Game 27 Preview: Philadelphia Flyers @ Minnesota Wild

hartnell-flyers-wild

Image Courtesy of Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

A competitive November has the Philadelphia Flyers back in playoff contention, and the team is starting off the month of December in the midst of a tough six-game road-trip.  Bring it on, Minnesota.

 

Philadelphia Flyers (12-12-2) @ Minnesota Wild (15-8-5), 8:00 PM EST
TV: NBCSN, CSN-PH

RECORDS:

Philadelphia Flyers: 12-12-2
Away: 5-5-2
vs. Western Conference: 3-3-1
vs. Central Division: 2-0-1

Minnesota Wild: 15-8-5
Home: 10-3-2
vs. Eastern Conference: 8-3-2
vs. Metropolitan Division: 3-0-1

GAME 27 PREVIEW:

After capturing two points in Nashville on Saturday night, the Philadelphia Flyers (12-12-2) look to continue their takeover of the Central Division as they face off against the Minnesota Wild (15-8-5).  This is the first of two games between the teams this season.  The match-up will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network and locally on CSN-PH starting at 8:00 PM EST.

After tonight, the Flyers head to Detroit for the third game of their six-game road-trip; that game is this Wednesday night.  Moving past Detroit, the team will play on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday nights as they close out the second half of their trip.  Yikes.  On the bright side, the Flyers have yet to lose a game in regulation to a Central Division team this year (2-0-1).

Philadelphia is coming off of a 3-2 shootout (!) win in Nashville this past Saturday night.  Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier scored even strength goals for the Flyers, and Steve Mason stopped 33 of 35 shots, a .944 save percentage, in regulation and overtime (as well as all three in the shootout).  Mason’s record is over .500 for the first time all season (9-8-2).  A road win to kick-off a long road trip is always nice.  A shootout win is always nice.  An exceptional goaltending performance is always nice (and that save!).  But…

Let’s just get this out of the way now: Steve Mason was the sole reason the Flyers weren’t embarrassed to start off this road-trip.  He flat out stole two points; there’s no other way around it.  The Predators had 21 more attempts at the net during five on five play over the course of the game.  21.  Every single forward, except for the first line, was out-attempted.  Not good.  It doesn’t get any easier tonight, as Minnesota is one of the best possession teams in the league at this point.  The third line will certainly have their hands full with Minnesota’s first line of Parise – Koivu – Pominville.

Speaking of Minnesota, the Wild is coming off of a home-and-home against the Colorado Avalanche.  Like the Flyers, the Wild had games on both Friday and Saturday nights (a 3-1 L and 3-2 SO L), and this is the final game of a three-in-four.  The team has lost 4 straight (0-3-1) and two straight on home ice, but don’t let that deceive you: the Wild are 10-3-2 at home this season.

Ray Emery looks to be the starter in goal tonight; Steve Mason will (hopefully) get a night of rest after his performance on Saturday.  He’ll most likely start on Wednesday in Detroit, where the Flyers haven’t fared very well in recent years.  Despite winning the past seven games against the Red Wings at home, Philadelphia has lost the last two in Detroit.  The fact that this next match-up is smack-dab in the middle of a tough road-trip doesn’t bode well for their chances either.

A quick note: Vinny Lecavalier has just been ruled out for tonight’s game with back spasms.  He’s day-to-day and could return back to the lineup on Wednesday.  With Vinny out, Brayden Schenn will slide over to center the second line, and MIchael Raffl will move up to second line wing.  Andrej Meszaros will man the left point on the second line power play, which means the team will be showing two defensemen up top.  Guess that’s one way to get Mesz going.  For the Wild, Zenon Konopka skated with a shield this morning; he’ll be back in the lineup tonight.

Nashville?  Check.  Minnesota?  We’ll see.

PROJECTED LINEUPS:

Philadelphia Flyers:

Scott Hartnell (19) : Claude Giroux (28) : Jakub Voracek (93)
Michael Raffl (12) : Brayden Schenn (10) : Wayne Simmonds (17)
Steve Downie (9) : Sean Couturier (14) : Matt Read (24)
Jay Rosehill (37) : Adam Hall (18) : Zac Rinaldo (36)

Kimmo Timonen (44) : Braydon Coburn (5)
Nicklas Grossmann (8) : Mark Streit (32)
Andrej Meszaros (41) : Luke Schenn (22)

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

Scratches:

Hal Gill
Erik Gustafsson
Vincent Lecavalier
Chris Pronger

Minnesota Wild:

Zach Parise (11) : Mikko Koivu (9) : Jason Pominville (29)
Nino Niederreiter (22) : Charlie Coyle (3) : Dany Heatley (15)
Matt Cooke (24) : Kyle Brodziak (21) : Torrey Mitchell (17)
Erik Huala (56) : Zenon Konopka (28) : Justin Fontaine (14)

Ryan Suter (20) : Jared Spurgeon (46)
Marco Scandella (6) : Jonas Brodin (25)
Clayton Stoner (4) : Keith Ballard (2)

Josh Harding (37)
Backup: Niklas Backström (32)

Scratches:

Matt Dumba
Mikael Granlund
Nate Prosser
Michael Rupp