PREVIEW: FLYERS VS. HURRICANES
With a 2-0-2 record over their last four games and looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since posting a three-game winning streak between November 4 to 8, the Philadelphia Flyers (10-13-5) will play host to the Carolina Hurricanes (8-17-3) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon. Game time is 1:00 p.m.
EST. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.
This is the first of five meetings between the Metropolitan Division teams, and the first of two in Philadelphia. The clubs will rematch in Raleigh on Jan. 2, Feb. 24, and April 4. The season series concludes at the Wells Fargo Center on April 9.
Today’s game is the second match of a four-game homestand for the Flyers. They will host Tampa Bay on Tuesday and the Florida Panthers on Dec. 18. The Hurricanes will travel to Montreal on Tuesday and then return home to host Toronto on Thursday. Flyers outlook
Despite their recent stretch of improved play, the Flyers have dug themselves a hole in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division standings and will need to sustain and build upon Thursday’s effort against New Jersey. Philadelphia is 2-4-3 over its last nine games and 3-8-3 over the last 14.
The Flyers enter this game coming off a tidy 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Philly outshot the Devils in all three periods en route to a 36-18 shot advantage.
Matt Read and Sean Couturier contributed a goal and an assist apiece in the first period, with Couturier’s shorthanded goal getting the Flyers off the schneid for the season in that category. In the third period, Wayne Simmonds scored a power play goal and Jakub Voracek added an empty net goal. Claude Giroux and Mark Streit (on his 37th birthday) earned the assists on both the Simmonds and Voracek goals. Ray Emery made 17 saves.
It is worth noting that the Flyers’ last opponent was a struggling club riddled with injuries and a pair of mumps-related illnesses that depleted the starting lineup. The Devils were also playing for the third time in four nights, while the Flyers had completed a four-game road trip (with the first three games in California) two nights earlier.
Nevertheless, Philadelphia did exactly what it needed to do against such an opponent: they went ahead early and outworked New Jersey until the final buzzer to earn one of their easier wins in a season where victories have rarely come easily. On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers will play another struggling team and must continue to take positive steps toward re-establishing a process that leads to more consistently positive outcomes.
Specifically, when the Flyers skate, control the gaps and apply both back-pressure and forechecking pressure, they become a much more difficult opponent for most teams. When they become stationary spectators and the gaps widen, they spend too much of the game in their own end of the ice because it’s too easy for other clubs to enter the Philadelphia zone and too hard for the Flyers to clear the puck to safety.
After sitting out as a healthy scratch on Thursday for the fifth straight game, Vincent Lecavalier did not practice yesterday. The official word from the Flyers is that he has a lower-body injury. Defenseman Luke Schenn returned to the lineup on Thursday after two games as a healthy scratch with Michael Del Zotto going back to the scratch list. Hurricanes outlook
Carolina is looking to snap a four-game losing streak as they head to Philadelphia. The club, which is 1-4-0 thus far in December and 2-8-0 over its last 10 games, has dropped each of its last four games in regulation.
The Hurricanes enter this game with an abysmal 3-10-2 record on the road this season. However, the team toppled a somewhat disinterested Pittsburgh Penguins by a 4-2 score on the Pens’ home ice in late November. The Pens returned the favor the next night in Raleigh, downing Carolina 3-2.
Before returning home for a five-game homestand (1-4-0), Bill Peters’ team started its 2-3-0 road trip by laying six goals on the defensively challenged Dallas Stars in a 6-4 win at the American Airlines Center.
December has not been kind to the Canes. The team’s latest loss came on Thursday night in Tampa Bay, 2-1.
The Hurricanes put up a tough fight, outshooting the Lightning (30-27) and tying the game at 1-1 with a little under eight minutes remaining in regulation. Justin Faulk’s fifth goal of the season knotted the score. Unfortunately for Carolina, with just 31 seconds left on the third period clock, Nikita Kucherov scored his second goal of the game and sent Carolina down to an agonizing loss.
Despite the team’s string of losses, the Hurricanes have been competitive in most every game it has played over the past six weeks. In a league of parity, small lapses in the sport’s small details make all the difference. In many games, the Canes struggle to score, which gives them a very small margin for error in their own end of the ice.
Case in point: The Hurricanes started the month of December with a 2-1 home win over Nashville. In the games that followed, the Canes dropped regulation decisions of 2-1 to Washington, 3-1 to Detroit, 2-1 to New Jersey and then the 2-1 heartbreaker to Tampa.
Take things back even a little further and you will find that the Canes had a similar plight in November where their lack of goal scoring was the biggest problem. There were eight games in which the Hurricanes yielded only one or two goals plus a 3-0 shutout win over Arizona to open the month.
Nevertheless, the club went just 7-7-1 in the 15-game slate. The month included a 1-0 loss to Florida, a 2-0 loss to San Jose, a 2-1 loss to the Bruins, and a 3-1 loss to Winnipeg with the final Jets goal being a late empty netter. The Canes also dropped one-goal regulation decisions by 3-2 to Los Angeles, 4-3 to Colorado and 3-2 to the Penguins in the back end of the home-and-home that concluded the November schedule.
Bottom line: The Flyers are going to have to be patient and opportunistic against Carolina because this is an opponent that plays low-scoring games more often than not. Even against many of the top teams in the NHL, the Canes have kept themselves competitive by limiting opposing goals and chances.
If Philly takes care of the puck and makes the offense-starved Hurricanes earn their goals, they should be OK. If not, the Canes are eminently capable of beating Philly and it wouldn’t even be a big upset to do so regardless of the Hurricanes’ ugly-looking road record and overall record for the month and the season.
Faulk, a defenseman, leads the Hurricanes in overall scoring with 17 points and shares the club assist lead (12) with Riley Nash. Jiri Tlusty leads the team in goal scoring with 10. It has been a tough season thus far for Eric Staal (six goals, 15 points, five games missed) while brother Jordan has missed the entire season with a broken right fibula. It has also been a terrible season for Alexander Semin (one goal, six points in 21 games).
Jeff Skinner has had good success in his still-young career against the Flyers. The 22-year-old will look to continue that on Saturday to get himself back on track. He is pointless in his last four games and has produced six goals and 13 points in 24 games to date.
Semin is currently on injured reserve with a lower body injury. Tlusty is listed as questionable for today’s game for unspecified reasons. Big Czech forward Andrej Nestrasil is officially questionable with an upper-body injury sustained in Monday’s game against the Devils. Nestrasil did not play on Thursday against Tampa and it did not sound yesterday as if he would be in the lineup against the Flyers.
Defenseman Brett Bellemore was activated from injured reserve on Thursday. He last played on Nov. 22. Bellemore may be scratched for today’s game or may dress as part of a seven-man defense if forward Tlusty is unable to play. One would think that the team’s leading goal scorer will dress for the game if at all possible. If the Canes go with seven defensemen, one of Bellemore or Jay Harrison (18 games played) will be in the lineup.
If Bellemore does appear, the broadcasters might have fun if the defenseman ends up working one-on-one against Fyers’ forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. It is still not as potentially confusing as when the Flyers briefly had both Mark Recchi and Mike Ricci on the team and they went up against the Islanders, featuring defenseman Joe Reekie.
Officially, the Canes had not decided on a starting goaltender for today’s game as of yesterday’s practice. Cam Ward has had a decent if unspectacular season (2.46 GAA, .909 save percentage in 20 games) and stopped 25 of 27 shots in the Tampa game. However, backup Anton Khudobin (2.88 GAA, .901 SV% in eight appearances) has had some good games against the Flyers during his NHL career. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.64 (17th), Hurricanes 2.14 (29th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.93 (23rd), Hurricanes 2.64 (15th)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.92 (22nd), Hurricanes 0.73 (26th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 23.2% (6th), Hurricanes 18.7% (15th)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 74.7% (29th), Hurricanes 82.7% (12th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.6% (10th), Hurricanes 52.0% (6th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)
12 Michael Raffl – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek
10 Brayden Schenn – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds
18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read
36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 76 Chris VandeVelde
5 Braydon Coburn – 55 Nick Schultz
8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit
47 Andrew MacDonald – 22 Luke Schenn
35 Steve Mason
[29 Ray Emery]
Scratches: Michael Del Zotto (healthy), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Vincent Lecavalier (lower body), Ryan White (IR, torn pectoral muscle, cleared for contact).
53 Jeff Skinner – 12 Eric Staal – 19 Jiri Tlusty (?)
14 Nathan Gerbe – 20 Riley Nash – 16 Elias Lindholm
25 Chris Terry – 49 Victor Rask – 22 Zach Boychuk
24 Brad Malone – 18 Jay McClement – 39 Pat Dwyer
4 Andrej Sekera – 27 Justin Faulk
6 Tim Gleason – 26 John-Michael Liles
65 Ron Hainsey – 47 Michal Jordan
30 Cam Ward / 31 Anton Khudobin
Scratches: Jordan Staal (IR, fractured right fibula), Alexander Semin (IR, lower body), Jiri Tlusty (questionable, unspecified), Brett Bellemore (healthy), Jay Harrison (healthy), Andrej Nestrasil (questionable, upper body).
******** FLYERS HOLIDAY TOY DRIVE
In conjunction with the Salvation Army, the Flyers are holding a gameday holiday toy drive to benefit less fortunate children and teens in the Delaware Valley.
Flyers fans attending Saturday’s game against Carolina or Tuesday’s game against Tampa are asked to bring along donations of new, unwrapped toys for ages infant to 14 years old. Collection bins for donations will be available at all arena entrances.
On Wednesday, Flyers players along with Flyers wives and girlfriends, will deliver all donated toys to the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, Foster Care Center in Bala Cynwyd, PA.
******* FLYERS ALUMNI NEWS FROM FlyersAlumni.org
* Tomorrow afternoon, the Flyers Alumni have a 4:00 p.m. game at the Bucks County Ice Sports Center in Warminster, PA (1185 York Road). Tickets at the door cost $10. For more information, click here. Broad Street Bullies era Flyers Alum defenseman Larry “Izzy” Goodenough is the hockey director at BCI. Goodenough will also be instructing the facility’s Learn to Play Hockey sessions each Saturday starting starting on Jan. 10.
* On Dec. 19 and 20th the Flyers Alumni will work in conjunction with St. John’s Hospice and Cityteam respectively to help the less fortunate during the holiday season. For more information about these programs, click here.
* On Dec. 28, the Flyers Alumni will play the Cherokee Chiefs Alumni in the Sixth Annual Jeff Burd Memorial Alumni Game benefit at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to support the Jeff Burd Memorial Fund (a donation and matching-fund award for the Chiefs’ player with the highest academic performance in school to use toward college expenses), the National Meningitis Association, USA Wounded Warriors and Wings of Steel Sled Hockey. For more information about donating to, sponsoring or attending the Alumni game or after-party, contact Scott McKay at 609-377-6866 or RowdyMAX@aol.com.
* On January 17, 2015, the Flyers Alumni team will participate in the Center for Autism 3rd Annual Winter Classic benefit game in Aston, PA. Related events include a silent auction and postgame meet-and-greet and autograph session with Flyers Alumni players.
* The Flyers Alumni website takes a look at father-son connection that former Flyers left winger Simon Gagne and ailing father Pierre have to the Flyers organization.
* The first Flyers Alumni: Then and Now feature takes an in-depth look the career and post-hockey life of Legion of Doom right winger Mikael Renberg.