After an extremely tough road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers are finally returning home. They went 1-2-1 on the west coast, and now in their first game back home, they play an extremely tough foe. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the back end of a back-to-back, are coming into town for a big rivalry matchup.
These two teams have gone down separate paths since the season began. The Penguins have been one of the best teams in the Metropolitan Division, holding a record of 19-8-5, while the Flyers sit in the doldrums with a 13-14-6 record.
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Flyers lost 3-2 in overtime. Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton had the tallies in regulation before Kris Letang ended the game just 1:54 into the overtime period.
Now, the Penguins come into the game on a nine-game win streak, and they’re hoping to make it 10 by beating up on an extremely shorthanded Flyers team. Konecny and Travis Sanheim were added to the league’s Covid-19 protocol list among other Flyers players like Claude Giroux and Ivan Provorov. All that means is different players are going to see more ice time, which is undoubtedly going to be interesting given the status of the team heading into the game.
Derick Brassard is re-entering the lineup without having any practices under his belt. With all of the players going into the protocol, the coaching staff needed to fill some holes, and Brassard was the guy. He will be a player to watch as the game moves along. How quickly he adjusts and if he’s even 100 percent healthy could play a significant role in the game.
In the 2021-22 season, Brassard has 11 points in 18 games, but injuries have continually forced him out of the every night lineup. He was performing well on the Flyers’ second line before everything derailed. Having him back is a boost, but if he’s not 100% ready to go, it could be detrimental to an individual with an injury and possibly the team. The last thing anyone would want to see is an injury re-aggravated because he came back too soon. Of course, that may not happen, and Brassard could be back to full health, but without getting any team practices under his belt. It appears that only time will tell at this point.
Can York will be playing in his second game after making a surprise appearance in Anaheim. He played pretty well by both the eye test and the numbers, and that’s a massive step in the right direction. Filling in on the top pair is not an easy task, and he did that just as well as anyone should have expected.
Penguins Player to Watch
I’m sorry, who? Yes, you read that right. Rodrigues has burst onto the scene, especially throughout this massive win streak for the Penguins. He has nine points in his last five games (6G, 3A), and he sits second on the team in total points with 28 in 32 games. He scored the game-winning goal against the Blues as well. It has been ridiculous what this guy has been able to do over the last stretch of games, and with Evgeni Malkin out, it’s what the team needed to remain afloat. You always have to watch out for Sidney Crosby (even if you hate him with a burning passion) and Jake Guentzel, but it’s the unsuspected threats like Rodrigues that make the Penguins so dangerous. He certainly isn’t the player that I would have picked to be second in scoring on the Penguins, and that could change sooner rather than later, but right now, he is taking a ride on the production train.
Connor Bunnaman will step into the lineup, and Egor Zamula will round out the players filling in for those on Covid-19 protocol or out with injury.
Flyers Player to Watch
Atkinson was the lone goal scorer in an embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the end of the west coast road trip, and the production seems to be ramping up again. In his last five games, he has five points (1G, 4A), and being on a line with Joel Farabee—another player who has been hot as of late—has appeared to make the workload more manageable. Atkinson sits second on the Flyers in scoring with 24 points in 33 games, and he sits atop the team’s goal-scoring leaderboard with 13 tallies. Like most goal scorers, he’s streaky, and expecting anything less of him is setting yourself up for disappointment. But when he’s on, he’s on, and the scoring comes almost effortlessly. The Flyers, without his contribution, will be stuck dead in the water, especially without the help of the team’s leading point scorer, another impact forward, and two of their top defensemen. If the Flyers want to win this game, Atkinson will need to produce a fair amount.
Farabee — Laughton — Atkinson
Brassard — Frost — Van Riemsdyk
Bunnaman — Hayes — Willman
Lindblom — Brown — MacEwen
York — Braun
Zamula — Ristolainen
Yandle — Connauton