Flyers Start Home-and-Home in New Jersey
Philadelphia Flyers (12-14-1) at New Jersey Devils (12-9-5)
Prudential Center — Newark, NJ
7:30 p.m. on NBCSN and 97.5 FM The Fanatic
Setting the Stage
This is the third of five meetings between the two teams. New Jersey has won the previous two games (3-0 on January 22 and 5-3 on February 15). This is also the first of a home-and-home series, with the second game being played in Philadelphia on Friday.
The Flyers snapped their three game losing streak on Sunday, beating the Sabres in a gritty 3-2 win. They need to win these two games against a struggling New Jersey in order to preserve any hopes at a playoff spot.
The Devils have been struggling greatly as well. They're 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, and snapped a six-game losing streak last Thursday (won two of their last three games). They beat Winnipeg on Sunday in a 3-2 shootout win.
What to Expect
The Flyers are a desperate team right now. And with desperation comes a chance to prove what this group of players is worth. They need to win these two games against New Jersey. Not split, not come away with three points, but win.
Jakub Voracek still leads the Flyers in goals (12), assists (17) and points (29) but he hasn't registered a point in the last two games. Claude Giroux, who has 17 assists and 25 points, has just one goals and two assists in his last five games. Then there is Danny Briere's struggles.
New Jersey forward Ilya Kovalchuk has a goal and four assists in the two games against the Flyers this season. He's second on the team with 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists). David Clarkson still leads the team with 10 goals but he has cooled off significantly, having gone goal-less in his last 12 games (February 15) and has just two assists in that span.
The Masked Men
With a couple days off, Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to make his league-leading 26th start against New Jersey. He played solid in the Flyers 3-2 win over Buffalo, stopping 20 shots. On the year, he's 12-11-2 with a 2.77 GAA and .899 save percentage.
Johan Hedberg has been confirmed already to get the start against Philadelphia. Hedberg is making his 10th straight start since Martin Brodeur's back injury, but has not played well at all. He's only won two of the nine starts, and has posted a miserable 2.97 GAA and .879 save percentage.
Keys to the Game
1. Attack the Moose. Hedberg is not an NHL starting goalie and he's making his 10th straight start. He has got to be exhausted and the Flyers will need to take advantage of that. Early pressure off the opening draw, a strong forecheck and a ton of shots from the point will allow Hedberg to spring a few leaks and play on his heels.
2. Top Line. In the last two games, the Flyers have gotten only one goal from their top line of Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek. Giroux and Voracek are their top point getters, both having struggled as of late. Hartnell has also been frustrated and needs a good, chippy effort to help shake him from the funk he's been in.
3. Isolate Kovi. Ilya Kovalchuk has a history of dominating the Flyers and he has done so already this season. His five points in two games against Philadelphia already this season prove that he has the ability to spark his team. He's strong around the puck and with the puck and the Flyers defense needs to be physical with him down low in order that he doesn't set up the rest of his line with scoring chances.
“If you check the standings, they are four points ahead of us. You win both games, you’re tied with them. And you have a good chance to continue to battle for the playoffs. If you lose both games, you’re done. That’s it.” -- Ilya Bryzgalov on the next two games.