Two straight wins and a chance to move into a tie for the final wild card spot – that’s where the Philadelphia Flyers find themselves on Sunday heading into their matinee against the Buffalo Sabres. They are looking to bounce back against a team they let get the best of them before Christmas and continue their winning ways as they head into another break this week.
Here are the projected lines, pairings, and five things to watch for in today’s game.
A chance to move up once again
With Carolina losing to Boston on Saturday night, the Flyers remain two points behind the Hurricanes for the final wild card spot with the same amount of games played. Philadelphia currently owns the tiebreaker with Carolina as well, which means a win on Sunday could put the Flyers in good position moving forward. It’s going to take time to continue to move up the standings, but getting two points, leapfrogging yet another team, and moving forward with momentum is huge for this team – especially after a 10-game losing streak, injuries all throughout the lineup, and more.
The Flyers are being led by their captain this season. His 51 points are amongst the best in the league. Giroux is on pace to score 102 points, which would be a new career high. Just five years ago, Giroux was labeled as the ‘best player in the world’. This season, he’s continuing to show why that title wasn’t a bad opinion, rather a fact that he’s among the best players in the NHL. He has been incredible alongside Sean Couturier and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the league recognizes that Giroux is having one of the best, most under-the-radar seasons by any player in the league.
An impressive debut despite limited action
Despite limited action on Saturday afternoon, Tyrell Goulbourne made an impact from the first moment he stepped for on the ice in regulation. A hit on his first shift set the tone and allowed his linemate Scott Laughton to light the lamp just minutes into regulation. Claude Giroux kept things rolling with yet another three-point game. Sean Couturier surpassed 40 points for the first time in his young career and is on pace for 80 points. Wayne Simmonds found the scoresheet after redirecting a Shayne Gostisbehere blast from the point.
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
Jordan Weal – Nolan Patrick – Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera – Scott Laughton – Tyrell Goulbourne
Healthy Scratch:Taylor Leier, Dale Weise
Same pairs, again
Doesn’t look like much is changing in this lineup. Shayne Gsotisbehere and Ivan Provorov are playing at an elite level. Robert Hägg and Andrew MacDonald are playing well, despite some lapses in the past few games – which may just be a feeling out process between the pair. But it looks like Brandon Manning is staying in the lineup once again, meaning that rookie Travis Sanheim will continue to sit on the bench. It is concerning, especially since Sanheim had played well of late. It’ll be interesting to see when he’ll return to the lineup, given the fact that the Flyers will not play until next Saturday against the Devils.
Projected defensive pairs
Brandon Manning – Radko Gudas
Healthy Scratch: Travis Sanheim
That’s right, Brian Elliott will be making his 17th-consecutive start (hint: just look at all the o’s in the header). He’s been dominant for the Flyers and an above-average goaltender this season. Elliott has good numbers against the Sabres this season and it’ll likely mean that Michal Neuvirth will not play in a game this year until at least next week. The Flyers are riding the Moose into the break.
Puck drop is set for 1:00 p.m. in Philadelphia.
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