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Flyers vs. Capitals preview: A triumphant return?

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A return, at least

Kate Frese / SB Nation

And we’re back! We’ve weathered the All-Star break! I know we’re all very excited about the weekend, but we do still have a bit of hockey lined up before we hit The Big Football Game. First up? Wednesday Night Rivalry. Flyers vs. Capitals. Let’s go.

This is the Flyers’ third meeting of the season against the first-in-the-Metro Capitals. The Flyers proved victorious in both of their match-ups thus far, and they were, well they were really something. First was their 8-2 home opener smackdown, made up of fast, run and gun hockey, and more than a fair bit of exciting goals. The second game, a mere week and a half ago, was a very different story—much more of a slog (if we’re being honest), it saw the Flyers grinding away and just barely scraping their way past regulation, where Travis Konecny’s overtime heroics brought them the win. Given the range of style covered in these two games, it’s really anyone’s guess what tonight’s will look like. But all the same, we can only hope for a repeat of the results.

The Capitals have hit a bit of, what appears on paper, a down stretch, dropping four of their last six games after winning each of their five before. Given their track record with the Flyers, one imagines this game can reasonably go one of two ways: with the Flyers having figured out the Capitals and picking up another glorious win and moving one step closer to sweeping the season series, or with the Caps being done with being embarrassed and out for blood, and running all over our poor boys. Sadness takes over as playoff hopes slip farther away and we fall deeper into our pit of Flyers angst, creeping ever-closer to the abyss...

Whew, that escalated quickly. Uh, yeah, hm. Oh, look at that, it’s our three things to look for in tonight’s game. Let’s move onto that. Quickly, please.

1. New looks

Have you been noticing that Nolan Patrick’s been taking big steps in the right direction and looking really solid recently? He has, and you wouldn’t be the only one taking notice. Hakstol seems to have been liking what he’s been seeing out of Patrick, and has promoted him to the second line, newly organized to give him Voracek and Simmonds on his wings. And this line has the potential to be dangerous. Despite having Voracek on his less comfortable side—which will prove an interesting experiment, at the very least—it gives Patrick support from two dynamic players who can support his speed and give him some space to work with. And while this leaves something of a questionable third line—Filppula centering Weal and Raffl—this also has the potential to work. The key word here seems to be potential, so it’ll be interesting to see how and if these will pan out.

2. Neuvirth

This probably isn’t breaking news by now, but with Elliott placed on IR yesterday, this leaves Neuvirth the de facto starter for this first game back from the break. He didn’t exactly have a stellar showing against the Lightning last Thursday, so he’ll be looking to get back on track with this one, especially given the high stakes that come with a divisional game in this latter part of the season. And, given Hakstol’s apparent lack of trust in young goalies, we shouldn’t expect to see Lyon coming in in relief, should things get too ugly. It’s going to be, reasonably, all Neuvirth all the way, so let’s hope he doesn’t let it get too ugly.

3. Shot selection

One area that seemed to trouble the Flyers in their last game against the Capitals was shot selection, as they were effectively pushed out of the area around the crease, and relegated to taking shots from moderate to low danger areas. They’ve been largely successful when able to establish a netfront presence, and after being effectively shut down in this area, they’ll need to look to find a way to break through the Capitals’ defense and get back to flexing their strengths.

On the other side, they’ll want to work to force Washington’s hand in shot locations, defending the area around the front of the net, as they were largely unable to do last time.

And what are Corsica’s models saying about tonight’s game? The ones with projections up so far favor the Caps in this one, giving the Flyers an average of 44 percent chance of winning.

Puck drops at 8:00 tonight, and you can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below. Welcome back, friends.

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Voracek - Patrick - Simmonds

Weal - Filppula - Raffl

Goulbourne - Laughton - Lehtera

Defensemen

Provorov - Gostisbehere

Hagg - MacDonald

Manning - Gudas

Goaltender

Neuvirth

(Lyon)