Longtime Tampa teammates, friends Lecavalier, St. Louis set to face off

Vincent Lecavalier (left) and Martin St. Louis, seen here in 2010 during their time with the...

Vincent Lecavalier (left) and Martin St. Louis, seen here in 2010 during their time with the Lightning, will face each other as the Flyers take on the Rangers during the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs. (QMI Agency/Files)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:56 PM ET

NEW YORK - For more than a decade, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were the faces of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise.

But tonight, the longtime linemates who helped the Lightning capture the Stanley Cup in 2004 will be facing off against one another as the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers meet in Game 1 of a first-round Stanley Cup playoff game at Madison Square Garden.

“I’ve known him for a long time obviously — we go back to ‘94, playing high school together and then junior and then the NHL, it’s going to be fun to play against him, for sure,” said Lecavalier, who was bought out by the Lightning at the end of last summer and signed with the Flyers as a free agent.

St. Louis, meanwhile, joined the Rangers at the NHL trade deadline in a deal that sent Ryan Callahan back the other way.

“He was a great teammate,” said St. Louis. “He’s a pretty big physical presence and uses his body pretty well. Having him on the other side is going to be a little bit different but I’m used to it now, playing this year against him.”

Although they kept in touch during the season, neither player has reached out to the other going into this playoff series.

Going into Game 1, there’s plenty of talk about how the role players on both teams could have an impact on the series, especially those who can get under the skin of their opponent while avoiding undisciplined penalties.

“(The Flyers) play hard and we’ve got to make sure we play hard against them, make sure we’re finishing our checks, wearing their guys down as much as they’re going to try to do it to us,” said Rangers winger Derek Dorsett, who will play alongside Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle in Game 1. “It’s going to be an intense series, an emotional series and we’ve got to be ready for it. That’s a fun way to play. But you can’t get too high. You find that line and not not cross it.”

Playing a physical game is definitely part of the Flyers’ game plan.

“It’s huge, especially for their top players who will be playing a lot of minutes,” said Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. “If we can get pucks in deep and grind down their D, it will be beneficial to us. It might not work out in the first game or the second game, but as you get later on in the series, maybe guys are going to be tired and they’re not going to want to go back and get the puck and maybe it does make a difference.”

The Rangers have won eight consecutive games against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden, but you know what they say about stats at this time of the season.

“It doesn’t matter now,” said Rangers Brian Boyle.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube said veteran goalie Ray Emery is up for the challenge of filling in for injured starter Steve Mason, who is out with an undisclosed upper-body injury that is suspected to be a concussion.

“(Emery) has won a Cup (as the backup for the Chicago Blackhawks last season) and he went to the finals with Ottawa (in 2007). He’s played a lot of good hockey and he’s played a lot of good hockey this year for us,” said Berube. “I’ve put him in different situations this year, more on the road early on and he’s responded really well. Like I said, Ray has won a lot of big games over his career, he’s got a lot of experience and he really enjoys the challenge.”

As for Mason, Berube said he’s making progress and will meet the team in New York on Friday, though he’s not sure if he’ll be ready to play in Game 2 on Sunday.

For the Rangers, winger Jesper Fast skipped the morning skate for what head coach Alain Vigneault called maintenance but he’s expected to play in Game 1.

Puck drop is slated for just after 7 p.m. ET and here are the projected lineups for both teams:

Rangers

Martin St. Louis-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash
Mats Zuccarello-Derick Brassard-Benoit Pouliot
Carl Hagelin-Brad Richards-Jesper Fast
Brian Boyle-Dominic Moore-Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Anton Stralman
John Moore-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist
Cam Talbot

Flyers

Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Jason Akeson
Zac Rinaldo-Vincent Lecavalier-Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen-Braydon Coburn
Andrew MacDonald-Luke Schenn
Mark Streit-Nicklas Grossmann

Ray Emery
Cal Heeter


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