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Flyers at Flames preview: Judgment week?

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The Flyers are in Calgary to begin a three-game swing out in Western Canada that could decide the direction of the rest of this season.

Kate Frese / SBNation

On this exact day two months ago, the Flyers began a three-game road swing against Pacific Division teams, and it had been a while since they’d won a regular-season game. Tonight, they’ll also begin a three-game road swing against Pacific Division teams, and it’s also been a while since they’ve won a regular-season game.

Of course, that Western road trip had a slightly different feel to it, because it represented the first three games of the Flyers’ 2017-18 season. Tonight, the Flyers will take the ice in Calgary knowing it’s the 11th game they’ve played since the last time they picked up a win. And while that first road trip was the start of something (namely, a hockey season), it’s not hard to think that this road trip could very well be the end of something if things don’t take a turn for the better.

Ron Hextall voluntarily came out in defense of his head coach twice in the past week, once immediately following the team’s loss on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks and again the following day in an interview on NBCS Philly. Given chances to indicate that his coach is fighting for his job, he had repeatedly declined to do so.

But that all happened before this past Saturday’s game, a 3-0 loss against the Boston Bruins that qualifies as a low point in a season that’s already had far too many low points. That loss came on the heels of the aforementioned loss to the Sharks, which nearly everyone agreed was the Flyers’ worst-played game of their extended losing streak up to that point.

There have been some games this month where the Flyers played well enough to win for most of the game and missed out due to one or two dumb mistakes and bad bounces. That happens. But it becomes harder and harder to ask people to be patient with a team when its play is getting worse and worse, and despite the reassurances of the general manager, one has to imagine that this three-game swing (which is followed by four days off) might be something of a moment of truth for the coach and potentially some of the players.

With that, we turn our attention to the ice itself, where the Flyers will finish up their season series with the Calgary Flames tonight. 16 days ago, back when this losing streak was in its embryonic stage, these two teams faced off at the Wells Fargo Center, where an overall pretty solid performance from the Flyers was undone by wretched discipline that led to three Flames power play goals and, ultimately, a 5-4 overtime loss.

A lot has happened since then! Namely, a lot of losing has happened since then! But the Flyers will give it a shot. We’ve already seen one noteworthy streak in Philadelphia sports end in the past 24 hours, so why not make it two tonight, folks?

Some notes and thoughts on tonight’s game:

  • No word on lineup changes from Saturday as of yet, but after two straight total duds you have to think something will be different from what the Flyers trotted out against Boston. Unfortunately, one potential change could involve ...
  • ... Travis Konecny, who was stapled to the bench during the third period of Saturday’s loss. Konecny played just 42 seconds during that third period, despite generally looking like one of the team’s more explosive players during the first 40 minutes of their loss. I have absolutely no clue what kind of message would be sent by making Konecny a healthy scratch, but it very well seems like an option that may be on the table.
  • Speaking of young players named Travis, Travis Sanheim will play in Calgary — where he spent three years as a junior player for the WHL’s Hitmen — for the first time since turning pro. Cool for him.
  • Brian Elliott will probably face off with his old team. He enters tonight’s game at 6-6-6 on the season, since this is truly the hockey season from Hell and all.
  • As for the guys on the other side of the ice ... Calgary is coming off of a 7-5 barnburner of a loss against Edmonton, so they’re probably going to come out firing tonight.
  • Johnny Gaudreau is from South Jersey. Not many people know that.

Tonight’s game begins at 9:00 p.m. ET and can be:

  • Seen locally via NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus (or via stream on the NBC Sports App)
  • Heard via radio locally on 93.3 WMMR
  • Seen in Canada via Sportsnet West
  • Seen or heard elsewhere via NHL.tv, NHL Center Ice, or Sirius XM

Projected Flyers Lines

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Voracek

Weal - Patrick - Simmonds

Konecny - Filppula - Raffl

Lehtera - Laughton - Weise

Defensemen

Provorov - MacDonald

Gostisbehere - Hagg

Manning - Sanheim

Goalies

Elliott

(Neuvirth)