The last time the Flyers played the Rangers at Madison Square Garden a little more than a month ago, they left with a 3-2 victory and steam coming from their ears, strongly suggesting that a violation of hockey's unspoken code of justice would be rectified next time the two clubs met.
Well, next time has arrived. The Flyers and Rangers go at it Sunday in a matinee that will be shown on NBC10 at 12:30 p.m.
In the second period of that Jan. 16 night, Sean Avery decided to use Matt Carle's face as a punching bag. Avery dropped Carle to the ice and continued pounding him when the defenseman was down. In five seasons in the league, Carle had never been involved in a fight.
"I really didn't know what was going on," Carle said following the game. "I had the jersey wrapped over my head and the next thing I know I'm getting punched in the face. That's the kind of player he is."
Carle said Flyers enforcer Jody Shelley was seething over the incident between periods.
"I know Jody was pretty upset between periods with what happened," he said. "We'll see what happens."
The hockey code of justice says tough guys deal with tough guys. The Flyers viewed what Avery did as a cowardly act. You don't go after unsuspecting pacifists. But in the third period, when the Flyers struggled to protect their lead, Shelley used discretion rather than try to exact revenge. Afterward, Shelly indicated he was biding his time.
"I didn't like the way it went down," Shelly said. "But you know he's going to try to suck you in. It was a 3-0 game and I didn't want to take a penalty."
Asked how much restraint it took that prevented him from duking it out with Avery, Shelley said, "A lot."
Sunday's game concludes a four-game road trip for the Flyers, who defeated Tampa Bay and Florida before losing, 3-2, at Carolina on Friday.
Captain Mike Richards was a last-minute scratch because of flulike symptoms, but Paul Holmgren said Saturday that Richards was feeling better and able to eat and that he is probable to play.
Center Blair Betts, an ace at penalty killing, left the game in the second period with a badly cut ring finger on his left hand, the result of a slap shot. He is doubtful, Holmgren said.
"They really had to do a pretty big stitch job on him," the GM said.
After the last meeting with the Rangers, Laviolette said that several players were willing to settle the score with Avery, but that the Rangers winger was not interested.
"We had a lot of guys who wanted to have a little dance with Avery," said Laviolette, who gave the team off Saturday. "We had a lot of guys that wanted to do it, but he just didn't want to respond."
Notes. Betts scored a shorthanded goal prior to his injury, giving the Flyers the league lead in shorthanded goals with 10. Betts has also been the club's top face-off man in the eight games since the all-star break, winning an impressive 64.7 percent (55 of 85) of the draws. . . . Richards had played in 169 consecutive games dating back to Feb. 8, 2009. . . . The Flyers remain first in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of Pittsburgh. . . . The Rangers are coming off Friday's 1-0 loss to the surging New Jersey Devils.