PREVIEW: FLYERS VS. AVALANCHE
Looking for their third straight win before heading into a five-night hiatus, the Philadelphia Flyers (6-5-2) play host to the Colorado Avalanche (4-6-5) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. Game time 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised locally on CSN Philadelphia.
This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
The season series will conclude with a rematch in Colorado on New Year’s Eve. The clubs split their two-game season series last season. The home team prevailed in regulation both times.
After tonight, the Flyers have five nights off before hosting Columbus next Friday night and then heading to Montreal the following night. Tonight’s game is the start of a four-game road trip for Colorado. The club next plays on Tuesday against the New York Islanders, followed on Thursday with a game at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. Flyers outlook
The Flyers enter this game coming off back-to-back 4-1 home victories against the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. The club currently has a 4-1-2 record on home ice.
Over the last two games, the Flyers have outscored their opponents at even strength by a combined 8-1 count. Florida’s lone goal was a power play tally. The Flyers have only had one full-length and one abbreviated power play over the two games in the homestand to date. They did not receive a power play in the Edmonton game.
Steve Mason has had three straight excellent starts for the Flyers and is likely to be in goal tonight. He has raised his season save percentage to .911 over the course of two games against Florida and one against Edmonton.
Jakub Voracek enters tonight’s game with points in 12 of 13 games this season. He has points in seven games in a row and has already recorded six multi-point games. The top line right winger enters tonight tied with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for total points (19) and is tied with linemate Claude Giroux and Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson for the NHL lead in assists (13).
In the second period of Thursday’s game against Florida, Flyers head coach Craig Berube moved Wayne Simmonds from his customary right wing position to play left wing on the top line with Giroux and Voracek. The experiment is likely to continue tonight.
Fourth line center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has scored goals in back-to-back games. Unofficially, Bellemare is the first Flyers fourth-line player since Sean Couturier in his rookie season of 2011-12 to tally even strength goals in consecutive games.
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto has been named one of the three stars in each of the last two games. The former Rangers and Predators blueliner has led the team in ice time frequently of late, and scored his first Flyers goal in the first period of Thursday’s game.
Braydon Coburn (left foot) will be a gameday decision today. He has missed the last 12 games after getting injured blocking a shot on opening night. Carlo Colaiacovo, who has played well in his two games with the team, will be scratched if Coburn plays.
Elsewhere on the injury front, left winger Michael Raffl (lower body) will be out six weeks after sustaining an injury blocking a shot on Tuesday. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald (lower body) resumed skating on Tuesday and is a couple weeks away from returning. Avalanche outlook
Thus far, Patrick Roy’s team has had trouble duplicating the magic of last October when the Avs were the NHL’s last unbeaten team and went on to reach the playoffs. Recently, the club has even switched up its defensive system to more of a zone-based approach.
Colorado enters this game coming off a 4-3 shootout win against Toronto. The club got regulation goals from Nick Holden, Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay but was unable to nail down a 3-2 lead late in the third period. In the shootout, Colorado went 3-for-3 as Nathan MacKinnon, Duchene and Tanguay all successfully converted their attempts against Jonathan Bernier.
Winning goaltender Reto Berra (35 saves in regulation and overtime) was beaten by Tyler Bozak on Toronto’s first attempt but former Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk missed the net in Round 2. Berra will be in the net again tonight, according to Roy.
Duchene and MacKinnon enter tonight tied for the team’s overall scoring lead. Both players have four goals and six assists. Jarome Iginla, Ryan O’Reilly (who is minus-11 at even strength thus far) and defenseman Erik Johnson have two goals and nine points apiece.
On the injury front, the Avs will be without Patrick Bordeleau (back surgery), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Ryan Wilson (shoulder, day-to-day) and Jesse Winchester (concussion). Longtime Flyers fan favorite Danny Briere has been a healthy scratch in each of the last five games. Officially, Roy told the press in Denver that he wants to “take some pressure off the first two lines.”
Former Flyers forward Max Talbot, who was traded to Colorado last year on Halloween for Steve Downie (now with Pittsburgh), has two assists in 15 games this season. He will skate on the fourth line and play his customary penalty killing role tonight. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 3.15 (4th), Avalanche 2.40 (24th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.92 (19th), Avalanche 2.93 (T-23rd)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.11 (T-12th), Avalache 0.76 (24th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 18.6% (17th), Avalanche 14.6% (23rd)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 78.0% (23rd), Avalanche 91.5% (2nd)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 50.6% (11th), Avalanche 48.1% (23rd) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)
17 Wayne Simmonds – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek
18 R.J. Umberger – 40 Vincent Lecavalier – 76 Chris VandeVelde
10 Brayden Schenn – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read
36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 42 Jason Akeson
8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit
15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz
5 Braydon Coburn – 22 Luke Schenn
35 Steve Mason
[29 Ray Emery]
Scratches: Andrew MacDonald (lower body), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Michael Raffl (lower body), Blair Jones (healthy).
92 Gabriel Landeskog – 29 Nathan Mackinnon – 12 Jarome Iginla
90 Ryan O’Reilly – 9 Matt Duchene – 11 Jamie McGinn
55 Cody McLeod – 24 Marc-Andre Cliche – 25 Max Talbot
40 Alex Tanguay – 7 John Mitchell – 45 Dennis Everberg
8 Jan Hejda – 6 Erik Johnson
4 Tyson Barrie – 5 Nate Guenin
22 Zach Redmond – 2 Nick Holden
20 Reto Berra
[1 Semyon Varlamov]
Scratches: Patrick Bordeleau (back surgery), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Ryan Wilson (shoulder, day-to-day), Jesse Winchester (concussion), Danny Briere (healthy).
********* PHANTOMS WIN GAME, LOSE GOSTISBEHERE
Riding a magnificent 42-save performance by veteran Rob Zepp, the Lehign Valley Phantoms skated off with a 3-2 road victory last night night against the Manchester Monarchs. Zepp held the Phantoms in the game through a scoreless first period in which they were significantly outplayed. After Manchester finally got on the board, the Phantoms exploded for three straight goals in the second period and then held on in the third to win by one goal.
The victory was a costly one for Terry Murray’s team. In the third period, highly touted rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere crashed awkwardly into the boards and was unable to put much weight on his left leg as he gingerly left the ice with the trainer.
Earlier this morning, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said, “We don’t have enough information yet” on the severity of the lower body injury to issue a report. The player will be reevaluated later today.
Prior to departing the game, Gostisbehere (who was named the game’s second star) compiled a pair of assists. Lehigh Valley turned the game around on a pair of goals by veteran Andrew Gordon and a late second period tally by Taylor Leier. Rookies Scott Laughton and Robert Hägg as well as veteran enforcer Zack Stortini and defenseman Brandon Manning notched an assist apiece.
Gordon’s first goal was a power play backhanded shot off a nice initial feed by Laughton. His second tally, which gave Lehigh Valley a lead it would not relinquish, was a deflection of a Gostisbehere shot off a D-to-D pass from Hägg. Leier’s goal came in a loose puck scramble near the net.
During the first period, second-year pro Nick Cousins (the Phantoms’ leading scorer) received a five minute major for boarding and a game misconduct for a hit on Zach O’Brien. The Phantoms killed the lengthy penalty successfully. In the third period, Stortini received an elbowing major but not a game misconduct. Manchester hurt its own cause by taking a pair of minors.
Phantoms forward Darroll Powe was not available for this game. The veteran forward served the first game of a two-game suspension for a checking-to-the-head match penalty incident at the end of Wednesday’s game.’
This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.