Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers
Wells Fargo Center, 1 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, CSN-Philadelphia
The early part of the NHL season always comes with a lot of twists and turns. A good first-ten games can lift the spirits of fans while a bad start can make fans want to start building for the next season. This being shortened season makes these feelings even more extreme because there is less time to make up for lost ground. For the Hurricanes, their start of 5-4-0 falls right in the middle of the pack and things could go either way after that. However, a win over the Flyers today would put them two games above .500 for the first time this year and put them tied for first in the Southeast Division if Tampa Bay loses.
A win today would also give Carolina six out of a possible 12 points on the road trip and that's definitely not a bad thing since this is easily the toughest part of their schedule. Getting the win is going to be easier said than done, though considering they were beaten by Philadelphia 5-3 only a week ago and haven't exactly played their best hockey the last couple of game. They managed to pick up victories over Toronto and Ottawa but they were also outplayed for various stretches and gave up over 40 shots in both games. It's sort of the opposite of what was happening to them earlier in the season where they weren't getting any puck-luck despite heavily outshooting their opponents.
It's obviously still too early in the season to make any conclusions but the Hurricanes will need to find some more balance and they will certainly need to play better than they have the last two games if they want to leave Philadelphia with two points.
Lines & Preview after the jump
Since the Canes just played the Flyers, there is no need to give a scouting report on the Flyers and instead, we'll talk more about what happened when these two teams last met. The Flyers beat the Hurricanes 5-3 but it was Carolina who had the edge in shots and scoring chances by a wide margin. Most of that was due to the Canes playing from behind and being on the powerplay for basically the entire third period so there isn't much we can determine from that game other than the Hurricanes penalty kill played horribly by giving up three goals. They were perfect in their last two games but still gave up a lot of scoring chances against. The reason why they weren't torched on the scoresheet was because of the play from goaltender Cam Ward. I'm not so sure they will be as lucky today if they have another parade to the box.
At even strength, the Hurricanes allowed only eight scoring chances to the Flyers and Jordan Staal was able to win his matchup against Claude Giroux decisively, so that should install some confidence for Hurricanes fans. The Flyers are getting Wayne Simmonds back today but they are still a team with not a ton of forward depth and the Hurricanes should be able to expose it if J. Staal wins his matchup against Giroux again. Their other forwards did a fine job against Carolina in their last outing, though so that kind of leaves the door open for what will happen today.
Tlusty – E. Staal – Semin
Skinner – J. Staal – Dwyer
Bowman – Jokinen – LaRose
Wallace – Brent – Westgarth
Gleason – Faulk
Pitkanen – McBain
Harrison – Sanguinetti
Out: Nodl, Corvo
McGinn – Giroux – Briere
Simmonds – B. Schenn – Voracek
Read – Couturier – Knuble
Rinaldo – Talbot – Fedotenko
Timonen – L. Schenn
Coburn – Gervais
Foster – Grossman
Out: Sestito, Shelley, Lilja
Five Things to Watch For
– Again, those lines are just my best guess since neither team practiced yesterday to my knowledge. I would prefer if Nodl was in the lineup over Westgarth, but I think most coaches put their enforcers in the lineup whenever they play the Flyers just because of their "reputation." That and the Hurricanes have won their last two games and I don't expect Muller to change the lineups if the team is winning. As for the Flyers, I think Tom Sestito will end up being the scratch to make room for Simmonds. Sestito had a two-goal game on Tuesday against Tampa Bay but he played less than five-minutes in their next game. I'd take that as a sign that he's probably the next one to be scratched, especially while Zac Rinaldo played nearly 13 minutes in the same game.
– Jordan Staal has been playing a lot of minutes at even strength the last couple of games. So much that he has actually topped his brother in even strength time on ice, which has been unheard of for Carolina in recent years. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again today with Jordan Staal going head-to-head with Claude Giroux. Muller will not have the advantage of the last change but he is probably going to try to get Staal out against Giroux every chance that he can. Same with Faulk and Gleason, who are also going to be logging a ton of minutes tonight.
– Kimmo Timonen has played very well against Carolina over his career and last game was no exception. I'm interested to see how he does against the Eric Staal line today. I'd expect him to have a solid game but his defense partner, Luke Schenn, is a greater concern…for the Flyers. Schenn hasn't been bad this season but he is probably one of the least mobile defensemen in the league and is prone to bad turnovers when trying to lead a breakout. If the Canes can get a strong forecheck going against this pairing, they might be able to generate a good amount of scoring chances.
– The Flyers have a "bad" record, but they've actually been pretty good at driving possession this year, as their Fenwick close percentage is well over 52%. They've had to play from behind in a lot of games, but they actually haven't been terrible when playing with the score tied. They also played a lot of games on the road to start the season and haven't lost at home in regulation since opening night. Carolina's overall possession rate took a big hit after their game against Ottawa, so I'm curious to see how they perform against a Philly team that might be better than their record indicates.
– Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was an amnesty buyout candidate heading into this year but he has been performing very well so far this year. He has an overall save percentage of .923 and his even strength save percentage is an even better .945. I think everybody know that his performance last season wasn't indicative of his true talent but he obviously isn't this good at even strength either. Still, the Hurricanes had a hard time getting a lot past him in their last meeting and that will probably be the case today, as well.
This is going to be one of only two matinee games the Hurricanes will play this season and it's always tough to predict how they will go because there is less time for the players to prepare. Here's to hoping that the Canes can get a win streak going and have a solid record at the ten-game mark. These teams are in similar situations coming into this game and will probably be battling for a playoff spot somewhere down the line, so getting a win today would be nice.