so we all look forward to the challenge," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "Playing Philly, it's a real rivalry. The fans don't really like each other, so as a player you enjoy that. You know it's going to be a great atmosphere.
"It's an important game for both teams if you look at the standings right now. We need to be really smart with the puck."
Philadelphia has been strong defensively of late, especially when undermanned. The Flyers have killed 22 straight penalties spanning the last seven games. The last power-play goal the Flyers allowed came on Dec. 28.
Steve Mason has been in net for much of that time, though the team's starting goalie was pulled for Ray Emery after two periods in the loss to the Lightning. Mason allowed five goals in the first 40 minutes.
"I wasn't very good," he admitted afterward. "Need to be better than that."
The Flyers' penalty kill will be challenged against the Rangers, who rank in the top 10 in the NHL with a 21.3 power-play percentage. New York has been even more efficient in that department lately, scoring at least once with the man advantage in each of the last four games and converting on 34.8 percent of its chances since Dec. 29.
"The (penalty kill) has been strong all year and really done their job, so it's nice to have the power play catch up to that. If we can keep that going, it takes some pressure off the 5-on-5 game," said New York center Brad Richards. "I don't like to talk about it really, but the puck is going in right now. Hopefully it stays. We've got a good structure, guys are willing to out-work penalty killers."
The Rangers have won six straight against the Flyers in New York, outscoring their longtime rivals 24-7 in those games. Philadelphia has not won at the Garden since a 4-2 victory on Feb. 20, 2011.