Rangers expect nasty reception
CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
PHILADELPHIA - The environment for the fifth Winter Classic Monday will be unlike anything most of the players have experienced.
Except for one thing.
The New York Rangers know what kind of reception they are going to get from Flyers fans, who will be about 45,000 strong at Citizens Bank Park.
"We got booed today by the people cleaning the seats," said New York Rangers centre Brad Richards. "I can't imagine it will be any different (Monday).
"It's fun. It's part of the privilege and joy of what we get to do and be part of this, be part of sports. That's why we get to play is because of the fans, because of people that care. Even if they were working, they're still caring about booing us. It's great."
The Rangers entered Saturday's games at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 23-9-4 record, just two points ahead of the Flyers.
They are one of the youngest teams in the league and have established a hard-on-the-puck identity backed by the great goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers have had a strong year despite starting with the distraction of playing in Europe to open the regular-season schedule and having the cameras from HBO intrude in their lives for the 24/7 documentary which details the run-up to the Winter Classic.
"Maybe because everything has been a distraction, everything just feels normal," said Richards by way of explaining the Rangers' success. "There's been a lot of them. We're not going to let it bother us, no excuses ... and winning helps everything and that's another example."
Lundqvist made his feelings towards the Flyers clear.
"I don't like them, but in a good way," he said with a smile. "I like to play teams that I really don't like. They're a skilled group. I respect them for that."