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Gameday: Flyers travel to DC to take on Caps

#4 Philadelphia Flyers (31-17-9, 61 pts) at #2 Washington Capitals (38-17-5, 81 pts)
Verizon Center - 7:00 PM EST - Washington DC
TV: CSN Philly HD, CSN Mid Atlantic HD
Radio: 1210 AM WPHT, XM 206
This is the open game thread.
Live Internet Stream
Behind Enemy Lines: Japer's Rink, On Frozen Blog, Capitals Kremlin

I'm not going to sit here and insult your intelligence by saying "this is a big game." That's obvious. When you're in fourth place in the conference, and you're playing a team that's ahead of you in the standings, it's a big game. When that team has the best player in the game on it.... you get the point.

The Flyers travel to DC tonight to take on the Capitals and they'll try to send the home team fans home angry in a place where that doesn't happen too often. Washington holds a 24-5-1 record at home. The Flyers are 2-0-1 in their last three trips to Verizon Center, but they suffered a shootout loss in their only trip there this season.

The Verizon Center has become notorious for bad ice this season, which leads me to believe that, hey, maybe that's part of the reason why they're so good at home. They're road record is an unimpressive 14-12-4, so that kind of lends its hand to the theory as well. Tally that up with the fact that they play a million games against the weak-as-shit Southeast Division, and the big, bad Capitals become a little more human.

I'm not saying the Capitals aren't good. Clearly, they are a dynamic team that has a real shot at winning the Cup. But the media is clearly drawn to this team, thanks to AO's play and Mike Green's record, and the fact that they're so god damn "entertaining." Is that what it is? Because I see they're over-the-top goal celebrations that make it look like they just struck out Eric Hinske to win the World Series as just laughable. Act like you've scored before, ya know?

Anyway, my point is that the Caps aren't the unstoppable force it seems they're made out to be. I'm starting to hate them a bit, which means they must be good, but let's not get scared just yet. The Flyers can handle these guys if they play their game.

After all, Ovechkin does not have one single point against the Flyers this season. The Flyers need to keep him from scoring, keep him frustrated like they did in that 7-1 Flyer win back in December. He was clearly flustered in that game, thanks to some chatter by Mike Richards (who Caps fans think is a whiny diver... check the video/poll in the FanPosts) and unbelievable goaltending by Antero Niittymaki.

Jeff Carter has been bothered by the flu of late, and that could be why he's gone a season-high five games without scoring a goal. He missed practice Monday but will play tonight. The rest of the team has picked him up offensively, though.

Richards received league-wide first star honors this past week for his offensive outburst and the rest of his linemates are producing as well. Simon Gagne is on a four-game point streak while Knuble has scored in three straight. Overall, the Flyers have scored 20 goals in their last four games.

Between the Pipes: Niittymaki gets the nod tonight. He'll try to recreate his 40 save performance against the Caps back in December. He's absolutely unreal against the Southeast Division with a 10-0 record this season.

Jose Theodore is in for the Caps. He's got a 4-1 record with a 2.02 GAA in his last five against the Flyers. He's 4-1-1 in his last five games overall.

Injury Report: Kimmo Timonen will not play tonight. He has the flu and did not travel. Ossi Vaananen will replace him in the lineup, but he probably will not play on the top pairing with Ryan Parent. It's likely Randy Jones will play with Parent, while Vaananen will play with Andrew Alberts.

Washington Capitals Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brent Johnson hip 02/05/2009
Brian Pothier concussion 09/20/2008
Chris Clark wrist 02/02/2009
Viktor Kozlov groin 02/04/2009

Other Notes

  • The Capitals are a ridiculous 12-1-3 against the Atlantic Division this season.
  • Caps center Niklas Backstrom has a six-game point streak going.
  • The Flyers have scored shorthanded goals in three straight games.
    The Caps PP is tops in the Eastern Conference and it's converted at a 36.1% rate in its last 11 games. Their PK has been on fire of late as well, killing off 50 of its last 59.

Questions to Answer

  1. Timonen is usually a big key in keeping the other teams' best players off the board. Does his absence tonight lead to a hole in the Flyers' D when it comes to defending Ovechkin?
    Can the Flyers stop Washington's PP?
  2. Will Antero Niittymaki have another impressive performance against the Capitals?
    How does Ryan Parent play without Timonen by his side?
  3. Does Jeff Carter get back on the board?

7 PM. Be here. Go Flyers.