Game 26 Preview: Flyers vs. Blue Jackets
Dave Hakstol's Philadelphia Flyers (11-12-2) return home on Thursday to take on John Tortorella's Columbus Blue Jackets (15-10-2) on '90s Night at the Wells Fargo Center
. Game time is 7:00 p.m. ET.
The game will be televised locally on NBCSP and nationally on NHL Network. The radio broadcast can be found on 97.5 FM The Fanatic with an online simulcast at FlyersRadio247.com
This is the second of four meetings between the Metropolitan Division teams this season and the first of two in Philadelphia. The teams will rematch in Philadelphia on Dec. 22 before the season series concludes in Columbus on Feb. 28.
On Oct. 18 at Nationwide Arena, the Flyers scored first and took a 2-1 lead to the first intermission before Columbus scored three times in a seven-minute span in the second period to take control of the game. The Blue Jackets went on to win, 6-3. Winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had a so-so night, which included a gift goal to Sean Couturier. Losing goaltender Cal Pickard (no longer with the Flyers) had a worse night. The team in front of Pickard did him few favors, either, on several key plays., The nadir came in the latter stages of the third period when defenseman Christian Folin fell down, lost the puck and Pickard allowed a very stoppable by Josh Anderson sneak in the short side.
The Flyers are physically a very rested team, having played just once in the last eight nights. On Saturday, the Flyers skated to a 4-2 road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mentally, the Flyers have tried to hit the reset button and get back to business after the firing of general manager Ron Hextall last Monday, a third-period collapse against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, and the dismissals of assistant general manager Chris Pryor and assistant coach Gord Murphy the next day. A feisty (and desperately needed) win in Pittsburgh marked by strong goaltending from Anthony Stolarz improved the mood as the team returned to the ice two days later to start preparations for this game.
On Monday, the Flyers announced the hiring of Chuck Fletcher as the new general manager. The next day, the team officially lured the 30-year-veteran NHL coach Rick Wilson out of retirement to coach the defense corps. Along with team president Paul Holmgren and Comcast Spectacor CEO David Scott, Fletcher held an introductory press conference
on Tuesday, while Wilson was on the ice for his first day with his new team.
Thursday's lineup is likely to remain the same from the game in Pittsburgh. Anthony Stolarz appears to be slated to make his third straight start in goal for the Flyers.
Entering this game, the Flyers have scored an average 3.00 goals per game (ranked 15th) and have a team 3.52 GAA (29th). The team he team has scored four or more goals in 11 games. But they've also been shut out four times and held to a single goal in three other games.
The Flyers power play comes in at 15.1 percent (11-for-73, 27th) with four shorthanded goals yielded. The penalty kill enters at 71.3 percent (57-for-80, 30th). Dale Weise's shorthanded breakaway goal in the opening minute of the third period in Pittsburgh was the Flyers' first shorthanded tally of the season. At five-on-five, the Flyers have scored 52 goals and allowed 55.
The Flyers have scored first in nine of 24 games and are 6-2-1 in those games. They have trailed first 16 times. When yielding the game's first goal, the Flyers are 5-10-1.
Philly has actually been better on the road than at home so far this season. The Flyers bring a disappointing 5-7-1 home record into Thursday's tilt. On the road, the team is 6-5-1.
Blue Jackets Outlook
The Blue Jackets enter this game in second place in the Metro Division, one point behind the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. However, Columbus has dropped back-to-back games in regulation.
On Tuesday, the Blue Jackets hosted the Calgary Flames. Columbus built a 4-1 lead but the Flames struck back repeatedly and sent the Blue Jackets down to a 9-6 defeat.
Two-time Vezina Trophy winner Bobrovsky -- having an inconsistent overall season with a 10-9-0 record, 3.04 GAA and .901 save percentage in 19 starts -- took the loss. The third Calgary goal was one he should have stopped. Tortorella left Bobrovsky in to absorb eight goals on 26 shots before he was finally relieved by Joonas Korpisalo for the final 13:31 of the game. Bobrovsky will get the start against the Flyers.
The Blue Jackets, almost to a man and including Tortorella, felt that Tuesday's game was an aberration. The team, of late, has generally been playing a stronger brand of 200-foot hockey than it was earlier in the season. The offense was there against Calgary, but giving up nine goals or anything in that vicinity is clearly unacceptable. Bobrovsky entered the Calgary game with a 2.72 GAA and .911 save percentage for the season but those numbers took a beating.
Cam Atkinson, who burned the Flyers for two goals in the first game between the teams this season, scored a hat trick in a losing cause. Atkinson brings an 11-game point streak (13 goals, six assists, 19 points) into Philly.
Top-pairing defenseman Seth Jones, who was out with an injury at the time of the first meeting with the Flyers this season, has a four-game point streak (1G, 4A). Jones has eight points, including a pair of goals, in 15 career games against the Flyers.
The Blue Jackets will have an 10:45 a.m. ET team meeting at the Wells Fargo Center. An optional morning skate will follow at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Columbus brings the NHL's 7th-ranked offense (average 3.56 goals per game) into Philadelphia. The club ranks 25th defensively with a 3.37 GAA. The power play enters at 22nd overall (15-for-87, 17.2 percent) with three opposition shorthanded goals allowed. On the penalty kill, the team ranks 21st (63-for-82, 76.8 percent) but they have notched four shorthanded goals. At five-on-five, the team has scored 69 goals and allowed 61.
(Subject to change)
28 Claude Giroux - 14 Sean Couturier - 11 Travis Konecny
25 James van Riemsdyk - 19 Nolan Patrick - 17 Wayne Simmonds
12 Michael Raffl - 21 Scott Laughton - 93 Jakub Voracek
23 Oskar Lindblom - 15 Jori Lehterä - 22 Dale Weise
9 Ivan Provorov - 53 Shayne Gostisbehere
8 Robert Hägg - 47 Andrew MacDonald
6 Travis Sanheim - 3 Radko Gudas
41 Anthony Stolarz
[30 Michal Neuvirth]
Scratches: 26 Christian Folin (healthy), 40 Jordan Weal (healthy), 37 Brian Elliott (IR, lower body), 10 Corban Knight (IR, collarbone), 5 Sam Morin (ACL surgery).
9 Artemi Panarin - 18 Pierre-Luc Dubois - 13 Cam Atkinson
71 Nick Foligno - 38 Boone Jenner - 77 Josh Anderson
17 Brandon Dubinsky - 10 Alexander Wennberg - 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
45 Lukas Sedlak - 20 Riley Nash - 37 Markus Hännikäinen
8 Zach Werenski - 3 Seth Jones
27 Ryan Murray - 65 Markus Nutivaara
4 Scott Harrington - 58 David Savard
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
[70 Joonas Korpisalo]
Scratches: 14 Dean Kukan (healthy), 91 Anthony Duclair (healthy).
Cleveland Skates Past Phantoms, 5-1
Coming off a 3-in-3 weekend road trip through Canada (Laval, Belleville, Toronto) with one subsequent off-day and one practice, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms hosted the Blue Jackets' American Hockey League affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, on Wednesday night at the PPL Center in Allentown. Both the Flyers' brass, including new general manager Chuck Fletcher, and members of Blue Jackets' management were on hand in advance of Thursday's game between the NHL parent clubs.
The Phantoms had no legs for much of the game, and a good Cleveland club was relentless in throwing as much rubber as possible on the net until they finally broke through. The end result: a 5-1 win for Cleveland.
Alex Lyon got the start in goal for Lehigh Valley. Almost singlehandedly, he kept the game scoreless until midway through regulation -- overall shots were 21-5 in Cleveland's favor by the time the second period was six-and-a-half minutes old, including 14-4 in the first period -- before Ryan MacInnis finally opened the scoring at 10:18 of the middle period on a counterattack goal after a Chris Conner opportunity at the other end.
The Phantoms finally started to show some energy over the latter half of the game, including a seven-shot barrage on a late 2nd period power play but the deficit only grew. At 4:19 of the third period, Dean Kukan ended the Phantoms long run of being unscathed on the penalty kill as he fired a point shot that found the net for a 2-0 lead.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (7th goal of the season) got the Phantoms back within 2-1 at 5:56 of the third period, tipping home a Philippe Myers' point shot past Jean-Francois Berube. By mid-period, however, the Monsters began to pull away. Under forechecking pressure, Myers coughed up the puck to Kevin Stenlund and Stenlund beat Lyon to open a 3-1 edge at 9:42.
The Cleveland lead grew to 4-1 at 13:59 on a Justin Scott goal. The Phantoms pulled Lyon for an extra attacker with 4:35 remaining in the third period. Sonny Milano, who had primary assists on the first two Cleveland goals, punctuated a three-point game with an empty netter at 16:30.
The Phantoms generated 19 shots in the third period to nine for Cleveland, but it scarcely mattered in the bigger picture of the game. Berube finished with 34 saves on 35 shots. Lyon finished with 31 stops on 35 shots. The Phantoms run of winning the special teams battle on an almost nightly basis ended as they went scoreless on the power play (0-for-5) and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill.
Phantoms captain Colin McDonald dressed in his 800th professional game. Veteran Phantoms defenseman T.J. Brennan was a healthy scratch.
Lehigh Valley dropped 13-7-2 overall; 3rd place in the Atlantic Division. Cleveland improved to 12-8-3; second place in the North Division. The Phantoms host the Hershey Bears (10-12-1) at the PPL Center on Friday.
10 Greg Carey - 26 Phil Varone - 38 David Kase
22 Chris Conner - 21 Mike Vecchione -16 Nicolas Aube-Kubel
23 Taylor Leier - 15 Mikhail Vorobyev - 24 Carsen Twarynski
12 Tyrell Goulbourne - 9 Cole Bardreau - 13 Colin McDonald
6 Philip Samuelsson - 5 Philippe Myers
2 James de Haas- 37 Mark Friedman
7 Zach Palmquist - 44 Reece Willcox
34 Alex Lyon
[31 Carter Hart]
Scratches: 19 Radel Fazleev (healthy), 25 Connor Bunnaman (healthy), 43 T.J. Brennan (healthy), 17 German Rubtsov (shoulder surgery, out for season).
World Junior Championship Candidate Updates
While final rosters have not been set for any teams yet for the upcoming 2018-19 World Junior Championships in Vancouver, many of the respective national teams have named preliminary rosters/ selection camp rosters from which final choices will be made. Of note to Flyers fans:
Team Canada: Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe are part of the 29-man selection camp roster.
Team USA: Forwards Joel Farabee, Jay O'Brien and Noah Cates, along with defenseman Jack St. Ivany are all on preliminary roster.
Team Sweden: Defenseman Adam Ginning and goaltender Samuel Ersson are on the preliminary roster. In a surprise, forward Olle Lycksell (who played a prominent role in the summer tournament series and has spent the entire season in the SHL along with Linköping teammate Ginning) did not make the 14-man list at forward.
Team Russia: Goaltender Kirill Ustimenko was bypassed on the preliminary roster. He is still playing at the Russian junior level (MHL), while the goalies selected over him are both playing men's hockey for minor league (VHL) teams.