The Flyers are finally back facing against another team from the Eastern Conference, and it’s a division rival to boot.
That’s right, the Blue Jackets (5-3-2, 12 points) come to town to take on the Flyers (4-3-1, nine points), who are playing just their second game this season against a team from the Metropolitain with the only other being a 4-0 shutout of the Devils in game two.
Columbus looking radically different this year after loading up for a playoff run a year ago. John Tortorella no longer has Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel among others, but still has the BJ’s humming along on the young season. They come in winners of two straight like the Flyers and led by stalwarts Cam Atkinson (three goals, two assists), Pierre-Luc Dubois (four goals, two assists), and Seth Jones (one goal, five assists).
Tortorella has had more trouble replacing the man they call “Bob,” though, as Joonas Korpisalo has struggled to a .901 save percentage and a 2.78 goals-against average as the Jackets’ No. 1 netminder. With the way the Flyers have shredded goaltending in their last two games, expect Korpisalo to be digging the puck from his own net a lot in this one.
In goal for the Flyers is the suddenly-scorching Brian Elliott, a winner of back-to-back starts with a sparkling .949 save percentage against Vegas and Chicago. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault looks to ride the veteran’s hot glove (and pads) again in this one with Carter Hart waiting patiently to improve upon his disappointing last two starts.
Three players to watch:
1. Ivan Provorov
After looking like his pre-2018 self for the first eight games of the season, Provy looked like a hot mess in Chicago. It’s not the first time he’s struggled in the Windy City — he was a -5 there in his rookie year — but it still happened and was a step back for the Flyers’ top defender.
He’ll be armed with a tough assignment again with the Blue Jackets’ talented top-six that features the above weapons as well as free agent signing (and Panarin replacement) Gustav Nyquist.
2. Brian Elliott
The 34-year-old was the main reason the Flyers beat the Golden Knights with a fantastic showing, and followed it up with another gem against the Blackhawks. While the Flyers have scored their fare share of goals in the past two games, they’ve also given up their fare share of scoring chances, too.
The difference is that Elliott outplayed both of the opposing netminders he faced, and made the big saves to keep the Flyers in position to win the game. Columbus is rolling, but so is Elliott, so it should be a fun matchup from the WFC this evening.
3. James van Riemsdyk
It took a while, but JVR finally got on the scoresheet against the Blackhawks and boy was it worth the wait. With Travis Konecny off to an earth melting start, the Flyers have been able to weather the storm of JVR’s slow start. But as we’ve seen with the former No. 2 overall pick, he’s a streaky scorer that can get on a roll quickly so hopefully that beauty on Thursday gets him going.
Two big questions:
1. Can Moose keep it going in net?
We’ve seen Elliott have success in short spurts in his Flyers tenure but most of those have ended with injuries. Given his age and the very necessary progression of Carter Hart, you have to wonder how long the Flyers even want this roll to continue for the veteran.
The Flyers wouldn’t have beaten either the Knights or the Hawks without Elliott’s outstanding play, but you do have to wonder how long he can hold up fending off really quality scoring chances in these kind of numbers.
2. Will the Flyers keep the momentum rolling?
The Flyers’ penalty kill was great on Thursday in going 4-for-4 against the Hawks’ talented array of weapons, and gets a Columbus unit down near the worst in the league. They can really create more positive momentum in that area with another strong night.
Will getting Claude Giroux and JVR their first goals of the season propel them into a scoring tear? That would be great considering that the Flyers already have guys like TK and Oskar Lindblom rolling themselves.
Flyers’ projected lineup vs. Blue Jackets
James van Riemsdyk - Claude Giroux - Jake Voracek
Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton - Kevin Hayes - Joel Farabee
Michael Raffl - Mikhail Vorobyev - Chris Stewart
Ivan Provorov - Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim -Justin Braun
Robert Hägg - Shayne Gostisbehere