Flyers coach Alain Vigneault and center Kevin Hayes downplayed facing their former team, the New York Rangers, twice this weekend.
The Flyers beat them Friday at the Wells Fargo Center and they will meet again Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Sunday will be the first regular-season game for both men at the Garden since they were employed by the Blueshirts.
“I think Sunday will be a little more emotional going into that arena, but like I said earlier, if this was in October, I think it would have a different kind of emotion than it does now,” Hayes said after the morning skate Friday. “We’re both in the playoff hunt, and, honestly, if I was a little selfish, I’d make it about myself.”
He won’t, of course.
“Maybe the first shift [Sunday] will be a little emotional, but I think it will be just another game,” said Hayes, who spent parts of five seasons with the Rangers before being traded to Winnipeg last February for Brendan Lemieux, a first-round pick, and a conditional fourth-rounder.
“I think the biggest part about the next two games is the two points each night,” Hayes added.
In the Flyers’ 5-1 over the visiting Blueshirts on Dec. 23, Hayes and Travis Sanheim each had two goals. Hayes scored again Friday in the Flyers’ 5-2 home win.
Hayes, 27, a former Boston College star, was asked if a piece of him was still in New York when he was dealt to the Jets last season.
“I think I’ll always have a piece there,” he said. “It’s kind of where I became a grownup, honestly. I entered as a kid leaving college and I entered into New York City and the management there and the people who work behind the scenes, the equipment staff, they kind of helped me shape the person I am today.”
Hayes now has 22 goals, the second-highest total in his career and three away from equaling his personal best, set with the Rangers in 2017-18.
On Sunday, Hayes will have his mom and dad – both are cancer survivors – and his sister and perhaps his brother at the game at the Garden.
“I think it’ll be emotional in pregame warmups, maybe, getting back to MSG. But once the puck drops, it’s just another two points” you think about, Hayes said.
The Rangers’ Tony DeAngelo grew up across the river in Sewell as a Flyers fan. The 24-year-old defenseman is having a career year with 13 goals, 47 points, and a plus-13 rating.