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Flyers vs. Golden Knights preview: Nice to make your acquaintance

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Make good choices, the Flyers. Don’t catch the Vegas flu.

Kate Frese / SB Nation

Happy Sunday, everybody! Are you tired of us yet? Are you tired of the Flyers? I hope not, because we’ve got another game and a whole lot more coverage for you. So buckle in.

The Flyers hit the back end of their back to back tonight against the Golden Knights. They pulled off a shootout win (their first of the season) against the Coyotes last night in a weird and scrambly game that also saw Elliott get hurt on a freak play during the shootout. It was kind of a mess, if we’re being totally honest.

Tonight, they face off against the NHL’s newest team, and figure to have quite the challenge in front of them. The Golden Knights are second in the league with 76 points and a game in hand over the first place Lightning. I still don’t know that I’ve processed how this team can be this good. This same team that took Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the expansion draft and left Michael Raffl on the table. I just don’t know.

But the fact remains that the Golden Knights are a very good team, and the Flyers played a very not good game last night. And they’ll have to step up in a lot of ways. Here are three of them:

1. Neuvirth

We were hearing talk before yesterday’s game that the Flyers were leaning towards starting Neuvirth against the Golden Knights, but now they really don’t have a choice—with Elliott leaving the Arizona game with a lower body injury, it looks like it’s all up to Neuvirth now. And they’ll need him to come up big.

When we last saw him (in a non-shootout setting), it was a whole mess around poor play and drama about an illness he was still battling, one that ended with him losing the start to Alex Lyon. Neuvirth looked fine coming in relief during the shootout—even if he wasn’t tested that hard—and it served as a solid reintroduction. The Golden Knights are a good team, one that could really threaten Neuvirth and the Flyers, and what they’ll need, above all, is for him to forget all of the nonsense we pointed to above, and just keep his head down and put in a solid effort. Nothing fancy. Just do the thing.

2. Turnovers

Man oh man was last night a mess on the puck control front. We saw turnovers being an issue in their last couple of games, but it really came to a head last night, and in such a drastic fashion that the Coyotes were generating most of their offense as a result of Flyers’ turnovers—they hardly needed to do anything else. It was a game that the Flyers could have wrapped up much more easily than they did; there was no reason that that game should have had to go past regulation. It just shouldn’t have happened.

The Flyers will have to find a way to clean up their game tonight against an actually very good team that can do more damage in exploiting their mistakes. It comes down to simplifying and not giving away chances for free, not shooting themselves in the foot and negating the good work they’re also doing.

3. Defense

Last night wasn’t an altogether atrocious showing for the Flyers’ defense, to be sure, but they did find themselves slipping into mistakes and moments of lax coverage, and the Coyotes benefited or nearly benefited from that. We’ve long seen the top unit thriving while the second and third sort of floundered, but even last night saw something of a rough game for Provorov. Here, too, it’s a question of getting back to basics and their best game, and with such a quick turnaround, we won’t have to wait very long at all to see how they respond.

And not so much of an area in need of improvement, last night’s defensive showing also leaves us with something to ponder: Gudas didn’t receive a single shift after the Rinaldo goal, but also didn’t leave the bench with any apparent injury. He should still figure to play tonight—it’s hard to imagine Hakstol scratching him in favor of Mark Alt, but I guess stranger things have happened—but it will be interesting to see if and how his usage is affected for this this game.

If your hopes aren’t particularly high for this one, well, the statistical powers that be seem to be on your side. The models over at Corsica give the Flyers a high of 47.3 percent chance of winning, and an average of 38.7 percent.

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

Forwards

Giroux - Couturier - Konecny

Voracek - Patrick - Simmonds

Lehtera - Filppula - Weise

Raffl - Laughton - Weal

Defensemen

Provorov — Gostisbehere

Hagg — MacDonald

Manning — Gudas

Goalies

Neuvirth

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