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Preview: Flyers open first season under John Tortorella at home against Devils

For better or worse, Flyers hockey is back.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Flyers are back. Whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing is to be determined, but they’re back.

John Tortorella’s first regular-season appearance behind the Flyers bench gets underway at Wells Fargo Center tonight, and the Orange and Black’s pesky division rival from North Jersey will be in the building to commence the 2022-23 campaign.

The New Jersey Devils finished higher up in the standings than the Flyers last season, but just barely — they ended the season with 63 points while the Flyers finished with 61. All things considered, both squads were pretty awful last season, and neither club is expected to set the world on fire this season either.

Still, the Devils have something the Flyers currently don’t — legitimate high-end talent. Jack Hughes is one of the NHL’s top rising stars, and entering his fourth season as an NHLer, he’ll be looking to take yet another step forward as the Devils’ primary point producer. The 21-year-old only appeared in 49 games last season, but averaged over a point per game in the tilts he did participate in. Forward Jesper Bratt is coming off an impressive campaign as well. The 24-year-old set career highs in every major statistical category last season (26 goals, 47 assists, 73 points), and he did so without Hughes in the lineup for a significant portion of the year.

The Devils are far from a complete hockey team, as is evidenced by their lack of success in recent seasons. But at the very least, they have a few legitimate weapons capable of causing headaches.

Burning Questions

How will the Flyers perform in their first regular-season game with Tortorella on the bench?

Since being hired in June, Tortorella has made it his goal to help the Flyers return to the proud franchise it once was. Tortorella even admitted to Broad Street Hockey that the Flyers “have zero respect in this league right now.” While the Devils aren’t exactly a juggernaut of an opponent, a strong performance against a division rival would be a solid first step to earning that respect.

Will any Flyers step up in the scoring department?

Tortorella has acknowledged the Flyers will likely be scoring by committee this season, as opposed to having just a handful of players lead the way in point production. But in Game 1, it would be a welcome sight for a Flyer to take charge and have a big night. Maybe it’ll be Travis Konecny? How about Kevin Hayes? Or even Owen Tippett? Fans would certainly appreciate a breakout performance from a youngster.

Will the Flyers’ power play show any signs of life?

The Flyers ended last season with the worst power play in the entire NHL. Even the historically horrendous Montreal Canadiens were more efficient on the man advantage than the Flyers. Can the Flyers power play start this season off on a high note? Or will the incompetence continue?

Projected Lineup

Forward Cam Atkinson will be inactive for the season opener and is considered day-to-day. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen left Wednesday’s practice early, but Tortorella did not update his condition. Until then, the projected lines for the opener are as follows:

Scott Laughton — Kevin Hayes — Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk — Morgan Frost — Wade Allison
Joel Farabee — Noah Cates — Owen Tippett
Nic Deslauriers — Tanner Laczynski — Hayden Hodgson

Ivan Provorov — Tony DeAngelo
Travis Sanheim — Rasmus Ristolainen
Egor Zamula — Justin Braun

Carter Hart
Samuel Ersson