PHILADELPHIA -- Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall have been attached at the hip ever since being drafted by the Flyers in 2007 and 2008. The two were often compared to each other back in those days as the future of the Flyers defense, but those plans quickly evaporated as other players stepped up and both Marshall and Bourdon languished.
Tonight, though, in a pretty shocking turn of events, both men will both make their NHL debuts right alongside each other as they replace Chris Pronger and Braydon Coburn on the blueline against the Carolina Hurricanes. According to Paul Holmgren, Pronger has a virus and Coburn has an upper-body injury that allows him to skate but not take contact.
Harry Zolnierczyk, who just played on the top line in Jaromir Jagr's absence on Saturday, has been sent to Trenton of the ECHL. We have to imagine he's been sent there instead of back to Adirondack because he'll be called right back up when one of Pronger or Coburn are ready to return to the lineup. Perhaps it's a sign that Pronger will be back very soon.
Sending Harry Z down is not for cap reasons, but for the extra roster spot. The Flyers would be at 24 players on the roster with him here. With Zolnierczyk down and both Marshall and Bourdon up, the Flyers have $311,628 in wiggle room under the salary cap. Erik Gustafsson is on LTIR, giving the team $1,211,628 in wiggle room.
Zolnierczyk sitting out of the lineup also means that Andreas Nodl is certainly back in tonight, as the Flyers don't have enough forwards to scratch one since Jaromir Jagr is still injured. Yes, that means we might just see a line of Nodl, Jody Shelley and Zac Rinaldo. Beats the hell out of having Sean Couturier with those two, at least.
You're probably asking yourself: Why Bourdon and Marshall?
The Flyers basically painted themselves into a corner with this one, since they sent Oskars Bartulis through waivers at the beginning of the year. Bartulis and Matt Walker are by far the best defensemen playing in Adirondack, with Marshall and Bourdon battling for the next two spots on the depth chart and Oliver Lauridsen dangling somewhere below them.
But the Flyers A) can't afford Walker's salary and B) can't risk to call either player up through re-entry waivers. Even with Bartulis' price tag coming in at just $300,000 should he be claimed on re-entry, that's a number the Flyers can't afford to give out to a player who wouldn't be playing for their team. The wise move would have been to keep Bartulis as the seventh defenseman out of camp, thus having him around in these situations, but alas, now two guys have to make their NHL debuts on the same night.
We had the chance to watch both Marshall and Bourdon in action up with the Phantoms less than two weeks ago. They weren't particularly impressive in the two games we saw, but for what it's worth, Erik Gustafsson didn't look good when we saw him with the Phantoms back in March and look at how strong he was with the Flyers this season before his injury.
Last season, Marshall was on the top pairing for the Phantoms. In the two games we saw in March, he played 30 minutes a night on a top pairing with Danny Syvret and was used as a shutdown guy. He'd still be in that position if Bartulis and Walker were not with the Phantoms, but nonetheless.
Bourdon struggled quite a bit last year after suffering a concussion, and seemingly turned to using his fists to bring himself back into favor after his ice time slipped. He's seemed a bit better this season, but we'd still have to categorize him well below Gustafsson, Walker, Bartulis and Marshall in the system.
Tonight, they'll finally make their NHL debuts after a combined 288 games in the American Hockey League. Who knows how they'll play, and the hope is that they'll be able to fill in decently and that this is only a one game thing against a Hurricanes team that hasn't been able to score much lately.