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Injuries could play role in Flyers-Rangers series

Injuries are always a compelling factor in the playoffs and the Rangers have a couple that could impact the series.

While defenseman Ryan McDonagh will make a return after missing the final five games of the season with a left shoulder injury incurred against Vancouver, rookie winger Chris Kreider is a different story.

Kreider, a candidate for the league’s All-Rookie team, missed the last nine games following a left hand injury that was exacerbated against the Flyers in late March even though the original injury occurred days earlier at Columbus.

The biggest injury question mark for the Flyers remains goalie Steve Mason, who appeared to suffer whiplash during a three-man collision Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Flyers coach Craig Berube has said several times that Mason will be ready for Game 1.

Like the Flyers, the Rangers had an off day on Monday and will take the ice Tuesday for practice.

The Rangers’ Brian Boyle probably expressed the overall sentiments of both teams best over the weekend when he said, “We hate each other.”

Marc Staal was a tad more analytic.

“Obviously we know each other very well,” the Rangers' defenseman said. “The games are always tight, the games are always tense. But the playoffs are a whole different ballgame. It is an advantage to play at home. But whoever we got, we got. It's better than not playing.”

One of the interesting statistical trade-offs will concern special teams. The Flyers finished in the top 10 in both power play (19.7 percent for eighth) and penalty kill (84.8 percent for seventh).

The Flyers were first in road power play (25.2 percent).

The Rangers were third in penalty kill (85.3 percent) but just 15th in power play (18.2 percent).

“Obviously Philly we play a lot and we know what they're about,” Brad Richards said. “One thing is they have a dangerous power play so discipline is going to be one key. They've played a certain way to get into the playoffs. They're not going to change.”

After Sunday’s season-ending shootout loss to Carolina, the Flyers talked about the need to limit unforced turnovers against the Rangers as a key to having success, especially at Madison Square Garden, where the Flyers have not won in eight consecutive games.

“They’re obviously a really good team,” Flyer defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “No question about it, they’re going to be favored. We have to be smart. We go in there, we have to play a smart road game. Not turn the puck over.

“The last few games we’ve played there, we turned the puck over too many times and they’re really quick when you do that and they’re going to score. We just have to be smart. Obviously we know it will be a tough place to play and tough team to play against but I’m really confident about our team.”