I don't think anyone will be surprised if the Flyers game ranks as the second most popular sports contest in Philadelphia today. On the off-chance you will be watching along with me, it'll probably be a messy one.
The Flyers are coming off a loss to the Avalanche, the first loss of their six game road trip. Not too shabby, overall, even though some of those wins were narrow and that's being kind. Still, you can't be mad at the Flyers for stealing games away and making the whole ordeal exciting. They'll be facing the Coyotes tonight, who have lost seven of their last ten, while the Flyers have won seven of their last ten games.
Still, don't expect this to be a beat-down. Phoenix currently holds a 9-4-3 record against the Eastern Conference and in their last meeting with the Flyers, eked out a 2-1 win.
The biggest drawback that came out of the loss in Denver (even more than the loss itself, which is saying something) was Michael Raffl's injury. He was concussed early on by a hit from Gabriel Landeskog. As expected, he won't play tonight. He did, however, participate in the team's morning skate, so that's a good sign. Raffl's absence was definitely noticeable on Thursday night, with Berube straining to fill his place on the top line resulting in some major line juggling. Hopefully he'll feel better soon and he'll be able to step back into the lineup not long after.
Matt Read's injury is another that the Flyers could do without, especially with the third line performing less than admirably without him. Read's return will be delayed at least one more game, which sucks. Similarly, Erik Gustafsson looks to still be recovering from his knee injury. Again, sucks. This all means that VandeVelde and Rosehill will be back in the lineup. I imagine the lines will look as shoddy as they did on Thursday night.
For Phoenix, defensemen Zbynek Michalek will be sitting with a lower body injury, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be benched with a upper-body injury--his name might sound familiar, as he scored the game winner in the teams' last meeting. Also, Captain Shane Doan will make his return tonight after being sidelined for twelve games. He was treated for, I kid you not, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Weird ailments aside, the Coyotes clearly missed Doan's presence if their record has anything to say on the matter, so I would think that his presence provides a bit of energy for the club.
Steve Mason gets the start tonight. Mason played pretty well during his last game . The game-winning goal was one he'd like to get back, but he made some big stops to keep the Flyers in the game and his numbers looked good. Sometimes, a quiet performance is much better than a loud one. On the other side, Mike Smith is expected to start for the Coyotes. Smith has been playing decently, save for a butt goal that will go down as my favorite own goal of all time.
If you're planning on watching the Flyers over the Eagles, I applaud your dedication. It looks like we're going to get a pretty even tilt tonight. If the Flyers are able to put pucks at net with an injury-weakened offensive core, they'll have a good chance of taking the two points with them. With the Flyers averaging 16.2 penalty minutes per game and the Coyotes averaging 10.4, it should be interesting to say the least.
Meet you back here later, hopefully with a recap of a great night for Philadelphia sports. Go Eagles, but more importantly, go Flyers.