There are a lot of positive things the Philadelphia Flyers can build off of following Tuesday’s 4-1 home win over the Anaheim Ducks. The team snapped a three-game losing streak on the road trip from Hell, Travis Konecny provided offense the club lacked during the losing streak, and for the first moment since Friday’s announcement players and fans got to show their support for Oskar Lindblom. With another home game in order and another forward coming back from injury the Orange and Black have a chance to show things are getting back on track.
The Buffalo Sabres are the ones standing in the Flyers’ way this evening, a team with two straight losses who currently sit second in the Atlantic Division despite having two less wins and points than Philly (do not change the playoff format AT ALL). The Sabres are a low-event team (not many shots or quality chances for or against) who are somehow involved in high-scoring games, as six of their eight games so far in December have seen a total of seven goals or more. Ralph Krueger looks to have the team playing better than they have in recent seasons and Jack Eichel is on an unconscionable hot streak.
The Flyers will look to take down the Sabres with the help of Tyler Pitlick, who is returning after missing precisely one game due to a concussion. It isn’t the most exciting news, but it is one more regular returning to the lineup and it means Chris Stewart will go back to the press box.
Players to watch
1. Nicolas Aube-Kubel and David Kase
I’m grouping these two together because they play a similar style, they have both been playing well considering their roles, and still have time to make a case as to why they should stay up with the big club once all the forwards come back healthy. Both NAK and Kase are aggressive on the forecheck and would serve as beneficial pieces in the bottom six if they stay up. With Pitlick coming back tonight, Joel Farabee coming back Monday against the New York Rangers, and Michael Raffl coming back just after Christmas the two don’t have much more time to stick out.
2. Tyler Pitlick
He isn’t the flashiest player to highlight in this section, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up the strong play he had before he left Saturday’s game early with a concussion. Pitlick is nowhere near a vital piece the Flyers need to have on a nightly basis to win, but after a slow start to the season he’s fit into Alain Vigneault’s system well thanks to his speed and tenacity on the forecheck playing limited minutes.
Two big questions
1. Can the Flyers stop Eichel?
Let’s hope so. According to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, if Eichel records a point tonight he’ll tie Gilbert Perreault’s franchise record 18-game point streak, which was set all the way back in 1971. Over his current 17-game point streak the Sabres’ captain has: 16 goals, 15 assists, 67 shots on goal (one shot less than four a game), four multi-goal games (including a four-goal game against Ottawa back on November 16th), and a trio of three-point games. It’ll be a tough task to end his streak, but if the Flyers can keep Eichel and his linemates Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart from doing damage they should be in good shape. Buffalo has one goal over the last two games that came without Eichel involved.
2. Will the power play finally do something?
Considering how cold the Flyers’ man advantage has been and the fact the Sabres’ penalty kill has denied all eight of the opportunities they’ve seen over their last four games this may feel unlikely. It doesn’t help that the only time the Orange and Black registered a power play goal in their 18 power plays over the last eight games was Matt Niskanen putting home a rebound on a rush chance, which ah...probably isn’t happening again for the rest of the season. *extreme Stephen A. Smith voice* HOWEVER, the Sabres’ penalty kill is Actually Bad. Before this current four-game stretch without a power play goal against, Buffalo (currently ranked 28th with a 75.4 penalty kill percentage) had allowed at least one power play goal against in five straight games and endured a span of 17 power play goals against in 16 games while posting a 67.9 kill rate. Figure out a way to enter the zone, put Claude Giroux in his normal spot, and put an end to this funk.
Flyers’ projected lineup
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
JVR - Hayes - NAK
Kase - Frost - Voracek
Andreoff - Vorobyev - Pitlick