Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers
Wells Fargo Center, 7 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, CSN-Philadelphia
Tonight's game begins what is easily the toughest part of the Carolina Hurricanes schedule. Not only is it a back-to-back on the road, but it's also the first game of a six-game road trip featuring two games on back-to-back nights. It's good to get this part of the schedule out of the way early in the year, but the Canes are going to need to make the most of these games and try to escape this road trip with at least a .500 record. Their record at the moment isn't that bad at a 3-3-0 but a losing streak or a bad record on this road trip could put them in a bit of a hole, especially when you look at the start the Tampa Bay Lightning are off to. Tonight's game is a good chance for them to get this road trip started on the right foot as they will take on a struggling Philadelphia Flyers team.
The Flyers have already been hit hard by the injury bug and their record of 2-6-0 reflects that. They are also on a three-game losing streak and have scored only two goals per game, which is a surprisingly lower average than what the Hurricanes have posted thus far. The Flyers have also played only two of their games at home, which might be why the team is struggling so much, so tonight's game might be more of a challenge than some think. Philadelphia has given this team a lot of trouble in the past, so I'm sure that's on the minds of the Canes right now and they will come out strong tonight.
Sometimes desperate teams can be dangerous if the opponent takes them lightly, so that will be one of the many things to watch for in tonight's game.
Know Your Opponent: Flyers
As I mentioned before, the Flyers are off to a horrible start this year and have suffered numerous injuries to key players. Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Chris Pronger and Andrej Mezsaros have all missed considerable time this year and it sounds like Wayne Simmonds could miss tonight's game, too. The injuries and Paul Holmgren's talent purgatory has led to the Flyers going from one of the dangerous teams in the league to a roster with one star in Claude Giroux surrounded by a few promising young talents (Read, Couturier), aging veterans (Knuble, Fedotenko) and bad players (Rinaldo, Shelley). Needless to say, this isn't the Flyers team that we're used to seeing the last few years.
That doesn't mean they should be taken lightly, though because the Flyers dominated the Hurricanes last year, winning three of the four meetings and outscoring them 15-10. Giroux in particular had a field day against Carolina with seven points in four games including a four-point night in a game where the Flyers routed Carolina 5-1. The Flyers have just seemed to have this team's number over the years no matter what they are going through, so I'm hoping that Carolina comes ready to play tonight even if the Flyers roster looks depleted compared to what it was two years ago. That being said, the Flyers have apparently had the upper-hand in shot attempts and possession in close games so maybe they aren't as bad as their record indicates? I'm not sure how valid Fenwick is but I guess we'll discover more about this team after tonight's game.
Tlusty – E. Staal – Semin
Skinner – J. Staal – Dalpe
Bomwan – Jokinen – Dwyer
Nodl – Brent – LaRose
Gleason – Faulk
Pitkanen – McBain
Harrison – Corvo
Briere – Giroux – Simmonds (?)
McGinn – B. Schenn – Voracek
Read – Couturier – Knuble
Fedotenko – Talbot – Rinaldo
Timonen – L. Schenn
Coburn – Gervais
Foster – Grossmann
Five Things to Focus On
– Those lines are just a guess based on who played in each of the last two games, but it sounds like Wayne Simmonds could miss tonight's game after taking an elbow from John Erskine. If he is out then my guess is that one of Voracek, Knuble or Brayden Schenn will get a promotion to the first line along with Giroux and Briere. Matt Read may be another possibility but I'm not sure how Peter Laviolette has been rolling the lines this year. With a shortened training camp and so many injuries, it seems that he might be trying anything. Also, if Simmonds can't go, Jody Shelley might be inserted into the lineup which might force Muller to play Kevin Westgarth.
– No word on who the starting goalies are but I would assume that Cam Ward will get the start for Carolina since it's a back-to-back and I think they trust him enough to give him the nod, even if Dan Ellis got a shutout last night. As for the Flyers, they also played last night but I'm not sure if they are comfortable with starting Michael Leighton after he let in five goals against Tampa Bay in their last outing. We'll have to wait and see what happens there.
– Jordan Staal has a lot of experience playing against Giroux from his days in Pittsburgh, so this will be a big matchup to keep an eye on. Laviolette usually doesn't pay attention to matchups, so I think Muller can take advantage of this by getting the shutdown line out there against Giroux on a consistent basis. J. Staal had a rough game last night against the Kyle Turris line, so let's hope he can rebound tonight. He's facing a tough customer in Giroux but like I said earlier, he has a lot of experience playing against him.
– According to Behind The Net, Lavioette has been changing which defense pair is getting shutdown duty on almost a game-by-game basis. It appears that Coburn, Timonen and Grossmann have been seeing other team's top-lines for most of the year but all three were on different defense pairs last night against Washington so I'm not sure what is going on there. It'll probably take a few more games for things to gel.
– Carolina's powerplay has struggled all year and tonight they will face a Flyers PK that is the fourth worst in the league going by PK percentage. I guess something has to give there.
It would be great to see the Canes start off this road trip on a good note, so let's hope they can get a win tonight.