The Philadelphia Flyers have 13 games left to play and are facing one of the best road teams in the league tonight in the Vegas Golden Knights. Philadelphia is coming off a great victory over the Jets on Saturday, backed by goals from Claude Giroux and MacDonald and a stellar performance in net from Petr Mrazek.
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and five things to watch for in tonight’s game against the Golden Knights.
A franchise first
For the first time in franchise history, the Flyers will host the Golden Knights at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers earned the W in their first meeting with a 4-1 victory on Feb. 11 in Las Vegas. Sean Couturier had a goal and two assists, while Michal Neuvirth recorded 38 saves.
The Flyers are looking to be the second Eastern Conference team to sweep the season series against Vegas, joining the New York Islanders as the only other team to do so in the East.
Taming the road warriors
Vegas is 20-12-3 away from home this season and 3-1 on their current five-game road that concludes in Philadelphia. Vegas is coming off a 2-1 win over Buffalo, which was the 20th road win for the franchise, eclipsing the NHL record of 19 set by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993-94 for most road victories by an expansion team.
They’re out for more milestones as well. Marc Andre Fleury is expected to start and will be going for his 400th NHL career victory on Monday night. The Flyers need to avoid a trap in a tough Vegas team. They can jump back within a point for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with a win and a Washington loss in regulation. Points are up for grabs and the Flyers are up for the task.
Ask anyone in the city about Claude Giroux and you’ll get a flurry of different responses – “He’s the most under-appreciated athlete in Philadelphia” or “he makes too much money” and even “how is this guy not in the Hart Trophy conversation?”
The guy that should be the talk of the town is approaching a milestone of his own. Giroux is just four points from passing Hall of Famer Eric Lindros for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time points list and will likely get to fourth on that list when he reaches the 700-point mark next season. Giroux is the motor that makes the Flyers run.
He’s been the team’s most consistent player this season and is also creeping in on the 30-goal mark, which he has never done in his career. If Giroux scores five goals in the final 13 games, he’ll set a career high in goals with 29. The Captain is having one of the best seasons of his career and no one is talking about it. It’ll be interesting to see if Giroux and, more importantly, the power play can get the motor running heads into the playoffs. If they’re going to win a series and be a threat in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers need to get better in all aspects of the game.
Projected forward lines
Michael Raffl – Valtteri Filppula – Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera – Scott Laughton – Matt Read
Healthy Scratch: Taylor Leier, Dale Weise, Jordan Weal
A second-straight great outing
Ron Hextall recalled rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim from the Phantoms on Friday night under emergency conditions. After an incredible first period and a solid finish to the game on Saturday, the coaching staff and players had nothing but positive things to say about Sanheim and his game.
“He [Sanheim] just looked like a guy who got his game back a little bit and that’s the benefit of being able to go down and play strong minutes down there in different situations,” Hakstol said following the win. “That’s all a credit to him. It’s all how you handle the assignment going back there. He dug in immediately from what I am told from day one and played extremely well right from the start down there. Like I said it just looks like a guy who absolutely has his game back. He is a good player for us tonight and he helped us win.”
Sanheim spent the entire game paired next to Andrew MacDonald, who scored the eventual game-winning goal. Sanheim was allowed to play a more confident game, while MacDonald was more of a stay-at-home defender in this one.
“I thought he was great, right from the first shift he was aggressive,” MacDonald said after the win. “He made some really nice stick plays in the neutral zone and broke up some plays. Sent their guys in on great transition plays, I think he made that nice stretch pass from behind our net right away and you could tell he was feeling comfortable and confident and I said earlier that’s a heck of a way to come back in. it’s not an easy situation that we lost the last five to be put into a situation like that but I think throughout the game he did a tremendous job and was really strong.”
The Flyers are going to need more of that confident approach from Sanheim if they plan on matching the fire power of Vegas.
Projected defensive pairs
Ivan Provorov – Shayne Gostisbehere
Brandon Manning – Radko Gudas
Injured: Johnny Oduya, Robert Hägg
Rolling, rolling, rolling
Petr Mrazek is back and played extremely well on Saturday afternoon. Riding a 27-save performance against a potent Winnipeg offense, Mrazek is hoping for another stellar start against one of the best road offenses in the NHL.
The Flyers take on the Golden Knights at 7:00 p.m.
(Photo by Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswirevia Getty Images)
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