RECAP: Recap of Bill Meltzers 5 thoughts which can be viewed on the Philadelphia Flyers following the link below, or you can read below beyond past the link.
Winless in their seven games, John Tortorella's Philadelphia Flyers (7-8-4) are in DC on Wednesday evening to take on Peter Laviolette's Washington Capitals (7-10-3) at Capital One Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET.
The game will be nationally televised on TNT. The radio broadcast is on 93.3 WMMR with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7.
This is the first of four meetings this season between the Metro Division rivals. The Flyers and Capitals will rematch at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 7 and Dec. 11 before the season series wraps up back in Washington on Jan. 14.
The Flyers enter this game coming off a 5-2 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday evening as Philadelphia's record in the last seven games dropped to 0-5-2 and the team fell below "hockey .500" for the first time this season.
The Flyers twice cut two-goal deficits to one as Tanner Laczynski
(first NHL goal) and Joel Farabee
(4th of the season) respectively made it 2-1 and then 3-2. However, the Flyers yielded a pair of empty-net goals to seal a third-goal margin of defeat.
The Capitals are winless in their last four games (0-3-1). A team that has grown accustomed to being a perennial contender, Washington has a 2-6-2 record over its last 10 games (same as the Flyers). On Saturday evening, the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche dispatched of the Capitals in a 4-0 shutout.
Here are five things to watch in this game.
1. Turning the Page
On Monday night, the Flyers struggled to cope with tight checking against Calgary. The starting first line -- Farabee and Owen Tippett
flanking Morgan Frost
-- spent way too much time in their own end of the ice. A failed give-and-go play turned into a 2-on-1 for Calgary that led to the second Flames' goal. The Flyers' better overall lines, actually, were the third and fourth lines.
The goaltending of Carter Hart
last game wasn't what cost the Flyers the game but it was a full notch below the level at which Hart played through his first eight starts of the season. The first two Flames goals were on 2-on-1s and not easy saves but, by the same token, neither shot was unstoppable. Hart conceded a lot of net on both goals. His season save percentage is still strong at .920 but it's been dropping steadily of late, albeit not primarily due to his own errors.
Overall, the Flyers were limited to 25 shots on goal for the game including an anemic 15 through the first 40 minutes. Yes, the Flyers have an injury-depleted lineup. But they were also playing with too little energy and insufficient "jam" for much of the game. Philly fell far short of its goal of being a team that, win or lose, is hard to play against. They didn't quit at 2-0 or 3-1 but there's no points for that.
There's nothing the Flyers can do about that now. Depleted roster and all, they have to generate a more sustained push than what they showed against Calgary.
2. First period struggles
The Flyers aren't the only fragile team that will be taking to the ice in Washington on Wednesday; the Capitals are in a bad way themselves right now. Entering this game, coming off three straight idle nights on the schedule, the Capitals are a rested team that has had time to regroup from their most recent setback.
Coming into the game, Laviolette will no doubt urge his team to try to jump on the Flyers right from the get-go, as Philly has a tendency to yield early goals and to have to play from behind. Keep in mind that the Capitals themselves have had their share of first-period woes, getting outscored by a combined 19-7 margin while the Flyers have been outscored 22-12.
If the Flyers can withstand the Caps' attempt at an early forechecking blitz -- or, even better, turn the tide by aggressive puck pursuit and taking advantage of a turnover or two by Washington -- the wind could be taken out of the Caps' sails.
3. Two teams dealing with extensive injuries
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher provided various injury updates on Tuesday to the team's lengthy list of missing regulars. The good news is that none of the injured Flyers have had recent setbacks to their return-to-play timetables. The bad news is that none of the players will be ready to imminently step back on the lineup. The updates were as follows:
* Travis Konecny
(upper body, suspected injury to his right hand) is expected to be out approximately 10-14 days.
* Wade Allison
(hip pointer/oblique muscle strain) is expected to be out approximately 2-3 weeks.
* Cam Atkinson
(upper body) remains out on a week-to-week basis.
* Scott Laughton
(IR, upper body) is expected to be out for about two weeks.
* Sean Couturier
(IR, back revision surgery on Oct. 27) is still expected to return in three to four months from the date of surgery.
* James van Riemsdyk (IR, left index finger surgery on Oct. 28) is expected to return roughly six weeks from the date of surgery.
The Flyers recalled Jackson Cates
from the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Tuesday. He is available to play in Washington.
Washington's injury list is not quite as extensive as the Flyers' but they, too, are missing multiple regular starters from their lineup. However, they could be getting some players back within the next few days.
Neither Nicklas Bäckström (hip, LTIR) nor Tom Wilson
(offseason ACL surgery, INR) are going to be available to play any time soon, but both have begun to do some rehab skating.
Forward T.J. Oshie
(lower body) and defenseman Dmitry Orlov
(lower body) participated in practice on Sunday. However, Orlov took a maintenance day on Monday after being paired with Nick Jensen
at Sunday's practice. Oshie, who has been out of the lineup for 12 games, has been practicing this week on the right wing of a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov
and Sonny Milano
. Both players are still officially considered day-to-day.Garnet Hathaway
, who took an off-day on Sunday to tend to a personal matter, returned to practice on Monday. He is fine to play against Philadelphia.
Veteran offensive defenseman John Carlson
missed six games and spent time on IR with a lower-body injury but he returned to the lineup earlier this month.Connor Brown
(knee surgery) will miss six to eight months after sustaining a torn ACL on Oct. 17 in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. Veteran checking forward Carl Hagelin
(arthroscopic hip surgery) also remains on IR.
4. Flyers line play could be juggled again
The Flyers did not practice on Tuesday, as they will be playing three games over the next four nights. They will skate in Washington on Wednesday morning.
As good as the trio of Tippett, Frost and Farabee was in the Montreal game, that's how much they struggled -- individually and collectively -- in the game against Calgary. By the start of the second period, Kevin Hayes
replaced Farabee on the line at left wing. By the third period, Frost was on a line with Noah Cates
and Hayes skated with TIppett and Zack MacEwen
. Farabee skated on Patrick Brown
Tortorella indicated after the Calgary game that he may revisit the idea of Frost centering Farabee and Tippett again at some point but felt a different combination was needed on Monday based on the way the Calgary game was going.
With Jackson Cates
being recalled to the NHL club, the Flyers have 13 available forwards. The projected lineup will be updated when available.
74 Owen Tippett
- 13 Kevin Hayes
- 17 Zack MacEwen
48 Morgan Frost
- 49 Noah Cates
- 58 Tanner Laczynski
71 Max Willman
- 38 Patrick Brown
- 86 Joel Farabee
44 Nicolas Deslauriers
- 23 Lukas Sedlak
- 20 Kieffer Bellows
9 Ivan Provorov
- 77 Tony DeAngelo
6 Travis Sanheim
- 61 Justin Braun
24 Nick Seeler
- 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
79 Carter Hart
32 Felix Sandström
Available: 59 Jackson Cates
5. Behind Enemy Lines: Washington Capitals
November has been a very rough month on the Capitals. The team has gone 2-6-2 since the start of the month, with a 2-3-1 mark on home ice. The club still has its share of star power, and it is a veteran-laden club. As such the Caps aren't panicking about their struggles in recent weeks but they also realize that it needs to back on the right track sooner rather than later.
Future Hockey Hall of Fame shoo-in Alex Ovechkin, as per usual, leads the Capitals in scoring with nine goals and 17 points through 20 games (five power play goals, four power play assists) but he's a traditional minus-14 thus far. "Ovie" is followed by Dyan Strome with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists), Kuznetsov (team-leading 12 assists among his 14 points), Carlson with 11 points (5g, 6a), and then Conor Sheary
(7g, 3a) and Anthony Mantha
(5g, 5a) with 10 points apiece.
In goal, veteran Darcy Kuemper
has made 15 starts (5-9-1 record, 2.83 GAA, .907 save percentage, one shutout). Backup netminder Charlie Lindgren
has made five starts and one relief appearance (2-1-2, 3.13 GAA, .905 save percentage).
For the season to date, the Capitals have scored 36 goals at 5-on-5 while allowing 40 (the Flyers have scored 34 and yielded 35). The Capitals power play clocks in at 18.9 percent to rank 23rd in the NHL but the club is at 26.5 percent on home ice to date (the Flyers PK, at 74.6 percent, ranks 25th). The Washington penalty kill is 78.3 percent to date (ranked 16th) while the Flyers' power play comes in at 15.9 percent (29th) but has actually fared better on the road (6-for-32, 18.8 percent) than at the Wells Fargo Center so far (4-for-31, 12.9 percent). The Caps have allowed two shorthanded goals and scored a pair of their own, while Philly has scored one and allowed one.
Similar to the Flyers, opposing empty net goals have been almost automatic when the Capitals have pulled their goalie for an extra attacker in a desperate late-game situation when down by one or two goals. The Flyers have yielded six (against one of their own back on opening night against New Jersey) while the Caps have yielded seven (against one scored).
Projected lineup (subject to change)
8 Alex Ovechkin - 17 Dylan Strome
- 73 Conor Sheary
15 Sonny Milano
- 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov
- 77 T.J. Oshie
90 Marcus Johansson
- 20 Lars Eller
- 39 Anthony Mantha
59 Aliaksei Protas - 26 Nic Dowd
- 21 Garnet Hathaway
56 Erik Gustafsson
- 74 John Carlson
9 Dmitri Orlov or 42 Martin Fehervary
- 3 Nick Jensen
52 Matt Irwin
- 57 Trevor van Riemsdyk
35 Darcy Kuemper
79 Charlie Lindgren