The past week or so has been kind of underwhelming for the Flyers, with two rough losses over the weekend and a game on Tuesday that the Flyers slept through half of before waking up and realizing they were playing the worst team in the NHL.
Hopefully, they're in line for a bit better of an effort tonight -- and at home against a team that's been struggling for a while now, they've got a decent chance to give one.
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The Flyers' home winning streak came to an end in their most recent home game five days ago, but even that was a game that the Flyers controlled the majority of, and only lost thanks to a couple of defensive breakdowns and some questionable goaltending. Regardless, after seeing their streak end, being on the receiving end of an ass-whipping in the Big Apple on Sunday, and needing a mid-game wake-up call to sneak past the friggin' Sabres on Tuesday, one can only hope the Flyers come into this game a bit more ready to go from the outset.
That said, the Flyers have already faced tonight's opponent once already this year, and in that game the Preds were all over the Flyers from start to finish and only didn't get the two points because of an outstanding effort from Steve Mason that lasted through a shootout. The Flyers have improved since that game, and home ice should help them out, so it would be nice if they could put a better effort on the ice against a team that has not had the best of fortunes this season.
How so? Well, their leading scorer, David Legwand, has cooled off from a pretty fast start to the season and had just three points in his previous 13 games before picking up a trio of assists on Tuesday against Calgary. Their second-leading scorer is a defenseman (just some guy, though; you've probably never heard of him ...). Their goaltending -- always a strong point for so long with that team -- has taken a huge hit this season, with All-Star goalie Pekka sidelined for months with a hip infection and with his two backups performing at a level that ... well, let's put it this way: yesterday the Preds traded for Devan Dubnyk, a guy who hasn't been above a .900 save percentage at any point this season. In comes the savior!*
Anywho. All of this has led to the Preds sitting in sixth place in their seven-team division, with the fifth-worst goal differential in the entire NHL. After two straight seasons with playoff series wins, the Preds are staring a second straight year with a top-5 draft pick in the face. It's been a rough year for Barry Trotz and David Poile's team.
Now, with all of that acknowledged, the Preds can still play a good defensive game, grind you down, and make you work for goals the same way they always have been able to, so if the Flyers play lazy like they did for almost all of Sunday's game and a decent chunk of Tuesday's, they may leave the evening with a loss once again.
For all of the weaknesses and problems the Preds have had this year, as mentioned above, they've still got a really, really solid blueline that will make things tough on the Flyers. Shea Weber (miss u) didn't play in the first game these two teams played with an eye injury, but he should be in the lineup tonight, and he, Roman Josi, and Seth Jones anchor a nice group on D. Cracking them and the Preds' other defensemen will be by far the trickiest part of the puzzle tonight for the Flyers, but if they can find any sort of way, I like their chances.
After they got their heads out of their butts somewhere during the second period, the Flyers played a nice game on Tuesday, getting strong efforts from several different forwards -- including Brayden Schenn's entire line, Matt Read, and even Vincent Lecavalier, who shut down a scoring slump by potting the game-winner in the game's dying moments. Eight different forwards scored at least one point, and the Flyers knocked in two on the power play. Good balance like that across all states of the game will lead you to victories more often than not, so let's do that again, shall we?
Scott Hartnell was described yesterday as "day-to-day" with a "lower-body issue" suffered on Tuesday (Hey. The Flyers. Seriously. We all saw him block a shot with his ankle. You can say it's his ankle. We promise, you're not spoiling anything for us.), but reports from practice this morning were that he should be ready to go against the team that drafted him and traded him to Philadelphia. Coming off of a three-point night on Tuesday, that's good news. The only other lineup question is whether Steve Downie will be back in the lineup after being scratched the last two games. You would think so, after Jay Rosehill played only 3:45 and committed a dumb offensive zone penalty against Buffalo, but Berube is calling it a game-time decision. Such is life.
In net, Steve Mason had a rough go of things on Tuesday night, and hasn't had a particularly good record in general since the new year began (.879 save percentage in five starts), but he goes for the Flyers tonight. Let's hope he and the defense can keep it together after three straight games of three or more goals against. Shiny new toy Devan Dubnyk will not play for the Preds tonight -- they'll go with Carter Hutton instead.
7:00 start. Gamethread up around 5:30. Check out On the Forecheck for consistently outstanding Preds coverage. Go Flyers.
* I'm mostly joking there -- that was actually a great trade for Predators yesterday, in that I don't actually think Dubnyk's a bad goalie at all, and that they cleared off a bad contract in Matt Hendricks. But I digress.