We're quite lucky the Philadelphia Flyers are an Eastern Conference team. Sitting with 47 points in the standings through 44 games, the home team sits in ninth place in the conference, just one point behind seventh place Ottawa and eighth place Montreal. We're also just four points out of fifth place.
Compare that with the Dallas Stars, a team that compares quite well with the Flyers. They've been extremely disappointing so far this season thanks to weak goaltending at times, bad defense in front of weak goaltending, an inability to close out games in overtime or the shootout, and more recently, the invisibility of their offensive power.
While the Flyers have found a way to climb back into the picture recently, the Stars have fallen off the map. If they were in the Eastern Conference instead of the West, they'd sit in sixth place. Instead, the Western Conference offers them a nice cozy view from tenth, four points out of the playoffs and eight out of sixth.
It's that one stat in there that's seemingly been their kryptonite more than anything this year. With a whopping 11 OT losses, the Stars have shot themselves in the foot once getting to the extra session. You could argue, of course, that at least they picked up a point in those 11 games, but the Stars 4-11 overtime record is just plain old pathetic. They're also one of the worst shootout teams in the league with a 2-7 mark. If Dallas wins five more of those 11 games, they're in the playoffs. It's simple math.
On the road, the Stars are a terrible team lately. They're 7-10-6 overall away from Texas, but they have just one win in their last 11 on the road and have been shutout in two of their last three road games. This looks like the perfect team for the Flyers to continue their jaunt against, no?
It's no secret that the Flyers are rolling in every aspect of the game right now. Be it the goaltending from Michael Leighton, the power play which is back up to third in the league, the penalty kill which has been spectacular over the last nine games, or the five-on-five play, they're starting to look like the team we thought they could be.
Mike Ribeiro is out with a vicious throat injury that he suffered last week, and that means we'll see a lot more of Mike Modano and Loui Eriksson tonight. Erikkson has distinguished himself as an offensive gem in Dallas, currently leading them in goals with 18 on the year.
The Flyers will go with the same lineup they've kept for a while now, as you can understand. Ray Emery will be on the bench tonight while Michael Leighton gets the start yet again. That means Brian Boucher is your healthy scratch. Leighton has certainly earned the right to play, as he's yet to lose in regulation as a Flyer. Clearly, though, the team won't hold three goalies for the rest of the season. There's a problem brewing here, but it's one of the cliche "good problems to have."
After the jump, expected line combinations, starting goaltenders, questions to answer tonight and our in-game discussion.
Flyers Line Combinations - no changes hereHartnell - Carter - Briere
Gagne - Richards - Giroux
JVR - Powe - Asham
Carcillo - Betts - Laperriere
Carle - Pronger
Coburn - Bartulis
Stars Line Combinations - via Mike Heika, Dallas Morning News
Neal - Richards - Eriksson
Morrow - Wandell - Benn
Ott - Modano - Lehtinen
Sutherby - Petersen - Barch
Fistric - Robidas
Skrastins - Niskanen
Daley - Fortunus
Questions To Answer
- Can the Flyers effectively pepper Marty Turco with shots?
- The Stars have been trying to loosen up on their road trip, including making a tourist trip to the Art Museum yesterday. Do they play loose as a result?
- Steve Ott is one of those agitator Sean Avery-type players. Can he effectively get under the skin of the Flyers, notable Dan Carcillo who has reined in his penalty-taking ways lately?
- The Flyers are a better team on the PP, PK, at faceoffs, in saves, in goals per game, and goals against per game. So, uh, we win right?
- Can Leighton finally earn a shutout at home with the Flyers after giving up a couple in the third period?
Tonight's game will be broadcast locally on CSN Philly and 610 WIP. As always, join us here for the conversation and LET'S GO FLYERS!