Flyers Head to Buffalo in Matinee
Philadelphia Flyers (17-20-3) at Buffalo Sabres (16-19-6)
First Niagra Center -- Buffalo, NY
3:00 pm -- Comcast Sportsnet and 93.3 FM WMMR
Setting the Stage
Both teams this afternoon are clinging to miniscule playoff hopes. The Flyers are seven points out with eight games to go. Buffalo is six points out with seven games to go.
This is the final of three meetings between the two teams. They split the season series so far with Buffalo winning 5-2 all the way back on January 20 in Buffalo. The Flyers took the second meeting in Philadelphia, 3-2, back on March 10.
Danny Briere is expected to return to the ice today against the Sabres. He hasn't scored a goal since February 18, a span of 13 games for him before he suffered his concussion.
What to Expect
Thursday's game against Ottawa was an embarrassment, especially if the Flyers are clinging to hope that they are a playoff team. They were out-played for nearly 60 minutes by the Senators, who snapped a five-game losing streak all while looking like a team the Flyers are not: a playoff team.
All the Flyers can do is try to finish on a high note. Focus on winning games and not the standings.
Buffalo's leading scorer is Thomas Vanek with 16 goals and 17 assists. Budding star Cody Hogdson is having a great year for them, scoring 13 goals and adding 17 assists.
The Masked Men
Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to make the start today against Buffalo. He was in net for their win on March 10, allowing two goals, and he played exceptional despite having no support on Thursday in their 3-1 loss to Ottawa. Bryzgalov's days in Philadelphia could be numbered so it'll be up to him to continue playing well in order to make the Flyers' job a bit harder.
UPDATE: Steve Mason is starting today.
Ryan Miller will be in net for the Sabres this afternoon. Miller is in a similar situation as Bryzgalov, but his job security is a bit stronger. He too has played well and hasn't gotten the support he deserves from his underachieving team in front of him.
Keys to the Game
1. Steve Ott. The last time these teams played, Ott made players want to punch him in the mouth and it nearly cost the Flyers a win. He's a pest on the ice and his job is to take opposing teams out of the game. Fortunately for the Flyers, they have a guy like Jay Rosehill in the lineup who will keep Ott in check. It'll be interesting to see if Ott keeps Philadelphia off its game again or not.
2. Put Pressure. The Flyers offense has managed three goals in their last three games, losing a combined 11-3 to Winnipeg, New York and Ottawa. The team knows they have to do a better job offensively, especially since they are considered one of the better teams in the league offensively and on the power play.
3. Bryz. Like I said in the above section, these games are important for Bryzgalov. He's playing for his job in Philadelphia, mainly because of the contract he boasts. He needs to be a rock in net like he has shown flashes of this season. A good goalie steals hockey games and he can and needs to be that goalie.
3. Mason. Mason is looking to prove he is a number one goalie in the NHL. A strong showing will help his cause heading into next season. He was solid in Long Island on Tuesday but he will need to be better.
"Well, to get to playoffs you gotta win games and right now we’re not winning games. So we’ve gotta find a way to win those games." -- Claude Giroux