The Philadelphia Flyers will take to the ice in Minnesota tonight to face the Wild for the second-straight game. They came away with a tough loss on Saturday night, and will look to get back at the Wild in Minnesota.
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and what to watch for in tonight’s game.
Break through in a revenge game
It’s rare that you’ll get two games against a Western Conference team within the same week, like the Flyers already had with the Blackhawks, and it’s even rarer when it’s two straight games for both teams. The Wild visited Philadelphia on Saturday night, and both teams have had two days off prior to tonight’s game in Minnesota.
The Flyers were able to revenge their loss in Chicago with a win at home, and they hope they can do the reverse against the Wild, with a loss at home on Saturday night as they hope for a win tonight in Minnesota. They seemed to be able to adjust a bit to the Blackhawks’ system, and got three quick goals on the board before letting up a bit in the second half of the game. They’re going to need to make more than just minor adjustments if they hope to beat the Wild.
Minnesota completely clogged up the middle of the ice for the Flyers, and when the Flyers did get opportunities through the middle it seemed like their passes were just a tad off. With a day off on Sunday, then practice on Monday, the Flyers had a chance to look at the tape and work on a few things. Hopefully that will be enough to get past the Wild.
The key to getting that revenge win against the Wild will be breaking through their defensive shell. The Flyers had no problem getting perimeter shots off, as their shot chart was littered with attempts from the point, but they could not get enough quality chances on Saturday. They had 61 shot attempts in total, but only 32 hit the net. They only managed 20 scoring chances, to the Wild’s 21, and just had seven high-danger chances, to the Wild’s 10.
The Flyers are going to have to break through the Wild’s wall to come away with two points in tonight’s revenge game.
Pressure on the power play
The Flyers had three chances during Saturday night’s game to get on the board with a power-play goal, but they came up empty. It’s becoming a trend over the past few weeks, as the Flyers are just 1-for-16 on the power play over their past five games.
Scoring on the man-advantage can turn the tide of a game and it will be key tonight. Minnesota deserves credit for their highly ranked penalty kill, as their 84.5% kill rate is the seventh best in the league, but the Flyers’ top unit will need to break through with a goal to help them to two points tonight.
The Flyers have had some scoring chances with the extra man over the past week, but not much has come from it. Getting one into the back of the net will open the floodgates. It only takes one.
Middle-six mix up
With depth scoring being an issue for the Flyers, and the middle-six failing to generate anything in the past few games, Dave Hakstol has switched things up. Rather than hoping the same two middle lines will be able to change their recent fate, Hakstol is trying to spark something, anything, to get goal scoring from a forward outside of the top line.
The only two lines to remain the same are the top line, and the fourth line.
The top line has been the heart of the Flyers this season. When they are pumping, generating chances, and scoring, the Flyers are going good. When they’ve been held off the scoresheet, well, the rest of the team seems to fold underneath them.
The Honey Bees are going to keep buzzing as well. They have yet to breakthrough for a goal since Scott Laughton’s two (one shorthanded) in the home opener, but they bring the energy each night. They’ve come close to scoring in recent games, especially Michael Raffl, and the puck will bounce their way soon.
The other two lines are interesting, to say the least. Wayne Simmonds is the lone forward remaining on the second line, as he gets a new left winger in Dale Weise, and a new center in Jordan Weal. Yes, that’s second-line center Jordan Weal.
Weal has played wing for the Flyers this season, but was a center in his all-star season last year with the Phantoms. He came up through juniors and the AHL as a versatile center that could switch to wing, and putting him back in the middle could spark something. He and Simmonds have definitely shown chemistry in the past, as they are both good along the wall and can battle to the front of the net. Weise has been one of the Flyers’ worst forwards this season, but he’ll get a crack on the second line. Hopefully he can help push play and get the puck to his skilled linemates.
Travis Konecny gets bumped back down to the third line, but he remains with centerman Valtteri Filppula. They are joined by Jori Lehtera on the left side. All three of these guys have played with each other at some point, with Filppula and Lehtera helping set up Simmonds’ late game-winner against Edmonton a few weeks ago. Konecny is a catalyst that can use his speed, while Filppula can facilitate through the middle and Lehtera can clog up the wing.
It’s not an ideal middle-six, obviously, but Hakstol has to do something to try to get the offense going. Weal and Simmonds are the main cogs on the second line, and you could see Weise and Konecny swapped if things don’t go well early on. A line of those three (Konecny – Weal – Simmonds) would truly give the Flyers a top line, a second line, and then two fourth lines with a line of Lehtera – Filppula – Weise as their third line.
Nolan Patrick returning would help things, and he is traveling with the team. He is nearing a return and could make it as soon as Thursday night in his hometown of Winnipeg.
Projected forward lines
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Jake Voracek
Taylor Leier – Scott Laughton – Michael Raffl
Healthy Scratch: Matt Read
Injured: Nolan Patrick (upper-body, day-to-day)
Lock down the D
Once again the Flyers have some consistency on the blue line. These pairs will be together for the third-straight game. Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg are settling in together as a decent top pair, Shayne Gostisbehere is driving play on defense with Brandon Manning, and Travis Sanheim is really coming into his own in the NHL as he’s alongside Radko Gudas.
The defense has not been the issue over the past few games. The Flyers gave up a fluke goal on Saturday night, and a goal off a blocked shot on Thursday night. These six have done a good job over the past two games. That should continue tonight against a Wild team that lacks firepower upfront, as we saw on Saturday.
Projected defensive pairs
Ivan Provorov – Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere – Brandon Manning
Travis Sanheim – Radko Gudas
Healthy Scratch: Mark Alt
Injured: Andrew MacDonald (lower-body, 1-2 weeks)
Taking the Moose by the horns
Brian Elliott has found a groove and he’s taking the bull by the horns in the Flyers’ crease. He will make his third-straight start on Tuesday night, coming off of two great performances.
He was fantastic in a tough 1-0 loss on Saturday against the Wild and great on Thursday in a 3-1 win against the Blackhawks. In his start before that he was good as well, in a 2-0 loss in Chicago. He has stopped 96 of 100 shots over his past three starts.
Elliott has been sound positionally and more importantly hasn’t given up many rebound chances recently. He seems to be adapting well to the Flyers’ defensive system and hopefully he can keep it going tonight.
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