The Philadelphia Flyers ended their losing streak on Monday night, and now they’ll look to keep on their winning ways as they take on the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday night.
The Flyers have already taken care of business with the Oilers once this season, and they’ll look to keep things rolling here tonight.
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and five things to watch for in tonight’s game.
Going for the two-game sweep
It’s only early December, but the Flyers are already wrapping up their two-game sets with a handful of Western Conference teams. In fact, all three teams the Flyers play this week (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) are teams that they have already hosted in Philadelphia.
Unlike Calgary and Vancouver, the Flyers beat Edmonton last month and they’re looking for the two-game sweep of the season series tonight. Last game was a 2-1 final with Wayne Simmonds scoring the game-winning goal in the final minutes of the third period. Another low scoring affair could be possible due to scoring issues, but both of these teams each scored several goals in their last game. They each beat Calgary with the Flyers winning 5-2, while the Oilers won 7-5.
The Oilers have gone through their fair share of struggles, but have won three of their past four games after a 2-5-1 stretch that included a 1-4-0 skid. Hopefully the Flyers can keep building on Monday night’s win and get the Oilers off track again.
The Flyers will catch a bit of a break with Cam Talbot out tonight. Instead they will face Laurent Brossoit. Talbot is 10-10-1 this season with a .903 save percentage and 3.00 goals against average, but Brossoit is even worse with a 1-4-1 record, .872 SV%, and 3.80 GAA. His lone win came while giving up five goals to Calgary on Saturday. He has given up five or more goals in four of his six starts this season.
This could be just what the doctor ordered to get the Flyers out of their skid for good. They got some good fortune on Monday night as their depth scoring came alive, and a team with defensive problems and a goalie like this could get lit up by the Flyers’ top guns.
Keep the good vibes rolling
The Flyers finally broke through with a win on Monday night, and they’re hoping to keep the good vibes rolling tonight in Edmonton.
After the frustration was evident in their last two home games, the Flyers kept pushing in Calgary and got the win thanks to hard work and a few tweaks. Dave Hakstol tweaked both the lines and the forecheck in a bit of a desperation move during a 10-game losing streak, and it worked to end the streak with a 5-2 win.
The streak had its fair share of bad losses, but in half of the games the Flyers played well enough to win before shooting themselves in the foot late in the game. They kept that hard-working attitude and sticktoitiveness in Calgary, and they hope it can work to string together back-to-back wins here in Canada.
Beating Edmonton would not only sweep the season series, but also get the Flyers back-to-back wins for just the second time this season. The Flyers have been unable to string two wins together since beating the Capitals (8-2) and Panthers (5-1) in their first two home games.
Line mix-up could create matchup problems
In what appeared to be a move made out of desperation, the top line was broken up on Monday night after a few ineffective outings. What was one of the best lines in the league has been dismantled in order to better complement the rest of the lineup. The changes bore fruit nearly immediately as Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton both came alive with multi-point nights on Monday, and Jake Voracek picked up his production after a shutout with three assists.
The top duo of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier remained intact, and they were joined by Wayne Simmonds. Giroux and Couturier have been two of the Flyers best players this season and putting them with Simmonds should help jumpstart the struggling winger. Simmonds came through with a goal on Monday night on the power play, and the line could generate matchup problems especially given the threat of the second line.
On paper the second line doesn’t look all that threatening, but they silenced any doubts pretty quickly. Voracek is a guy that’s great with the puck on his stick and can push play forward while also racking up the points. Raffl is a great two-way forward that drives play and does the little things right. Putting those two on the flanks can definitely improve the play of a guy like Valtteri Filppula. The pass-happy pivot can either be lifted up or exploited by his linemates. When he’s with two bottom-six wingers he doesn’t look that great, but put him with a top-line guy in Voracek and a great play-driver in Raffl and the trio can do some damage.
Unless a team has two strong two-way lines, one of the Flyers’ top two lines should get a favorable matchup. Giroux and Couturier should draw the toughest matchups, which opens up easier assignments for the second line to go to work. It even gives the third line a chance to be sheltered a bit, but that is obviously easier to do on home ice with the last change.
Speaking of the third line, that’s where questions start to crop up. Nolan Patrick has been struggling. Travis Konecny has been great at generating offensive chances, but his defense is still suspect. Dale Weise is a replacement-level bottom-six forward that is getting way too much ice time. Now having said that, Patrick has shown signs of breaking through recently, Konecny has been inches away from scoring, and Weise can’t drag them too much.
The line was benched in the third period on Monday, with Konecny getting zero shifts, Weise getting one where he was hit up high, and Patrick only seeing a minute and a half on the power play. It certainly struggled in the first two periods, which warranted limiting their time, but benching them in a three-goal game is questionable. Hopefully it was just Hakstol going with the guys that had played well in the game as he wasn’t taking any chances at the end of a 10-game losing streak.
The fourth line came the Flyers’ third line on Monday night thanks to a great performance all around. Laughton led the way with two goals, but Taylor Leier was great in his return to the lineup and Jordan Weal showed off his grittiness along the boards. As long as Jori Lehtera remains in the press box, these three fast, two-way forwards should create havoc for the opposition.
Projected forward lines
Healthy Scratch: Jori Lehtera
No Manning vs McDavid matchup
The question was going to be if Connor McDavid would have eyes on Brandon Manning. Manning was a healthy scratch when Edmonton visited Philadelphia, but with Radko Gudas suspended, Manning was supposed to be in the lineup tonight barring any late changes.
Those late changes did occur. Manning was placed on IR, along with Michal Neuvirth. TJ Brennan got the call and could play in his place, though it’ll likely be Mark Alt. The McDavid vs. Manning feud is one of the most overblown storylines for a pair of teams from opposite conferences that hardly have a rivalry. But if it can get under the skin of the Oilers, so be it.
Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald will go to work as the top pair, which Todd McLellan will probably try to keep McDavid away from. They could draw the second line of Patrick Maroon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Michael Cammalleri instead. Ideally you want Provorov on the ice against McDavid as much as possible, and Hakstol will try to do that, but the home team gets to dictate that a bit since they have last change.
Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hägg will likely have a tough matchup as well. They’ve been good together this season so far, and Hagg’s mistakes from Saturday didn’t carry over to Monday. They’re reliable and have been playing good two-way hockey.
Manning has been overused recently, but Gudas’ suspension has left the Flyers with no choice. Hopefully Travis Sanheim can get a chance to show what he can do. Like Konecny (though not to that extent), Sanheim is good offensively but has struggled at times defensively. In the front half of a back-to-back all defensemen will be called upon to answer the bell.
Projected defensive pairs
The Moose is loose while a Lyon waits
Brian Elliott kept the Flyers tied up in the second period after a poor goal in the first, and he was solid the whole way with 43 saves on 45 shots in Calgary. He’ll get the nod again in Edmonton after stopping 23 of the 24 shots they threw his way in Philadelphia, with the lone goal being a weak one from in front.
Elliott has given up a soft goal here and there, but for the most part he has been rock solid. Alex Lyon has been recalled from the Phantoms, he’ll take Michal Neuvirth’s place on the roster and serve as the backup.
Puck drop is set for 9:30 p.m. in Edmonton.
Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images
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