Game 12 Preview: Washington Capitals @ Philadelphia Flyers

Wayne Simmonds

Image courtesy of AP Photo/Alex Brandon.

Washington Capitals (5-7-0) @ Philadelphia Flyers (3-8-0), 7:00pm, NHLN-US, CSN-DC+, CSN-PH

RECORDS:

Washington Capitals: 5-7-0
Away: 2-4-0
vs. Eastern Conference: 1-2-0
vs. Metropolitan Division: 1-2-0

Philadelphia Flyers: 3-8-0
Home: 2-5-0
vs. Eastern Conference: 3-5-0
vs. Metropolitan Division: 2-2-0

PREVIEW:

The Philadelphia Flyers find themselves back at home this evening (7 PM) against the visiting Washington Capitals after a disappointing loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night.  Despite playing what was arguably their best period of the season in the first 20 minutes, a disastrous third period showing from the Flyers allowed the Ducks to overcome a 2 goal deficit, with Kyle Palmieri potting the game winning goal (his second of the game) of a 3-2 game with less than 5 minutes remaining.

Another quality Steve Mason start was wasted; despite letting in 3 goals, the netminder still finished with a .919 save percentage (34/37).  Mason faced 16 shots in the final period alone.  Unable to effectively utilize their fourth line in a close game against quality competition, the Flyers were forced to roll three lines, causing them to seemingly run out of gas.

The Capitals are coming off of a 3-2 loss, in which they were out shot 41-19, to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.  Despite their poor, sporadic play, the Capitals went ahead early in the third period on a Mikhail Grabovski wrister that sailed over Roberto Luongo’s glove.  It only took a little over three minutes for the Canucks to regain the lead on goals from Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin after two dominant shifts.  Tonight caps the end of a 5 game road trip for Washington, who, after tonight, head home to face the Florida Panthers on the second night of a back-to-back.

One major storyline coming into tonight’s game is the addition (or re-addition) of Steve Downie to the Philadelphia Flyers’ roster.  Acquired yesterday in a straight-up swap for Maxime Talbot, Downie will be playing his first game wearing orange and black in almost 5 years.  The team hopes he’ll be a catalyst for the first line – especially Claude Giroux – and be able to provide a little bit of line stability.  Head Coach Craig Berube seems intent on finding Giroux two wingers that effectively complement his style of play.

If Philadelphia’s looking to build off of the strong first 40 minutes shown on Tuesday night, the Ovechkin-less Capitals may be the perfect opponent.  The Capitals are 2-4 on the road and 1-2 against the Metropolitan Division.  They’re coming off of four straight road games (this would be their fifth) and have a similar 3-2 loss ingrained in their minds since the beginning of the week.  Both teams are well-rested, as the Capitals haven’t played since Monday, and the Flyers haven’t played since Tuesday.

FOUR THINGS:

1) OVECHKIN OUT: The Washington Capitals have officially ruled out Alexander Ovechkin for Friday night’s contest after he suffered an upper-body injury Monday night during the Capitals’ 3-2 loss in Vancouver.  The injury is not believed to be serious, and the Capitals’ leading goal scorer (10 goals) skated before practice yesterday (per nhl.com) but did not travel with the team to Philadelphia.  Eric Fehr has been slotted as the team’s top line right wing in his place.

2) 60 MINUTE EFFORT: After the Flyers’ brutal third period effort on Tuesday, it will be interesting to see how the team starts – and finishes – against a tough divisional opponent.  The team has been outscored 14-5 in the third period this season, an extremely alarming stat.  Despite heading into the third period tied or ahead in 8 of their 11 games (per Adam Kimelman), the team finds itself with a 3-8 record.  Team effort in the final 20 minutes has been a glaring weakness early this season, and things must change if the Flyers wish to crawl back into the divisional race.

3) STEVE DOWNIE: Acquired yesterday in a straight-up trade for Maxime Talbot, Steve Downie will look to make an immediate impact with the Flyers, as he’s expected to be slotted in as the first line left wing (centered by Giroux).  Much has been said about Downie’s ability to open up space for star players in Tampa Bay (Stamkos) and Colorado (Duchene); he’ll try to do the same exact thing for Giroux in his second stint with the orange and black.  The team hopes Downie, who comes back to the team already tied for the scoring lead (7 points, with Vincent Lecavalier), will be able to provide a much-needed spark to the anemic state that the offense finds itself in.

4) FOURTH LINE: With the departure of Maxime Talbot to Colorado, there’s a good chance we may see a ‘new-look’ fourth line, with Michael Raffl dropping down from the first line and Adam Hall back in as the fourth line center.  A Raffl : Hall : Rinaldo fourth line would be able to be used more frequently, effectively eating up ice time, providing the top three lines with ample time to rest.

As shown in the third period against Anaheim on Tuesday night: when the fourth line can’t be trusted to play quality minutes in score-close situations, the other three lines get overworked.  With Adam Hall likely re-inserted into the lineup to cover Talbot’s PK responsibilities, it looks like Rosehill is going to be the odd-man out.  In less than twenty-four hours, the Flyers have added Downie and Hall to the lineup at the cost of Talbot and Rosehill.  That’s a huge advantage.

PROJECTED LINEUPS *UPDATED AT 12:30 PM EST*:

Washington Capitals:

Martin Erat (10) : Nicklas Backstrom (19) : Eric Fehr (16)
Jason Chimera (25) : Mikhail Grabovski (84) : Joel Ward (42)
Marcus Johansson (90) : Brooks Laich (21) : Troy Brouwer (20)
Aaron Volpatti (24) : Michael Latta (15) : Tom Wilson (43)

Karl Alzner (27) : John Carlson (74)
Nate Schmidt (88) : Mike Green (52)
Alexander Urbom (34) : Steven Oleksy (61)

Braden Holtby (70)
Backup: Michal Neuvirth (30)

Scratches:

Jay Beagle
John Erskine
Jack Hillen
Alexander Ovechkin
Dmitry Orlov

Philadelphia Flyers:

Steve Downie (9) : Claude Giroux (28) : Vincent Lecavalier (40)
Scott Hartnell (19) : Brayden Schenn (10) : Jakub Voracek (93)
Matt Read (24) : Sean Couturier (14) : Wayne Simmonds (17)
Michael Raffl (12) : Adam Hall (18) : Zac Rinaldo (36)

Kimmo Timonen (44) : Erik Gustaffson (29)
Nicklas Grossmann (8) : Braydon Coburn (5)
Mark Streit (32) : Luke Schenn (22)

Steve Mason (35)
Backup: Ray Emery (29)

Scratches:

Hal Gill
Andrej Meszaros
Chris Pronger
Jay Rosehill