You could say this game is pretty important! The Flyers take on their cross-state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins in what is easily the biggest game of this season so far. With a win tonight, the Flyers can move back into a tie with the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metro. Pittsburgh is one point ahead of Philadelphia currently with 80 points. The Pens have won two in a row and have made everyone forget about their early season struggles, as is tradition.
The past three Flyers games have been some of the most frustrating hockey we’ve seen all year. A clunker of a game vs. Carolina, a blown late lead vs. Tampa Bay, and uh...whatever the hell you want to call the Florida game. This game is a wake up call, and who better to get back in the lineup for this game than Wayne Simmonds. The Best Wayne to Ever Play Hockey is expected to return tonight after participating in full practice yesterday. Getting back one of the key leaders on this team for a game of this importance, needless to say is pretty huge.
Petr Mrazek looks to be the goalie tonight despite three shaky outings. If the Flyers want to grab this huge win, Mrazek will need to shrug off his struggles of late. Given the injury to Matt Murray, it looks as though probably maybe the Flyers will face Casey DeSmith in this one. DeSmith has a .913 save percentage this season in nine games. With a rookie goalie playing in one of the biggest games of the year for both teams, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Flyers to put as many shots as possible on goal.
1. The Wayne Train
As previously mentioned, Wayne Simmonds is back. With Oskar Lindblom having seemingly sealed his spot on this team for the near future, the return of Simmonds bolsters this forward corps incredibly. This hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the fan favorite, with injuries having plagued him for most of the year, but this is the time for him to get hot. With just 16 games remaining in the regular season, a Simmonds stretch run hot streak would be key for this team.
2. Mrazek looks to rebound
Sure, the defense has been less-than-stellar to say the least over the past few games, but Petr Mrazek hasn’t exactly been playing out of this world. Against a team like Pittsburgh they’ll need a top game from their new goalie. He will look to improve on his career record vs. Pittsburgh of 2-4 with an .890 save percentage and 4.02 GAA.
3. Avoid the penalty box
Granted, this is a fairly obvious one for most games, but especially against Pittsburgh. The Pens come into this game with the league’s best power play at 26.4%, well ahead of the next highest team in Winnipeg with 24.6%. With the Flyers having the league’s third worst penalty kill, it will be extra important in this one to avoid the box. The Pens already hold the advantage in 5-on-5 play with a 51.78 CF%, so for Philadelphia, they’d like to keep that as the only major advantage.
Flyers Projected Lines
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Lindblom - Patrick - Voracek
Weal - Filppula - Simmonds
Lehtera - Laughton - Raffl
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas