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Preview: Flyers to face Claude Giroux and the Senators

I don’t like writing that headline as much as you don’t like reading it.

Travis Konecny battles netfront against goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenseman Artem Zub. Konecny is in the Flyers’ away white uniform, and Forsberg and Zub are in the Senators’ home black uniforms. Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Flyers are continuing their time on the road by traveling up from Toronto to Ottawa, and a game that Flyers fans never thought would come to pass is about to happen: the Flyers have to face off against their former captain, Claude Giroux.

While Giroux made a brief stop in Sunrise, Florida last season to try to chase down a Stanley Cup, the remaining schedule after the trade deadline meant the Flyers never had to cross paths with the Panthers. So, it’s the Ottawa Senators who get the honors of causing emotional pain to an entire hockey fanbase. (And if you’d rather not watch Giroux play against his former team, you could watch the Phillies in an elimination game in the World Series. Oh, wait, that could also be painful.)

It could also be a big night for Giroux on the scoresheet. Not only am I a big proponent of the “revenge game” concept, where a player is more motivated to do well against a former team, but Giroux has been a strong player for the Senators so far this season. He has 5 goals already on the season, with only Brady Tkachuk and Shane Pinto with more at 6 and has the third most points on the team.

Additionally, the Flyers have been swooning a bit. After getting off to a hot start — probably propelled by the general good sports vibes of having the Phillies in the World Series, the Eagles going undefeated, and the Union being championship bound — the Flyers have now lost three games in a row. It’s not ideal, but it’s also far more in line with the expectations set for this Flyers squad at the start of the season.

However, Ottawa doesn’t make for a formidable opponent. They’re off to a 4-6-0 start compared to the Flyers’ own 5-3-2 start. They’re currently staring down the barrel of a losing four games in a row as they sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division. (Yes, even Montreal is winning more games than Ottawa.)

Tonight’s game is going to be a litmus test for the Flyers. If they want to prove that the first few games of the season weren’t a fluke, the Senators are a team they need to beat. If they lose, then it only becomes clearer just how far this team is from remotely competing for anything.

Projected Flyers Lineup

Joel Farabee — Kevin Hayes— Travis Konecny
Noah Cates — Scott Laughton — Owen Tippett
Kieffer Bellows — Tanner Laczynski — Zack MacEwen
Nic Deslauriers — Lukas Sedlák — Wade Allison

Ivan Provorov — Tony DeAngelo
Travis Sanheim — Rasmus Ristolainen
Nick Seeler — Egor Zamula

Carter Hart

Last game, Morgan Frost and Justin Braun were scratched to allow for Tanner Laczynski and Egor Zamula to slot in. Frost in particular seems to be in John Tortorella’s dog house, so I’m anticipating for him to get scratched more frequently. As for Braun, I could see him come in again at some point, but for now it’s important for Zamula to get some ice time.

Without a back-to-back situation looming over their heads, the only logical choice for who to put in net is Carter Hart. After all, he looks to be the primary reason that the Flyers even have a fighting chance in these games. The team will be looking for him to put on another lights out performance.

Beyond him, look for that top line of Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, and Travis Konecny to get on the scoresheet. They’re the primary point-getters on this team, and their line is one of the few redeeming areas of this roster.

Projected Senators Lineup

Brady Tkachuk — Shane Pinto — Drake Batherson
Alex DeBrincat — Tim Stützle — Claude Giroux
Tyler Motte — Mark Kastelic — Mathieu Joseph
Derick Brassard — Dylan Gambrell — Austin Watson

Thomas Chabot — Erik Brannstrom
Jake Sanderson — Travis Hamonic
Nick Holden — Nikita Zaitsev

Cam Talbot

I already said it once, but I’ll say it again: Giroux has been a major player for these Senators. He just came off of a two-goal night against the Golden Knights, and both were absolutely ridiculous. One of his goals was a patented shot from the left face-off dot that we all know and love, but he also scored just from dumping the puck in from center ice. He’s scoring goals without even trying to score them. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a player like that? Oh wait. We did.

The Senators aren’t just the Giroux Show though. The main storyline going into the season for this team is the further development of its young talent such as Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, Tim Stützle, and newly acquired Alex DeBrincat . There’s a reason the top line consists solely of players age 24 or younger. Similar to the Flyers, though, this is a very top-heavy team. After the first two forward lines, it becomes very shaky.

As for their goalie situation, this game will mark the first time Cam Talbot starts for the Senators. He sustained an injury in preseason and thus hasn’t been able to play, but he’s made his recovery and started off with a back-up role against the Golden Knights, jumping into play after Anton Forsberg was pulled for allowing 5 goals. Talbot stopped all 13 shots he faced, and he’ll be looking to build upon that in his first start of the season.

This Senators team is one that’s trying to prove that their young talent is poised to take the next step and to start elevating this team back to playoff position, but so far their goal is falling short. With the way their early season has gone, though, this feels like a chance for the Flyers to pounce and snap their own losing skid. We’ll see if that’s the case or if this fanbase should start fully pivoting back to rooting for the tank.