Preview: Home, home with the Rangers
At least the Flyers don’t have to face long-time New York Ranger Patrick Kane tonight.
The Philadelphia Flyers are 2-7-1 in their last ten games, and four of those have been lopsided blowouts—including the most recent two: a 5-2 loss to the Canadiens and a 7-0 shellacking by the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers are going to be without leading goal scorer Travis Konecny for the foreseeable future due to injury, and management has acknowledged that the team is selling in advance of the Friday trade deadline.
Speaking of, this matchup against the New York Rangers is the Flyers’ last game before the deadline. Unless any players sit for trade related reasons, which appears unlikely from what we know, it’s quite possibly the last time we’ll see a few guys in Flyers uniforms—though after trading and re-signing noted winger Justin Braun last year, who knows. James van Riemsdyk is the most obvious candidate, and at time of writing may be the most valuable forward left on the market; Justin Braun is likely on his way out again, and there’s been rumors swirling around Kevin Hayes and Nick Seeler as well. Would having them in the lineup one last time help them win a hockey game?
Unlikely, given the fact that the Rangers just acquired Patrick Kane from the tanking Chicago Blackhawks. The Rangers’ top six has two new additions in Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, and they have enough finishing talent to ice at least two and a half stacked power play units. Blissfully for the Flyers, Kane won’t be playing tonight and will have his first game in a Rangers uniform tomorrow. Another player the Flyers won’t have to face, though? K’Andre Miller, who spat in Drew Doughty’s face and is suspended for three games.
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. from the Farg, and hoo-boy could this one turn into a barn burner.
Players to Watch
In writing this preview, I checked over some stats from the Saturday blowout loss to the Devils, and would you believe it: Nick Seeler put up four (4!) shots on goal during that game—double that of any other Flyer. Seeler’s had a solid year on the third pair, and is exactly the kind of defenseman hockey men love to acquire for the playoffs. He’s 29 with a year left on his league minimum contract, and the Flyers would be foolish not to trade him if a half decent offer’s on the table.
While the loss to Jersey was brutal, the Destroyer was very noticeable in his NHL debut. With TK out injured, and a player or two on the move at the deadline, Desnoyers may become a regular fixture down the stretch of the season. It’d be great to see him get on the scoreboard in the next few weeks.
Well, after what felt like months of build up, it’s done: Patrick Kane is a New York Ranger. The return was pretty meh; at least the Flyers got a first rounder and Owen Tippett in exchange for Claude Giroux last year. This will be Kane’s first game with a team other than Chicago, so it’ll be interesting to see where they slot him in—good money’s on a line with Artemi Panarin, reuniting the two at last. I, your humble blog writer, wrote this before it was announced Kane wouldn’t play. However, it has been announced two trade block players for the Flyers will be in, so...
James van Riemsdyk & Justin Braun
JvR is in because teams want to see that he’s actually healthy before committing to a deadline deal; he sat out with an undisclosed injury last weekend and didn’t skate at practice earlier this week. van Riemsdyk was the Flyers’ second overall pick in the 2007 draft and, after a stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, returned to Philadelphia. Turning 34 in May, it’s hard to know what’s next for him after his contract expires this summer, but it’s likely this will be his last game in a Flyers jersey—for real this time.
Justin Braun, a seventh round draft pick for the San Jose Sharks in the same 2007 draft as JvR, came to the Flyers in 2019. A dutiful third-pair defenseman who overperformed on the top pair last year while Ryan Ellis was out, Braun was traded at the deadline to the New York Rangers (who may be using this game to get another look at him before making the exact same trade), and brought back over the summer on a one-year contract. Older than JvR at 36, this may also be the final season of his career.