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Preview: Pivotal 4-Pointer

October 26, 2023: Philadelphia, PA: The Philadelphia Flyers play a game against the Minnesota Wild at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Game: 7 p.m. EST, NBCSP

What a difference 48 hours can make. After Sunday’s loss to the Penguins that saw the backup goaltending situation with little to be desired (Cal Petersen was placed on waivers Wednesday afternoon), the Flyers rebounded in a nice way with a 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Centre. Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster and Noah Cates all registered goals and were lights out (sorry, but you knew that was coming) with Sean Couturier relegated to the fourth line to start the contest. It was a win that kept the team on the rails, still in third place in the Metropolitan and losing no ground to those chasing them. In fact they gained on one team.

Which brings us to the Washington Capitals. The Caps are six points back of the Flyers with two games in hand, making this four-point game a crucial step in gaining points towards a playoff push. A regulation win would be huge, a loser-point not great but not horrific. A regulation loss however puts Saturday’s game at home against Ottawa (who did not register a shot on goal in the third period Tuesday night in Nashville for the first time in its history) one where two points is almost mandatory.

The Capitals, like much of the rest of the Metropolitan teams below the Flyers, have been enigmatic at times. A six-game span in late January and early February resulted in one loser point total, including losses to St. Louis and Montreal. Washington then got back on track with four wins in five games before being routed by Detroit Tuesday evening 8-3. So one isn’t really sure what to expect from a team who, much like the Penguins, seem to be kicking the can down the road when it comes to moving past their aging stars.

Injuries have been a huge factor, with 31 different forwards and defencemen playing for the Capitals this season and T.J. Oshie and Nikolas Backstrom both on Injured Reserve. While there’s been no standout, they’ve had a lunchpail gang of sorts each pulling some of the load with Evgeny Kuznetsov (now on Injured Reserve), Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Beck Malenstyn, Sonny Milano (also on Injured Reserve) with six goals each. Max Pacioretty has missed a good chunk of the season with just three goals in 23 games. Other than that and outside of Ovechkin, there’s been not a lot of excitement in the nation’s capital. In fact a short losing streak could leave the Capitals selling off unrestricted free agents Pacioretty, Anthony Mantha and Aube-Kubel before the deadline.

Players to watch

Alex Ovechkin

While his countdown to becoming the all-time leader was reaching ridiculous heights last year, Alex Ovechkin started this season beyond cold. The sniper, who will be 39 this September, has 16 goals this season, a far, far cry from his 50-goal outputs and currently half of his worst full-length regular season (32 in 2010-11 and again in a 48-game season in 2012-13). He’s also scoreless in his last four contests after potting 7 in February according to ESPN.

Ovechkin has 47 goals in his career versus Philadelphia, 18 of them on the power play (thanks Statsmuse). Hopefully the Flyers can stay out of the box but if not, an extended shift by the star can result in another shorthanded tally. Still a player to be aware of on the ice, but he has definitely lost a step or two.

Bobby Brink

After being sent down to the AHL to get his confidence back up and some quality playing time, Bobby Brink returned last game with an early first-period goal. On the bench one could easily see the boost the goal gave the young forward following weeks without the perks that come with being an NHL pro.

Nobody would expect Brink to end up with 20 goals at the end of the year, however if the forward could get to 14 or 15 goals by season’s end it could go a long way to the Flyers securing a spot in the post-season. Just as important, according to coach John Tortorella, is his play without the puck, something that also was noticeable Tuesday evening against the Lightning.

Sean Walker

With some decision about to be made a week from today, the Flyers and Sean Walker will most likely see one of two things happen: a trade which sees them net some future assets or some announcement of a short-term, hopefully cap-logical extension. The player has gone from essentially a throw-in as part of the Ivan Provorov deal to a guy who could be a steadying presence on what has been a surprisingly steady blueline. Of course the sneaky wrister he delivered Tuesday night didn’t hurt either.

Give full marks to Walker though for his professionalism throughout, seemingly indifferent to whatever trade rumors his name has been attached to the three weeks to a month. A few more games of solid play should be anticipated before Danny Briere decides what to do. Or not to do. Also considering the Flyers recalled Ronnie Attard from the AHL, it could mean the Flyers possibly go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen. That or somebody is heading elsewhere soon.

Projected lineups

Philadelphia Flyers

Joel Farabee — Scott Laughton — Tyson Foerster
Noah Cates — Ryan Poehling — Garnet Hathaway
Owen Tippett — Morgan Frost — Bobby Brink
Nic Deslauriers — Sean Couturier — Olle Lycksell

Cam York — Travis Sanheim
Nick Seeler — Sean Walker
Egor Zamula — Marc Staal

Sam Ersson
(Felix Sandstrom)

Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin — Hendrix Lapierre — Tom Wilson
Max Pacioretty — Dylan Strome — Sonny Milano
Aliaksei Protas — Connor McMichael — Anthony Mantha
Beck Malenstyn — Michael Sgarbossa — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Rasmus Sandin — John Carlson
Joel Edmundson — Nick Jensen
Alexander Alexeyev — Trevor van Riemsdyk

Charlie Lindgren
(Darcy Kuemper)

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