(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young) via l.yimg.com
So the Flyers weren't able to conquer the storm in Toronto, & now they face Winnipeg tonight, at 8 pm EST on Comcast Sportsnet, to try to bounce back after a tough 5-2 loss at the Air Canada Centre last night. Team captain Claude Giroux hasn't registered a point in his last two games, & if the Flyers want to have any success tonight, Giroux will have to make his mark early, & motivate the team around him as well.
Offensively, the Flyers are in the middle of the pack this season. They rank 15th (out of 30) in goals (31), 22nd in goals per game average (2.36), tied for 11th in assists (57), 24th in shot percentage (8.2), & yet they're 5th in the league in shots on goal (380). Taking a glance at these stats shows that they're shooting the puck a lot, which is key to getting rebounds, scoring more goals, & winning games- but yet they can't seem to find the back of the net as well as they'd like to.
Part of the reason for their offensive woes this season are due to injuries. Scott Hartnell is out until the end of February/early March with a broken foot, Andrej Meszaros is out until the end of February with a left-shoulder injury, & sophomore center Sean Couturier is currently fighting the flu virus & was sent home last night.
As for the Jets' offense this year, they are about even with the Flyers. In two less games played, Winnipeg has scored only one fewer goal then Philadelphia. They rank 19th in the NHL in shots on goal, with 319, & defensively, they aren't much butter, ranking 26th in the league in GAA with 3.22. One surprise for Winnipeg this year on offense has been defenseman Tobias Enstrom, who leads the team in assists & scoring so far, with 11 assists (tied for third in the league), & 13 points, respectively.
Both teams have had up & down goaltending this year. Ilya Bryzgalov, for the Flyers, has looked fantastic at times, & below average on other occasions, while Winnipeg netminder Ondrej Pavelec has been shaky thus far. Pavelec ranks 24th in the league in goals against average (3.28), and 26th in save percentage (.885). He has given up more then four goals a game four times this season, & he has a terrible save percentage of .804 in his last three starts, to match a 4.03 GAA in that time span.
If the Jets want to have any success vs. the Flyers tonight, Pavelec will have to be solid in net. This includes rebounds, deflections, breakaways, & on the penalty kill, especially considering that Philadelphia will want to bounce back from, & improve on their Power Play woes early on this season, & be effective.
On the other side of the spectrum, Ilya Bryzgalov, unless Peter Laviolette gives veteran backup Brian Boucher the start, will want to bounce back from his atrocious game vs. Toronto last night, during which he gave up four goals on only 14 shots, in 26 minutes of play.
Bryzgalov has had trouble with breakaways (including shootouts), & rebounds this season; both of which plagued him vs. Toronto. Former Flyer James Van Riemsdyk capped off the scoring for Toronto by scoring on a semi-breakaway, backhand on Bryzgalov. Even before that, due to the Flyers inability to win puck battles, & chip the puck out, Toronto kept the puck in their offensive zone, & 4th-line enforcer Colton Orr backhanded a Bryzgalov rebound in the net- his first goal of the year, for a 2-1 Toronto lead in the 2nd period.
In the past two games, Bryzgalov has a dismal .851 save percentage, & a 4.77 goals against average. If Bryzgalov wants to have success vs. Winnipeg, he has to play smart, & stay calm in net. Winnipeg is only the fourth youngest team in the NHL this year, while on the other hand, the Flyers are the third oldest, with averages of 27.16, & 29.03, respectively, meaning that Winnipeg is inexperienced, & still learning, & thus the Flyers have to take advantage of that, offensively & defensively.
As on & off as the Flyers offense & goaltending have been this season, the team's defense has become a major concern as well. Chris Pronger may never play again, Kimmo Timonen may be in the first of his final two years in the NHL, & Luke Schenn is still young, & learning how to play smart & effective, & learning the Flyers' system at the same time.
Additionally, as mentioned, the Flyers are also playing without defenseman Andrej Meszaros, due to a shoulder injury sustained almost three weeks ago, while newcomers Bruno Gervais, Kurtis Foster, & Luke Schenn are still learning, & adapting to play in Philadelphia.
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The Jets will try to win for the fourth time in five home games, while the Flyers will try to improve upon their poor, lackluster 1-6 road record this year. Despite a 3.62 GAA, Pavelec is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts vs. Philadelphia. Overall, Bryzgalov has been fantastic in his career vs. Winnipeg. His line? 3-0-1, with a 2.18 GAA in four career starts.
Sean Couturier (flu)
Andrej Meszaros (shoulder)
Scott Hartnell (foot)
Michael Leighton (upper-body injury)
Matt Walker (back, groin, & abdomen)
Chris Pronger (Post-concussion syndrome)
Marc-Andre Bourdon (Concussion)
Tom Sestito (healthy scratch, replaced by Harry Zolnierczyk)
Chat with me during the game on Twitter- @SportsPhan8SB