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Preview: Flyers will host the Blues in hopes of ending their current winless streak

It’s St. Louis’ first trip to Philly in over three years.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Flyers continue their season’s longest stretch of home games tonight against yet another tough opponent, the Central Division’s second-place St. Louis Blues.

While the Flyers have played up to the level of a number of cup contenders since the All Star Game—including overtime losses to the Penguins and Hurricanes and a last-minute regulation loss to the Capitals—they have not pulled out a win. With losses in each of the five games since the break, they’re now halfway to another double digit winless streak, something we’ve already endured two of this season.

The Blues are quietly one of the best teams in the West—third in points and fourth in points percentage. Their 3.53 goals per game is fifth in the NHL, they’ve got the second-ranked power play and the fifth-ranked penalty kill.

While they’ve been getting very solid goaltending out of 26-year-old Ville Husso and his 12-3-2 record, a .936 save percentage and a league-leading 1.97 goals against average, it looks like the Flyers will at least be getting a break there, as his tandem-mate Jordan Binnington will be getting the start. Binnington is 11-10-3 with an .898 save percentage and a 3.35 goals against average, a stark contrast to Husso’s stats this year.

As the NHL season inches closer and closer to the trade deadline, we’re getting to the point where teams will have to decide where they fall as buyers or sellers, and thus what their game plan is going to be for the rest of the season. While all of the moves the Flyers management has made thus far signals that they’re still trying to win hockey games, it seems unlikely they haven’t made up their minds internally. Most Flyers fans have already accepted their fate as a non-playoff team this year—and if you’re going to miss the playoffs you might as well be in contention for the lottery. Injuries and circumstance have already made a lot of those decisions for Flyers brass, as the best lineup they can ice right now still includes a forward corps that’s almost half AHL players. All that remains now is to live through the deadline and keep on losing games—if that’s your sort of thing. All of this is to say that a loss to a tough opponent like the Blues wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world and that any one of these games could end up being someone’s final game as a Flyer.

Projected Flyers lines:

Oskar Lindblom—Claude Giroux—Cam Atkinson
James van Riemsdyk—Scott Laughton—Travis Konecny
Max Willman—Morgan Frost—Gerald Mayhew
Isaac Ratcliffe—Patrick Brown—Zack MacEwen

Ivan Provorov—Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim—Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle—Nick Seeler

Carter Hart/Martin Jones
(Martin Jones/Kirill Ustimenko)

Projected Blues lines:

Brandon Saad—Ryan O’Reilly—David Perron
Pavel Buchnevich—Robert Thomas—Vladimir Tarasenko
Ivan Barbashev—Brayden Schenn—Jordan Kyrou
Klim Kostin—Tyler Bozak—Oskar Sundqvist

Niko Mikkola—Colton Parayko
Torey Krug—Justin Faulk
Jake Walman—Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington
(Ville Husso)

Keep an eye on:

  • Gerald Mayhew, who has found his scoring touch: 6 goals in 10 games including 3 in the last 2. Of course, the Flyers are only 1-3-1 when Mayhew scores, but they’re also 14-21-9 when he doesn’t, so ha! We’ll take what we can get at this point in terms of bringing some enjoyment to losses. The Winter of Gerald rages on.
  • Vladimir Tarasenko, who was passed on in the expansion draft last summer and the subject of many a worry that he would not return to his standard of play. After his trade request was made public, there were a number of teams circling, but no move was made. His season thus far has likely made some of those teams regret it: 18 goals and 27 assists for 45 points in 44 games. His goals per 60 minutes pace is back to his pre-2019 numbers and his assists per 60 minutes is the best of his career. Tarasenko is tied with Pavel Buchnevich for the team lead in scoring.
  • Travis Sanheim, who, as this Tweet from Alex Appleyard points out, is thriving points-wise under interim coach Mike Yeo. Sanheim had 3 points in the season’s first 22 games under Alain Vigneault, but now has 15 in 26 since Yeo took over. That’s tied for sixth among NHL defensemen since December 6, bested by Roman Josi, Devon Toews, Kris Letang, Cale Makar, and Brady Skjei.
  • Pavel Buchnevich, who you may remember lit up the Flyers last year to the tune of 5 goals and 4 assists in 7 games as a New York Ranger. Buchnevich is having the best season of his career in his first in St. Louis on a line with a rejuvenated Tarasenko and Robert Thomas, tied for the team lead in scoring with 45 points in 43 games.
  • The Flyers’ net, since, as of now, they have not yet announced whether Carter Hart will be back in the lineup. If he’s dressed, it’s likely he’ll start, since Martin Jones played yesterday in the overtime loss to Carolina.
  • Justin Faulk, who is on a six-game point streak and playing on a pair with Torey Krug. A point tonight would extend his streak to seven, setting a new career high for Faulk. Faulk has 21 points in 31 career games against the Flyers.

Stray stats:

  • The Flyers are 90-44-17-3 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against their fellow 1967 expansion team, the St. Louis Blues. Their record against St. Louis is nearly identical to their record against another class of ‘67 team, the Los Angeles Kings: 89-43-15-6.
  • Brayden Schenn, who played 424 games over six seasons for the Philadelphia Flyers before getting traded to the Blues straight up for Jori Lehtera and nothing else, has 4 points and 6 PIM in 5 games against Philly since the trade. Schenn has 27 points in 33 games this season, his fifth in St. Louis. In unrelated news, Joel Farabee and Morgan Frost have combined for 25 points in a combined 62 games for the Flyers and Jori Lehtera has 39 points in 45 games for the Moscow Spartak of the KHL.
  • Following their overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes yesterday, the Flyers are now 4-10 in games that go past regulation, including 0-4 in shootouts. If you’re rooting for games without standings points for the Flyers, then you don’t want to see any overtime periods played, but you can at least take solace in the fact that they probably won’t get 2 points out of an OT game and they definitely won’t out of a shootout game.
  • This is the first time the Blues have played in Philadelphia since January 7, 2019, over three years ago. They defeated the Flyers 3-0 in that game, having recently fired current Flyers coach Mike Yeo and replaced him with former Flyers coach Craig Berube, and would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season. I believe this was also the game where that Blues team first heard “Gloria” by Laura Branigan in a Philly bar and adopted it as their theme song.
  • If it is Martin Jones in net tonight, this will be his first back-to-back start since April 3, 2021, when he stopped 35 shots in backstopping the Sharks to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Jones also played in consecutive days in December, playing in relief of Carter Hart in the Lightning game that got Alain Vigneault fired and then starting the next day against the Avalanche for Mike Yeo’s first game as interim head coach. Jones played that entire game despite allowing 7 goals on 50 shots.