All Eyes On The New Guy
After a season full of some defensive woes and a couple of weeks’ worth of trade discussions, the Philadelphia Flyers (32-18-7) made a move to improve on the blue line and acquired defenseman Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars.
Grossman will make his Flyers debut on Saturday afternoon when the team faces off against the Pittsburgh Penguins (32-20-5) for the third time this season.
Based on Friday’s practice, Grossman will probably be paired with Andrej Meszaros on defense.
All eyes will be on him and on the Flyers’ defensive core as a whole, as their struggles have been greatly publicized so far this season.
The team’s overall struggles have been a focus as of late, as they have had trouble finding their footing and playing consistently, especially when at home.
At the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers have a home record of 14-9-5, putting them at 23rd in the league.
Going into Thursday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Flyers had only won one in their last five.
However, they had themselves quite a game against Buffalo.
Despite two early goals by the Sabres that could have easily been avoided, the Flyers battled back – big time.
Both Max Talbot and Wayne Simmonds had a two-goal night, and Claude Giroux had five assists in the 7-2 victory.
By the time it was all wrapped up, 11 Flyers had recorded one or more points.
That’s the kind of game that can jump start a string of victories, and the Flyers will aim to extend that momentum into Saturday’s game.
Though the Penguins have been without captain Sidney Crosby for 49 of their 57 games, they’ve put together a successful season behind center Evgeni Malkin and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Malkin is currently the leading scorer in the NHL with 69 points, and is second in the league with 32 goals.
In Crosby’s absence, the alternate captain has stepped up in a big way.
Fleury has a 29-14-3 record in 46 starts, with a .911 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.34.
Out of 57 games played by the Penguins, they’ve won 22 by a margin of two goals or less, and Fleury has been widely responsible for keeping those games close.
While he was credited with both of the losses to Philadelphia this season, Fleury has a career record of 20-12 against the Flyers.
As for Philadelphia’s goaltender for Saturday’s game, it’s likely that Ilya Bryzgalov will start in net.
After missing a few games with the flu, he returned in Thursday’s game against the Sabres and played well – save for one brutal goal in the first period.
He faced 27 shots after those goals, and didn’t let another one through for the remainder of the game.
In his career, Bryzgalov has a 3-1-1 record against the Penguins.
This game is a big one for the Flyers, as are all of the remaining matchups with division rivals.
Because of their five losses against the New York Rangers, they need to win as many games against other teams in the Atlantic as possible.
With a great game from Bryzgalov, another powerful performance by the offense, and some reinforcement at the blue line, the Flyers can find their early-season swagger and take a step in the right direction with a win over Pittsburgh.