On the road again.
For the Flyers, they shut out a first place St. Louis Blues team in St. Louis after being shut out themselves in Chicago the night before. Needless to say, this Philadelphia Flyers team is a little inconsistent.
They post a 2-3 record in their last 5 games giving the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season during that span... on home ice.
Yet again, goaltending for the Flyers is still a work in progress. They signed Brian Elliot in the offseason when they saw Steve Mason go north to Winnipeg. They also signed Michal Neuvirth to an extension in early March of last year that surprised many fans. The Flyers have bounced between Elliot and Neuvirth this season so far with Elliot leading in starts (9) and wins (5) but Neuvirth posting a better GAA (1.83) and SV% (.941).
On the other side of the ice, the Avalanche have not been great on the road (2-4). Last year the Avalanche were swept by the Flyers in the season series losing 4-3 in Colorado and getting blasted 4-0 in Philly.
The lineups for both teams will look a little different than what we’ve seen in recent games due to injuries, illnesses and poor play. Let’s get to it.
The Avalanche will dress 11 forwards and 7 defencemen tonight. Reports out of Avs camp say Grimaldi and Nieto won’t play due to illness. I’ve been a Grimaldi truther for sometime now but his game on Thursday was just down-right bad. It’s possible he looked at game film and became sick from his own play.
Since the Avs are only going with 11 forwards they will shuffle the 3rd line as Gabriel Bourque looks to take over Nieto’s spot on the wing with Soda and Comeau leaving Kerfoot and Greer as a plug and play with another forward.
This is what happens when you keep more defense in the press box than forwards - which I always find perplexing. I understand Bednar wants to take a good look at the defense and make a final decision on who to keep for the year, but now instead of 4 forward lines we’ll see a 7th defender rotate with the top 6.
It sounds like Zadorov will draw back into the lineup on the 3rd pairing with Lindholm and Mironov will float as the 7th defender. All of this means that Chris Bigras will yet again be a healthy scratch for the Avalanche. I realize Bigras made a few mistakes in the Vegas game but to be scratched behind Mironov for the last couple is a bit curious. I still haven’t seen a complete game from Mironov that deserves a place ahead of Bigras in the lineup.
The defensive roulette continues. Mark Barberio will take over top d pairing with EJ. Those two played some hard earned minutes at the end of the Carolina game and Bednar obviously liked what he saw. No change to the Nemeth/Barrie pairing.
The key to success for the Avalanche this game will be to shut down the first line for the Flyers who have been on a tear as of late. This is a Flyers team who can put the puck in the net as they rank 8th in the league in Goals For.
The Giroux line with Couturier and Voracek have accounted for about 41% of Philadelphia’s goals scored this year. A big part of that comes from their lethal powerplay which ranks 8th in the league in terms of efficiency and 1st in CF% with 93.6% The Avalanche did a good job staying out of the box on Thursday against Carolina, they’ll need to have the same sort of discipline if they’ll want to keep this group off the ice.
Who we won’t see tonight is the 2nd overall 2017 draft pick, Nolan Patrick. He’s been out of the lineup the past 5 games with a concussion.
The blueline for the Flyers has taken a bit of a hit lately with Gostisbehere, MacDonald and Gudas out of the lineup. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, Ghost looks to be back for the Flyers tonight after missing the last 3 games with an upper body injury. He currently has 13 points (1g, 12a) in 11 games played this season.
There are some weak spots in the Flyers defensive core that the Avs can take advantage of. The last pairing in particular looks mighty tasty. Sanheim and Alt are both relatively new to the Philly blue line and are just getting their feet wet on NHL ice.
Semyon Varlamov will be back between the pipes tonight after setting an Avalanche record for saves with 57 the other night. He was peppered all night but stood his ground after letting in a soft one in the first minute of the game. Varlamov is now 5-3-0 with a goals-against-average of 3.01 and a save percentage of .914.
Across ice we’ll see Michal Neuvirth for the Flyers. He stopped all 33 shots that came his way against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday earning his first shutout of the season. He’s the backup to Elliot but so far this season has outperformed his counterpart in terms of GAA and SV%. Although his record doesn’t indicate as such at 2-3-0 which bodes well for the Avalanche tonight.
How to Watch/Listen
As always this game will be televised on Altitude Sports, puck drops at 5pm.
You can also listen to it with our friend Marc Moser on Altitude Sports Radio at 950am.