Collapsing Canes Host Fallen Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers (19-22-3) at Carolina Hurricanes (17-23-3)
PNC Arena — Raleigh, NC
7:00 p.m. on Comcast Sportsnet and 97.5 FM The Fanatic
Setting the Stage
Two teams out of the playoff picture will do battle on Saturday. The immensely struggling Carolina Hurricanes will take on the Philadelphia Flyers, who were eliminated from playoff contention after the New York Rangers spanked the Buffalo Sabres 8-4.
The Hurricanes are 1-8-1 in their last ten games, and they have gone 7-14-3 in the last two months. Losing starting goaltender Cam Ward to a sprained MCL injury eliminated any chance of playoffs this season by platooning journeymen goaltenders Justin Peters (4-9-1) and Dan Ellis (4-8-1).
Now sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference, and part of a miserable Southeast Division, the Hurricanes will have to look towards next season and erase the memory of a nightmarish lockout-shortened season.
The Flyers will likely have to do the same after being shut out by a New Jersey Devils team on Thursday that hadn't won in ten games and had struggled without the services of sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Now nine points out with four games to go, the Flyers' chances of making the playoffs have been crushed. Sputtering at the .500 mark down the stretch did not help their chances of sliding into the postseason dance either.
What to Expect
From here on out for both teams, their final games will only dicate draft positioning this summer. Four points separate Philadelphia (41, 23rd in the League) from Carolina (37, 28th in the League). Neither team should desire a three point swing in overtime.
Carolina's first line of Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty and Alex Semin have dominated throughout the season. Unfortunately for them, they lost a fair amount of scoring from winger Jeff Skinner (upper body, and a lot of minutes on defense from former-Flyer Joni Pitkanen (ankle).
A youth infusion of Riley Nash and Justin Faulk, as well as disappointing first round pick Bobby Sanguinetti have filled in admirably for a shaken up Hurricanes team that has lost its way under second-year coach Kirk Muller.
Goaltending still remains the key buzzword for the Flyers. Peter Laviolette continues to flip flop between Ilya Bryzgalov and Steve Mason in the net. What kind of goaltending will the Flyers get on a nightly basis? This will be a huge question mark coming into this game, and the rest of the season.
The Masked Men
Steve Mason will get the start for the Flyers. Mason is coming off of a spectacular effort in warding off the New York Rangers in a 4-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center. He has performed incredibly as a Flyer, posting a 1-2-0 record, a 1.82 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
Carolina has flip-flopped goalies without Cam Ward, and it's a 50/50 shot that either Justin Peters or Dan Ellis will get the start. Both have underperformed as the Hurricanes have sunk into the depths of the Eastern Conference.
Keys to the Game
1. Draw penalties. Carolina's penalty kill stands at 78.2% (27th). In this anomaly of a season, both special teams units for the Flyers stand in the top ten. A power play clicking at 22.6%, and scoring three goals in the last eight opportunities, should do the trick.
2. Pride. The season is all for naught at this point as playoffs are no longer a possibility. Playing for pride might be the only thing they can do. Could winning compromise a better draft pick? Perhaps. Thankfully, the draft is a deep one this year.
3. Play loose. What's the use in playing uptight? Correct what can be corrected. Peter Laviolette himself said there are things that needed to be corrected. The Hurricanes are perhaps the easiest team to steal a win from by just playing hard.
"After we lost three or four in a row last week, the writing was on the wall and somehow we found a way to dig in and scrap a few games. That's what we have to do. It doesn't matter. There are four games left. Being a professional you have to leave it all out there." - Danny Briere