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Flyers vs. Leafs preview: Closing out the Canadian road trip

Will the Flyers fell the Leafs? (sorry)

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers vs. Leafs 1.26.17
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Hockey Night in Canada, hockey night in Philly, hockey night wherever you’re watching, and the Flyers will swing into Toronto to face off against the Maple Leafs.

Hit with injuries, already, and scrambling to find the most effective lines and pairings, the Flyers dropped their last two games against Anaheim and Ottawa. Late game resurgences have aided them in getting back in contention, but they haven't been able to save them. But things finally seemed to click at the end of Thursday's game, and the Flyers will hope that they can hold onto that momentum and get back on track in Toronto.

Likewise, the Leafs have lost two of their last three games, are coming off a 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes, and have been hit with some personnel troubles of their own. If their last two practices are to be any indication, they will be without James van Riemsdyk for tonight's game. Marner looks to take van Riemsdyk’s place on the second line, and Kasperi Kapanen has been called up from the Marlies to fill in elsewhere. Given such depth, the Leafs will still prove to be a difficult opponent, and you can get more on this as Kelly checks out the competition with Down Goes Brown.

It’s certain to be a tough match, with much on the line for both sides. This considered, let’s take a look at three things to be thinking about, heading into tonight’s game.

1. No more slow starts, please

One of the biggest obstacles the Flyers have faced in their last few games was the Flyers. They've dug themselves into holes early and had to spend much of their time trying to claw out of them. It seems to be taking them a few shifts to get to a point where they're clicking and able to make anything happen, but opponents are capitalizing while the Flyers try to figure things out. Outside of the first period, they have asserted dominance and held an edge in possession, but what they had given up in the first twenty minutes has not done their hopes of winning any favors.

But with the new lines starting to click, there remains hope that the early game adjustment curve will be shortened or even eliminated, and that they can establish themselves early against an offensively dominant Leafs team.

2. Second line resurgence

A headline of the night will almost certainly be how the Ginger Line will match up against Toronto's first line of Bozak-Matthews-Nylander, but we should also be looking for what the second line will bring to this game. After getting positively thrashed early on Thursday, they were able to come back late, bringing a performance that averaged out to middling. Of course, to a certain degree, this could have been expected, with Simmonds and Weal having been nicked up in the past week or so, and still working to get back to 100 percent. But with production in the middle six still lagging, we will be looking to the second line to take a step up and make their presence known.

3. Defensive stability

With Andrew MacDonald out for the next month or so with a knee injury, it's left the Flyers with some shuffling to do in their defensive pairings. And the results so far have varied. Gostisbehere and Provorov have looked more or less fine and solid as the new top pairing, but the initial groupings of Hagg-Sanheim and Manning-Gudas certainly left something to be desired, and the all rookie line showing some vulnerabilty. But things started to click later in Thursday's game, when Gudas and Sanheim were flipped, and the defense began to settle and fall into place. So far, the indications are that the Flyers will stick with these new new pairings for tonight's game, and we will hope that they have finally found the answer to the puzzle.

You can check out the rest of the Flyers' projected lineup below.


Giroux - Couturier - Voracek

Weal - Filppula - Simmonds

Weise - Lehtera - Konecny

Leier - Laughton - Raffl


Provorov - Gostisbehere

Hagg - Gudas

Manning - Sanheim