Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 12/23/14 @ MIN

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PREVIEW: FLYERS @ WILD

Looking for their third consecutive win to start an eight-game road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers (13-14-6) are in St. Paul to take on the Minnesota Wild (16-12-3) on Tuesday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on The Comcast Network Philadelphia.

This is the second and final meeting of the season between the two teams.

On Nov. 20 in Philadelphia, the Flyers played reasonably well but yielded a goal with 45.7 seconds remaining in the third period to go down to 3-2 defeat in regulation.

Tuesday’s game marks the Flyers’ fourth game (one home, three road) in six nights. It is the Flyers’ final game before the NHL’s three-night break between Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. The team’s road trip resumes on Saturday in Nashville.

Minnesota has had a much lighter recent schedule the Flyers. Tuesday’s game will be just the second in the last six nights after playing back-to-back nights earlier last week. Following the Christmas break, the Wild will host the Jets on Saturday night. Flyers outlook

The Flyers are coming off a successful Canadian portion of their road trip that saw them battle back from deficits to defeat Toronto (7-4) on Saturday and Winnipeg (4-3) in overtime on Sunday.

In Sunday’s game, goals by Jakub Voracek in the opening minute of the first period and the 10-second mark of overtime were sandwiched around a pair of third-period goals by Vincent Lecavalier. Thirty-three-year-old goaltender Rob Zepp earned the win in his much-belated NHL debut.

With injured starting goaltender Steve Mason (upper-body injury, suspected back issue) expected to be re-evaluated on Tuesday, Ray Emery started and won in Toronto on Saturday with Zepp going on Sunday. The team hopes that Mason’s absence will not be prolonged.

Entering tonight’s NHL games, Voracek leads the NHL in points with 44 (14 goals, 30 assists). He shares the NHL assist lead with linemate Claude Giroux, who in third in the NHL’s overall scoring race with 40 points. Voracek and Wayne Simmonds share the Flyers’ goal-scoring lead, while Simmonds’ eight power play goals pace the squad and rank second in the NHL to the nine scored by San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski.

The Flyers have been a feast-or-famine club offensively this season and has had trouble winning low-scoring games.

In 33 games played to date, the team has scored four or more goals 13 times (11-1-1 record). However, the team has also been shut out four times (0-3-1), been held to one goal six times (0-5-1), and scored twice in four games (1-2-1). The club also owns only one win in the six games (1-3-2) it has scored three goals.

On injury front apart from Mason, Zac Rinaldo is day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained on Saturday in Toronto. Forward Ryan White (torn pectoral muscle) is close to being ready to make his Flyers debut after missing training camp and the entire season to date. He has been practicing in full with the team for a couple of weeks. Wild outlook

The Wild won two of their first three games to start the month of December. Since then, Mike Yeo’s squad has gone 1-2-2 and is winless (0-1-2) over its last three games.

On Saturday, the Wild sustained a 6-5 overtime home loss to the Nashville Predators. Minnesota led by scores of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period, trailed 3-2 at the first intermission, were tied at 3-3 after two periods, fell behind 5-3 in the third. A mid-third period power play goal by Zach Parise trimmed the deficit back to 5-4 before Thomas Vanek scored in the final minute of regulation to salvage a point and force overtime.

Parise’s goal was his second of the game. The Wild also got goals by Jason Zucker and Marco Scandella. Darcy Kuemper (11 saves on 14 shots) played the first period in goal and was relieved the rest of the way by veteran Niklas Bäckström (27 saves on 30 shots).

Entering Tuesday’s game, Parise leads the Wild in overall scoring with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists). Nino Niederreiter tops the squad with 14 goals and five power play tallies among his 17 points. Defenseman Ryan Suter leads with 20 assists among his 21 points.

Minnesota has four players with 20 or more points in the 31 games the club has played to date. Forwards Jason Pominville (seven goals, 16 assists) and Vanek (five goals, 15 assists) are the other two in addition to Parise and Suter.

In goal, Kuemper (2.56 goals against average, .903 save percentage) and Bäckström (2.58 GAA, .901 save percentage) have very similar statistics this season. Kuemper has started 21 games and made one relief appearance. Former starter Bäckström has started 10 games and taken over in relief four times. Kuemper has struggled since late November. Thus far in December, he’s posted a 3.55 GAA and .864 save percentage. Kuemper has been pulled early in three of his last six starts.

On the Minnesota injury front, defenseman Keith Ballard is on injured reserve with a concussion and facial fractures. Forward Mikael Granlund is questionable for tonight due to illness. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.79 (13th), Wild 2.87 (11th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.85 (23rd), Wild 2.67 (17th)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.00 (T-18th), Wild 1.00 (T-18th)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 22.5% (6th), Wild 13.9% (26th)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 75.7% (27th), Wild 86.5% (3rd)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.3% (10th), Wild 49.7% (16th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

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

76 Chris VandeVelde – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier

5 Braydon Coburn – 55 Nick Schultz

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

47 Andrew MacDonald – 22 Luke Schenn

29 Ray Emery / 72 Rob Zepp

Scratches: Steve Mason (back), Zac Rinaldo (lower body), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Michael Del Zotto (healthy), Ryan White (IR, torn pectoral muscle, practicing with the team).

WILD

11 Zach Parise – 3 Charlie Coyle – 26 Thomas Vanek

16 Jason Zucker – 9 Mikko Koivu – 29 Jason Pominville

22 Nino Niederreiter – 56 Erik Haula – 24 Matt Cooke

18 Ryan Carter – 21 Kyle Brodziak – 14 Justin Fontaine

20 Ryan Suter – 25 Jonas Brodin

6 Marco Scandella – 46 Jared Spurgeon

39 Nate Prosser – 5 Christian Folin

35 Darcy Kuemper / 32 Nicklas Bäckström

Scratches: Mikael Granlund (questionable, illness), Stu Bickel (healthy), Justin Falk (healthy), Keith Ballard (IR, concussion and facial fractures).

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