GAME 29: FLYERS vs. COYOTES
In the second game of a three-game homestand, Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (16-7-5) host Rick Tocchet's Arizona Coyotes (16-9-4) on Thursday night. Game time at the Wells Fargo Center is 7:00 p.m. ET.
The game will be televised on NBCSP. The radio broadcast will be on 97.5 The Fanatic with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7
This is the first of two meetings this season between the inter-conference clubs. They will rematch in Glendale on Jan. 4, Last season, the Flyers swept a home-and-home set with the Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Nov. 5, 2018 (5-2), and Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 8 (5-4 in OT).
The Flyers bring a five-game winning streak into this match. The team is 6-0-1 over its last seven games with points in 12 of the last 14 (9-2-3). Additionally, the team is 7-0-4 in its last 11 home games; a streak that started October 21.
On Tuesday, the Flyers earned a 6-1 win
at home over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Carter Hart was stellar in goal, while Scott Laughton, Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee (empty net), Shayne Gostisbehere and James van Riemsdyk scored one goal apiece and rookie defenseman Phil Myers collected three assists.
The one downside to Tuesday's game: the Flyers lost Michael Raffl to a broken right pinkie finger. He is expected to miss four weeks. The Flyers recalled center Mikhail Vorobyev from the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms -- for the third time this season and fifth in the last two seasons -- on Wednesday.
At Wednesday's practice
, Vigneault indicated that he would make a game-day decision on whether to dress Vorobyev against the Coyotes or to use seven defensemen and double-shift other forwards to take some shifts with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Pitlick. The Flyers most recently dressed seven defensemen in a 5-3 win at Carolina on Nov. 21.
Raffl's absence also necessitates an adjustment on the penalty killing units. Vigneault indicated on Wednesday that Farabee might get the first crack at the spot. Fellow rookie Morgan Frost, who is pointless in his last seven games, nevertheless had a strong bounceback game on Tuesday against Toronto after being dropped to the fourth line in the third period of Saturday's 4-3 overtime win in Montreal.
Brian Elliott will get the start in goal for the Arizona game.
Over the last five weeks, plenty of things have gone right for the Flyers. The goaltending has been very strong. The team defense and forecheck have been gelling. The team is getting scoring from many different sources, with various lines and individual players -- both forwards and defensemen -- stepping up on a given night. The penalty kill has remained excellent, too.
One of the few things that has taken a downturn in recent weeks has been the Flyers power play. The power play went 9-for-54 (16.7 percent) in November and started the December schedule with an 0-for-3 on the man advantage.
Entering this game, the Flyers have averaged 3.14 goals per game with allowing 2.64 per game. The power play is at 19.2 percent and the penalty kill at 85.9 percent with two shorthanded goals. The team has won faceoffs at a 54.1 percent clip.
It's been more than a full calendar year since the last time the Flyers saw the once-lowly Coyotes. Since that time, Tocchet's team has showed signs of significant improvement in the second half of 2018-19 and have taken further steps this season to have become one of the tougher outs in the NHL.
The club comes into this game in second place in the Pacific Division, one point behind the Edmonton Oilers. The Coyotes, who will be playing the second game of a four-game road trip, bring a particularly strong away record (9-3-3) into this game.
On Tuesday, the Coyotes skated to a 4-2 win in Columbus. Goalie Darcy Kuemper authored a 32-save performance while veteran forward Carl Söderberg led the way offensively with a goal and two assists.
How have the Coyotes, who have few big-name stars on their roster, been winning with such consistency so far? The biggest keys have been strong goaltending and much-improved team defense with enough balanced scoring to come out ahead. There are seven different players with 15 or more points but none with more than Nick Schmaltz's 20 points (5g, 15a) to date.
Entering this game, the Coyotes have averaged 2.69 goals per game and allowed 2.31 per game. The power play comes in at 19.3 percent and the penalty kill at 80.7 percent. The team has won 48.4 percent of their faceoffs.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS (subject to change)
28 Claude Giroux - 48 Morgan Frost - 11 Travis Konecny
23 Oskar Lindblom - 14 Sean Couturier - 93 Jakub Voracek
21 Scott Laughton - 13 Kevin Hayes - 49 Joel Farabee
25 James van Riemsdyk - xxxxxx -18 Tyler Pitlick
9 Ivan Provorov - 15 Matt Niskanen
6 Travis Sanheim - 61 Justin Braun
53 Shayne Gostisbehere- 5 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg
37 Brian Elliott
[79 Carter Hart]
Power Play 1: Giroux, JVR, Frost, Konecny, Provorov
Power Play 2: Couturier, Lindblom, Voracek, Sanheim, Niskanen
Scratches: 24 Mikhail Vorobyev (healthy), 44 Chris Stewart (healthy), 55 Sam Morin (torn ACL)
LTIR: 12 Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger), 19 Nolan Patrick (migraines)
18 Christian Dvorak - 8 Nick Schmaltz - 83 Conor Garland
67 Lawson Crouse 29 Barrett Hayton - 34 Carl Söderberg - 81 Phil Kessel
9 Clayton Keller - 21 Derek Stepan - 13 Vinnie Hinostroza
40 Michael Grabner - 15 Brad Richardson - 36 Christian Fischer
6 Jakob Chychrun - 33 Alex Goligoski
23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson - 55 Jason Demers
46 Ilya Lyubushkin - 82 Jordan Oesterle
35 Darcy Kuemper
[32 Antti Raanta]
Power Play 1: Keller, Stepan, Dvorak, Kessel, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Power Play 2: Schmaltz, Söderberg, Garland, Chychrun, Goligoski
Scratches: 26 Michael Chaput (healthy), 29 Barrett Hayton (healthy), 42 Aaron Ness (healthy)
Injured reserve: 4 Niklas Hjalmarsson (cracked fibula)