PREVIEW: FLYERS @ CAPITALS
Beginning a four-game road trip, Craig Berube’s Philadelphia Flyers (22-22-8) are in the District of Columbia on Sunday afternoon to take on Barry Trotz’s Washington Capitals (28-15-10). Game time at the Verizon Center is 3:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised locally on CSN Philadelphia and nationally on NHL Network.
This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, and the final one in Washington.
The season series concludes with a Feb. 22 afternoon game at the Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers won in overtime, 3-2, on home ice on Jan. 8. The Capitals blanked the Flyers, 1-0, in DC on Jan. 14.
The Flyers concluded a five-game homestand on Thursday night and had two idle nights thereafter. Philly has played just one game in the last seven nights. Conversely, the Capitals have been a busy team over the last week. The club will be playing for the fourth time in less than six nights, the third time in four, and the fifth time in the month of February. FLYERS OUTLOOK
The Flyers took nine of 10 possible points from their five-game homestand but let a point slip away on Thursday against the New York Islanders. Philly was unable to protect a 2-0 lead in the second period and wasted another strong goaltending performance by Steve Mason.
On four separate occasions — an overtime breakaway by Sean Couturier and shootout opportunities for Brayden Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier and Matt Read — the Flyers had the game on their sticks with a chance to win the game. Instead, the club went down to a loss in the shootout.
Chris VandeVelde and Nick Schultz scored regulation goals for the Flyers against the Islanders. The Flyers fourth line trio of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, VandeVelde and Vincent Lecavalier was Philadelphia’s best against the Isles. The top line — including Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux — has struggled of late and has been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games.
The Flyers have gone 15-7-4 on home this season. Now they face four in a row on the road, where they’ve gone 7-15-4 to date. In road games, the Flyers have been outscored by a combined 87-65 (2.50 GFA, 3.35 GAA) margin. They have an atrocious road special teams index of 87.3 due to their 69 percent penalty kill in away games.
On the road, starting netminder Mason’s personal-stat numbers are respectable (2.74 GAA, .912 save percentage). Nevertheless, in his 15 road outings, he has been the winning goaltender in only one game to date this season (1-8-4 record).
Michael Raffl (pneumonia) remains out of the lineup. So does defenseman Braydon Coburn, who was projected to miss approximately four weeks from the time he sustained a left foot injury on Jan. 12. Coburn has been skating for a few days and has joined the team on the road trip. He still needs practice time before he is potentially ready to rejoin the lineup
Kimmo Timonen (blood clot) has missed the entire season. He began skating on his own on Friday and will continue to do while the team is on the road. It is possible that he could be ready to play in late February.
Zac Rinaldo will serve the fifth game of an eight-game NHL suspension for charging/boarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang on Jan. 20. He is eligible to return for the Feb. 17 home game against Columbus. Capitals outlook
The Capitals have won three games in a row coming into Sunday’s tilt. They are 4-2-1 since the All-Star break.
On Friday, one night after capturing a 2-1 regulation win in Ottawa, the Capitals prevailed over the visiting Anaheim Ducks via shootout, 3-2. Jason Chimera and Jack Carlson scored in regulation against the Ducks, while Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Bäckström converted their shootout attempts.
Philipp Grubauer, who got the start on Friday in place of workhorse number one goalie Braden Holtby, stopped 27 of 29 shots in regulation and overtime and two of three in the shootout. On Saturday the Caps reassigned Grubauer to the AHL’s Hershey Bears and recalled Andre Burakovsky.
Veteran offensive defenseman Mike Green (upper body) is probable for Sunday’s tilt. Fellow defenseman John Erskine (neck surgery) remains on injured reserve for the Capitals. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.69 (16th), Capitals 2.91 (8th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.86 (24th), Capitals 2.42 (8th)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.00 (19th), Capitals 1.14 (T-8th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 23.3% (4th), Capitals 23.4% (3rd)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 75.0% (28th), Capitals 80.9% (19th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.1% (13th), Capitals 51.4% (T-8th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)
10 Brayden Schenn – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek
18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read
25 Ryan White – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds
76 Chris VandeVelde – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier
55 Nick Schultz – 32 Mark Streit
15 Michael Del Zotto – 22 Luke Schenn
8 Nickla Grossmann – 47 Andrew MacDonald
35 Steve Mason
[29 Ray Emery]
Scratches: Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Braydon Coburn (IR, left foot), Zac Rinaldo (suspension), Michael Raffl (pneumonia), Kimmo Timonen (LTIR, blood clots).
8 Alexander Ovechkin – 19 Nicklas Bäckström – 90 Marcus Johansson
21 Brooks Laich – 16 Eric Fehr – 42 Joel Ward
25 Jason Chimera – 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov – 20 Troy Brouwer
46 Michael Latta – 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), Andre Burakovsky (healthy), Cameron Schilling (healthy), Aaron Volpatti (healthy).
********** ZEPP HURT IN PHANTOMS LOSS
Lehigh Valley Phantoms starting goaltender Rob Zepp sustained an apparent right leg injury early in the third period of the team’s 4-1 road loss to the Binghamton Senators on Saturday night. Zepp had to be helped off the ice and did not return to the game.
On the play, which occurred at 1:18 of the third period, Senators’ forward Matt Puempel crashed heavily into Zepp after being pushed from behind on a breakaway by Phantoms defenseman Steven Delisle. Zepp was drilled into the right post.
Prior to the injury, Zepp stopped 23 of 25 shots fired on his net. He was charged with the loss. Anthony Stolarz came in to relieve Zepp and turned back all five shots he faced. The final two Binghamton goals — scored after the Phantoms applied heavy pressure with several chances to tie the game — were empty net goals.
Jason Akeson netted the lone goal for Lehigh Valley, opening the scoring at 5:08 of the first period. Andrew Gordon and Taylor Leier earned the assists. Shane Prince, Cole Schneider, Carter Camper (ENG) and Buddy Robinson (shorthanded ENG) scored for the Senators. Peter Mannino stopped 29 of 30 shots to earn the win.