Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 1/14/15 @ WAS

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PREVIEW: FLYERS vs. CAPITALS

Playing the front end of back-to-back game nights, Craig Berube’s Philadelphia Flyers (17-19-7) are in DC to take on Barry Trotz’s Washington Capitals (23-11-8). Game time is 8:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.

This is the second of four meetings this season between the Metropolitan Division clubs, and the first of two in Washington.

The teams will play in DC again on Feb. 8. The season series concludes with a Feb. 22 afternoon game at the Wells Fargo Center.

Last Thursday, the Flyers earned a 2-1 home overtime win against the Capitals. An overtime power play goal by Jakub Voracek secured the victory for Philadelphia. The Flyers also got even strength regulation goals by Sean Couturier and R.J. Umberger. Winning goaltender Steve Mason turned back 26 of 28 shots.

Washington got a first period power play goal by Alexander Ovechkin and a controversial third period goal by defenseman Karl Alzner. Braden Holtby set a new Capitals franchise record for a goaltender by appearing in his 23rd straight game, stopping 30 of 33 shots in a losing cause.

The Flyers went 1-for-4 on the power play while the Caps were 1-for-3.

Schedule-wise, the teams are on equal footing heading into this game. The Flyers played at home on Monday, held an optional practice on Tuesday morning and then departed for Washington. The Capitals also played at home on Monday and then had a day to prepare for the Flyers. Flyers outlook

The Flyers won three of four games on their homestand, including last Thursday’s OT win against the Caps. Philly has fared much better on home ice (11-6-3) than away (6-13-4) thus far in the 2014-15 season. Over their last 19 games overall, the Flyers are 9-6-4.

Entering this game, the Flyers are coming off a 7-3 blowout win against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. Philadelphia went 3-for-4 on the power play and exploded for five goals in the second period.

Mark Streit led Philly’s point-scoring bonanza with a power play goal and two power play assists. NHL leading scorer Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn each had a power play goal and an assist. Chris VandeVelde notched an even strength goal and an assist. R.J. Umberger chipped in one goal, as did Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Michael Raffl.

Making his second NHL regular-season start and first home start, Rob Zepp went long stretches without any activity in the first two periods. In the third period, he stopped 12 of 13 shots to finish the night with 21 saves on 24 shots to earn his second NHL win.

Entering Wednesday’s game, Voracek leads the NHL Art Ross Trophy race with 52 points and is tied with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the league with 35 assists. Voracek leads the Flyers with 17 goals, one ahead of Wayne Simmonds.

Claude Giroux is third in the NHL with 34 assists and is tied for third in points with 48. Streit is tied for fourth among NHL defensemen this season with 31 overall scoring points (five goals, 26 assists). The veteran Swiss player is tied for 3rd among NHL defensemen with 16 power play points, including three points in the Tampa game.

Although the Flyers picked up six of eight possible points during the homestand, the recent stretch was costly in terms of injuries. The latest casualty: Braydon Coburn, who suffered a lower-body injury (suspected to be a broken left foot) when blocking a shot in the first period of Monday’s game. Coburn is expected to miss approximately four weeks from Jan. 12.

Steve Mason is expected to miss up to two weeks with the injury he sustained in the Jan. 10 game against Boston. Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann (right shoulder) is expected to miss approximately three weeks from an injury sustained on Jan. 8 against Washington.

The injuries to Coburn and Grossmann leave the Flyers with six healthy defensemen. Veteran Carlo Colaiacovo will re-enter the lineup after sitting out 26 games. Only four defensemen participated in Tuesday’s practice (Colaiacovo, Luke Schenn, Andrew MacDonald and Michael Del Zotto), but Colaicovo worked primarily with Schenn during Colaiacovo’s five-game stint in the starting lineup in November.

The Flyers, per their norm, did not publicly their starting goaltender for Wednesday’s game. However, on Tuesday, Emery followed the practice routine he usually adheres to when starting the next game. When starting, Emery comes out early the previous day. When backing up, Emery normally comes out closer to the official starting time of practice. Capitals outlook

The Caps were on a roll prior to their overtime setback in Philadelphia last week. The club shrugged off that loss to rattle off 3-1 and 2-1 home wins over Detroit and Colorado. Overall, Washington is 5-0-1 in the month of January and 13-2-3 dating back to the start of December.

On Monday, made his 25th consecutive appearance (with 24 starts) in goal for the Capitals. He showed no signs of fatigue in turning back 31 of 32 shots by the Avalanche. An even-strength goal by Jay Beagle in the first period and a late second-period power play goal by Ovechkin were just enough offensive support to earn a 2-1 victory in regulation.

Nicklas Bäckström enters this game leading the Capitals in overall scoring (42 points in 42 games) and assists (29). Ovechkin’s 22 goals and 10 power play goals top the team among his 37 points. John Carlson leads the attack from the blueline with five goals, 26 assists and 31 points.

Overall, the Caps have six forwards who’ve hit the double-digit goal mark roughly midway through the regular season. Seven players, including Carlson and Mike Green (four goals, 19 assists) have 21 or more points. In goal, Holtby has a 21-8-7 record with a 2.23 goals against average and .923 save percentage.

The biggest change in the Caps since Trotz took over as coach is that now the team plays a two-way game and can win low-scoring games in addition to matches where it piles up the goals. As a team, the Caps have lowered their GAA from 2.79 (21st in the NHL) last season to 2.45 (ninth) thus far in 2014-15. They’ve managed it despite a mediocre penalty killing performance.

On the Washington injury front, veteran defenseman John Erskine (neck surgery) is on injured reserve. Forward Michael Latta could be a healthy scratch. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.74 (14th), Capitals 2.95 (10th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.88 (23rd), Capitals 2.45 (9th)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.01 (17th), Capitals 1.12 (9th)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 23.3% (5th), Capitals 24.0% (4th)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 74.0% (30th), Capitals 79.0% (23rd)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.0% (12th), Capitals 50.4% (13th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

10 Brayden Schenn – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

12 Michael Raffl – 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

15 Michael Del Zotto – 55 Nick Schultz

47 Andrew MacDonald – 32 Mark Streit

26 Carlo Colaiacovo – 22 Luke Schenn

29 Ray Emery

[72 Rob Zepp]

Scratches: Zac Rinaldo (healthy), Braydon Coburn (left foot), Nicklas Grossmann (right shoulder), Steve Mason (right knee).

CAPITALS

8 Alex Ovechkin – 19 Nicklas Bäckström – 65 Andre Burakovsky

90 Marcus Johansson – 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov – 20 Troy Brouwer

21 Brooks Laich – 16 Eric Fehr – 42 Joel Ward

25 Jason Chimera – 83 Jay Beagle – 43 Tom Wilson

44 Brooks Orpik – 74 John Carlson

27 Karl Alzner – 2 Matt Niskanen

38 Jack Hillen – 52 Mike Green

70 Braden Holtby

[35 Justin Peters]

Scratches: John Erskine (IR, neck surgery), Michael Latta (healthy).

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