The Philadelphia Flyers are prepared to come out of the bye week on a three-game winning streak and are looking for more. A rivalry game between a longtime opponent, a first matchup in a budding rivalry of its own, and a chance to continue climbing up the Metropolitan Division are all storylines that begin on Saturday evening in New Jersey.
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and five things to watch for in tonight’s game.
A rivalry renewed with an injection of youth
Tonight will be the first time that the No. 1 and No. 2 overall selections from the 2017 NHL Draft will face each other. Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick are set to give their Nico-Nolan debate a new chapter as they take the ice together for the first time this season. It has injected some life into the division rivalry, especially with the Flyers struggling against the Devils in recent memory. Frustrations have boiled over with fights in almost every one of the last few meetings between the teams – Brandon Manning, Dale Weise, Radko Gudas, and Taylor Leier have all been involved in scrums, fights, and some rough stuff since last season.
Riding streaks into the second half
The Flyers find themselves on a three-game winning streak with a chance to make it four if they can win in New Jersey this evening. The Devils themselves are riding a brutal five-game losing streak, but are still the third-best team in the division at the moment. The Flyers did a lot of great things since coming out of the Christmas break. Put two clunkers to the Panthers and Penguins aside, the Flyers have battled some tough opponents and really given themselves some momentum that can hopefully carry over into the break. Philadelphia sits just six points out of the Devils’ spot in the Metropolitan Division and are looking to continue creeping up the standings. This is the perfect chance for them to jump on a reeling team and create more momentum moving forward.
Back with the same lineup
The Flyers recalled forward Tyrell Goulbourne from Lehigh Valley on Friday so that he could practice with the team for the first time after their bye week. Goulbourne was sent down after Sunday’s game so that he could practice with the Phantoms this week to keep himself fresh and ready to go for Saturday night. He will hope to get more than limited time on the ice Saturday night. He’s played well in his brief time this season and is hungry for more.
Philadelphia is hoping that Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, and Jake Voracek can continue their strong stretch of hockey into the second half of the season. The top line’s production points to a possible breakout second half from Travis Konecny, who has played well on Couturier and Giroux’s unit. The Flyers are hoping to get more out of Jordan Weal, Nolan Patrick, and Wayne Simmonds – despite the fact that they’ve had strong games out of the Christmas break. That line could really be a difference maker for the Flyers if they can continue their strong stretch of hockey prior to the bye week.
They need to continue controlling the puck in the other end and come out with a ton of energy once again.
Projected forward lines
Michael Raffl – Valtteri Filppula – Jake Voracek
Jori Lehtera – Scott Laughton – Tyrell Goulbourne
An ill Ghost
The most-improved defenseman on the Flyers has to be Shayne Gostisbehere and it’s not even close. Ghost is among the league leaders in points by a defenseman, but he’s also improved his two-way game, making him a more-reliable defender this season. Pairing him with Ivan Provorov has really given the team a look at their future on the blue line and a possible top unit for years to come. Ghost and Provy are looking to solidify the top unit for the Orange and Black out of the bye week.
Gostisbehere could be a game-time decision, given the fact that he missed Friday’s practice because of sickness and Saturday’s morning skate as well. If he isn’t able to go, Travis Sanheim will take his place in the lineup and Robert Hagg will play alongside Provorov. The good news is that Sanheim will be paired with Radko Gudas. When both players are together in the lineup, they’re one of the better play-driving units in the league. The bad new is that Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning will be paired together, which could cause for some brutal breakdowns defensively.
Projected defensive pairs
Ivan Provorov – Robert Hägg
Brandon Manning – Andrew MacDonald
Travis Sanheim – Radko Gudas
Ill: Shayne Gostisbehere
Moose out of the break
Head coach Dave Hakstol will give the nod to Brian Elliott, who has earned the right as the team’s no. 1 goalie moving forward. Michal Neuvirth did play well in the team’s previous win over the Sabres, but it looks like Elliott will get the first start out of the bye week.
Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. in New Jersey.
Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images
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