The Philadelphia Flyers return to the Wells Fargo Center to host the Calgary Flames, who are coming off a brutal 8-2 loss against the Detroit Red Wings. Philadelphia is coming off a tough loss of their own, blowing a two-goal lead and eventually spoiling stellar performances from the top line and their goaltender in a shootout.
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and what to watch for in tonight’s game.
The Flyers’ bottom-nine forwards have been extremely inept of late. It has been 263:23 since any player not named Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, or Sean Couturier have scored a goal for the Orange and Black. Plain and simple, the Flyers need more out of Travis Konecny and Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds is really the biggest surprise. The excitement for his potentially great season has been overshadowed by lingering injuries, inability to put the puck in the net of late, and crucially bad penalties. The veteran forward hasn’t scored in 11 games.
Simmonds’ 5v5 play has also struggled, mainly because his linemates aren’t doing anything to produce. Travis Konecny has been a shell of himself after a promising preseason and start to the year. He’s become extremely pass-happy and doesn’t look confident with his shot. He had a golden chance to end things in the overtime period on Thursday, but missed a wide open shot. The sophomore forward’s struggles aren’t the only on the middle-six, but they’re the most glaring outside of Simmonds and the fourth line.
An old friend and a local
Old friend and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr comes back to town with South Jersey-native Johnny Gaudreau. The two forwards come to town looking to avenge their 8-2 rout to the Detroit Red Wings.
‘Johnny Hockey’ has been a force for the 10-8-0 Flames, recording 26 points in 18 games. Jagr has been the most impressed by the small forward. “I’ve never played with a guy this small,” he joked. “The league is different and [Gaudreau] is a very special guy. He proves it night after night, the way he creates chances for himself, teammates, and linemates, it’s pretty impressive.”
Jagr has just five points in nine games, but has always played well in Philadelphia. Look out for both players on Saturday afternoon.
Bigger dose of Patrick
The Flyers got a young jolt in their lineup on Thursday during their shootout loss to the Jets. Nolan Patrick returned from an upper-body injury for the first time in over three. Despite saying he felt good enough to play in games prior, the organization took their time and handled his injury with extreme care – leading to the notion that Patrick did indeed have a concussion.
Patrick played a team-low 7:58 of ice time (Radko Gudas played 2:33 before getting a game misconduct) and had an eight-minute gap in between shifts during the third period. He did come out on the ice with less than seven minutes left in regulation, but wouldn’t see the ice in the last five minutes of the game. He also has a 10-minute gap between shifts in the first period, but a reminder that because of Gudas’ misconduct, the team was killing a five-minute major.
I would expect Patrick to get a heavier load on Saturday against Calgary. He was willing enough to be physical along the end boards during his short shifts and can definitely bring a jolt on PP2. The Flyers are really struggling on the man-advantage. Getting a player like Patrick back on the second unit could help them reestablish the behind-the-net presence they had at season’s start.
Projected forward lines
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Jake Voracek
Travis Konecny – Valtteri Filppula – Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier – Scott Laughton – Jori Lehtera
Healthy Scratch: Matt Read
Injured: Jordan Weal (upper-body, day-to-day)
Young D getting more action
We’ve seen it before freak incidents, but when Radko Gudas was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his hit on Mathieu Perreault, Dave Hakstol went to his three-youngest defensemen to help limit the damage and be impactful on the penalty kill. That will continue with Gudas out indefinitely.
Gudas will have a hearing on Sunday, and cannot play until after that. This game will count towards his suspension, however. Mark Alt figures to get into the lineup today, as the Phantoms played in Quebec last night.
Travis Sanheim’s performance has vastly improved since his horrendous first week as a NHLer. He continues to learn game-by-game of where to be on the ice at specific times and he’s being rewarded for it. Hakstol has trusted his young defenseman to step up and work on the penalty kill. He logged nearly three minutes of PK time for the Flyers and was impactful in helping kill off the major penalty.
Robert Hägg, though the advanced metrics say otherwise, has been very good on the penalty kill and has been getting players off the puck with great hits in his own zone. Hakstol has seemed very confident to keep Hagg in the lineup and get him as much experience killing penalties as the season has gone along. His play, along with the brilliance of Ivan Provorov, gives fans something to look forward to in the near future as the young defensemen continue to develop and prep for the years to come.
Projected defensive pairs
Ivan Provorov – Robert Hägg
Shayne Gostisbehere – Brandon Manning
Travis Sanheim – Mark Alt
Suspended: Radko Gudas
Injured: Andrew MacDonald (lower-body, 1-2 weeks)
Getting the short stick despite great play
Brian Elliott has proven to be deserving of the team’s starting roll through this part of the season. After a lackluster start to the season, Elliott has improved his save percentage from .884 in eight games to .912 in 13 games. He owns a .954 save percentage in his last five games, giving up seven total goals. Through that span, the Flyers have scored five goals and have been shutout three times. Elliott is 1-3-1 over his last five games, but has been one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL over that time.
Michal Neuvirth hasn’t played a game since the team’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Avalanche on Nov. 4. He hasn’t been great, but it could be a good time to get him a game in net before having two sets of back-to-backs in the next 10 days.
Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers will also host the Flyers Wives Carnival on Sunday in the building.
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