It’s finally game day again, folks! After a week and a half off on a COVID shutdown, the Flyers are back in action tonight. They’re still without key pieces in Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, and Justin Braun, so the roster they’re working with feels a bit cobbled together, but it’s nice to have them back... right?
The last time we saw the Flyers, they were rolling through the Capitals to pick up a 7-4 win, which was certainly a fun and interesting game, to say the least. They had still been looking for some consistency though the early goings of the season, and now that they’re back in action, well, hopefully they can get back on that hunt quickly enough. They’re still third in the division, despite those games missed, so they have a bit of a buffer, but in a tight division, that gap is quickly closing.
The Rangers, too, have had their own fair share of struggles, but the difference is that, unlike the Flyers, they haven’t still been getting good results in spite of that. With the second most games played, they’re sitting at second to last in the division, one point behind the Devils who have three games in hand. They’ve lost their last found games in a row and haven’t scored more than two goals in any of those. So, to say the least, the Flyers are likely getting a hungry team tonight.
Three players to watch
1. Maksim Sushko
If there’s one exciting bit to come out of this situation, the gaps in the lineup, it’s that another prospect gets to make his NHL debut. Sushko had a solid season with the Phantoms last year, but despite that, this is probably earlier than we would have seen him make the jump to the NHL under “normal” circumstances. But he has a big opportunity in front of him here, and while we acknowledge that he’s far from a finished product and as such don’t expect him to be perfect tonight, this bit of experience is going to be useful for him. It’s an exciting day for him, and we’re eager to see what he’s able to bring to the team in his debut.
2. David Kase
Are you detecting a theme here? The Flyers need to fill in their lineup somehow, so it’s prospect time! Kase got a couple of brief looks with the Flyers last season, and showed a bit of flash therein, and now he’s got another shot to make a good impression with his play at the NHL level. He’s brought a lot of energy to the Phantoms in their couple of games played so far this season, and we have a feeling that energy is going to be something the Flyers will need tonight, after the long layoff. With the logjam of forwards the Flyers have when healthy, Kase may not be fighting for a regular lineup spot once they get healthy, but there’s a lot he can offer to the team in the now.
3. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Another interesting wrinkle that we’re going to get in this game, if the lines from yesterday’s practice more or less hold, is that we’ll see Aube-Kubel get a bump up in the lineup and a chance to play on the second line. It’s been a bit of an up and down season for Aube-Kubel so far, but he did seem to be trending in the right direction before the stoppage, well, halted that momentum. But we’ll be hoping that he’ll be able to tap back into that momentum, and hit the ground running well enough in this new promotion opportunity. We’re not sure how much offense the Flyers will get from a line with him, Raffl, and Hayes, but it is one that seems, on paper, like it should be steady. Which is just about the best that we could hope for, all things considered.
One big question
1. What positives will we find tonight?
Now, we normally do two of these big questions, but this really feels like the only one that matters. The Flyers’ lineup is pretty decimated right now, and they haven’t played in a week and a half, so our expectations coming into this game are understandably pretty low. We’re hoping that this game can at least be competitive, but we’re not expecting this lineup to go out and positively dominate against the Rangers (even if they’ve struggled quite a bit themselves this season). We understand everything that’s stacked against the Flyers in this one, so maybe that makes us especially willing to look for any silver lining we might be able to find from this tough situation. We’ll try our best for a bit of optimism, for now.
Below are the lines from Wednesday’s practice, and we figure that this is pretty close to the projected lineup, but it’s worth noting that the Flyers do have eight healthy defensemen, so it’s possible that they go with 11F/7D, rather than 12F/6D like we have below. We’ll see what happens.
Van Riemsdyk - Couturier - Farabee
Raffl - Hayes- Aube-Kubel
Bunnaman - Patrick - Kase
Morin - Andreoff - Sushko
Provorov - Myers
Sanheim - Gostisbehere
Hägg - Gustafsson
New friend of the pod Eleni of The Ice Garden joined us on incredibly short notice for a rather excellent conversation about the current state of the New York Rangers. Spoiler alert: no one can score, no one is shooting, and they have approximately 1.34 NHL defensemen at the moment. Should be a fun game!