The battle for playoffs continues in tonight's game: as the Flyers look to seal their sixth straight win amidst a difficult stretch, the Kings will provide another test to see how the Flyers will contend against playoff teams.
The Flyers have surprised pretty much everyone in their last five games, winning all ten points. Even the most optimistic fans have to concede that this particular turn of events was completely unexpected. The team swept a week with a pretty stacked schedule and did it in relatively convincing fashion. Warms the heart. The Flyers can't afford to take their foot off the gas with the Los Angeles Kings in town, though.
I'm sure Carter and Richards will be the story of the day: it will be the pair's first return to Philadelphia as members of the Kings. There will be plenty of talk about the trades (again), but that is boring because pretty much every point has been talked to death. Instead, let's look at the Kings actual merits. They've won seven of their past ten and generally, have looked good. Despite those wins, it's no secret that their forwards have been struggling to put up points, and the addition of a talented winger means that their lines look considerably different since the teams last meeting.
Perhaps the change that will catch Flyers fans by surprise most is that of Mike Richards. The former captain is now centering the Kings fourth line. Coach Darryl Sutter noticed a dry spell and swiftly demoted him, acknowledging that Richards's playing time is determined by how he lives up to expectations. Clearly, he's failing in Sutter's eyes. Still, Richards bagged his tenth goal of the season while playing on that fourth line in the Kings contest against the Florida Panthers, breaking a six game point drought.
Marian Gaborik, who has been settling in nicely since his trade, has made the top line a force to be reckoned with. Despite the fact that Gaborik, Kopitar, and Williams have only played eight games together thus far, their chemistry is building and the line could heat up incredibly quickly once they've played more than a handful of games together. Gaborik has scored four points in his eight games with the Kings.
Drew Doughty, who really shined over the Olympic break for Team Canada, continues to put together excellent performances on the blue line. Doughty leads all Kings defensemen with eight goals for 27 assists for 35 points.
The Kings could be without Captain Dustin Brown. He was injured in the Kings game against the Panthers and was listed as day-to-day. Likewise, Steve Downie will be out after his upper-body injury against the Blues. Veteran call-up Tye McGinn was reported to be practicing in Downie's spot on the third line, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in that role.
We all know that Jonathan Quick is frickin' brilliant, so it's no surprise that Quick has consistently been one of the Kings best players. His last outing was a shutout, his fifth of the season and the thirtieth of his career. It was also enough to make him the winningest goaltender in franchise history. Good for him. He will probably go against Ray Emery. Emery's last start was the 3-2 win against the Blackhawks; he made 23 saves.
The Flyers should be able to respond well to the Kings style of play, and with all the confidence in the world on the Flyers side and with all of the former teammates involved, you have to assume that this one will be fun to watch. Let's go Flyers.