Game 34 Preview: Washington Capitals @ Philadelphia Flyers

Image courtesy of USA Today

Washington Capitals (18-12-3) @ Philadelphia Flyers (14-15-4), 7:30pm, TSN/NBCSN/CSN-Philly/CSN-DC

The Philadelphia Flyers look to rebound after a frustrating loss on Sunday to the same team they collapsed against in the Washington Capitals. This time around, the clubs will play in Philly, as the Flyers look to gain confidence against a Caps’ club, which they handed confidence to on Sunday thanks to a horrendous third period. For a team that has been struggling over their last few games, this game is huge for the Flyers in a handful of ways.

For one, the comments from Ed Snider following the loss on Sunday about looking at the team as they usually do and doing what is needed to get the team over the hump should get some sort of reaction out of the players tonight. Even though the Orange and Black played a solid 50 minutes two days ago, the final ten minutes was a collapse within the final 20 minutes that we saw often from the club earlier in the season. Whether or not Snider was just saying it to make the players focus and come out even stronger today, or whether he is actually looking into a trade or managerial move, another horrific collapse from the team today could result in something memorable one way or another.

One key player that is looking to rebound from the loss is Steve Mason. The collapse wasn’t entirely his fault, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t play a crucial part in it. Along with Sunday’s loss, Mason’s play as of late hasn’t been similar to what it was earlier in the season. That doesn’t mean the wheels have fallen off the former Columbus Blue Jacket, just that he doesn’t quite look as sharp as he did before and immediately after the coaching change. These last few outcomes for the netminder has been his first real taste of adversity with the Flyers, so we will see if he continues his less-than-stellar play in net or if he produces a statement game today.

Aside from the comments from Snider and the possibility that Mason’s play is regressing, one positive for the club lately has been the play of the team’s top line. The addition of Michael Raffl to the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek has allowed the three players to collectively find their offensive grooves. Providing speed, a decent set of hands, and a strong ability to possess the puck, it looks as though Raffl has finally found his spot in the Orange and Black’s lineup. Whether or not the Austrian stays there when Vincent Lecavalier eventually returns to the lineup is still to be decided, but at the moment the 25-year-old winger needs to help Philly with what could potentially be another high-scoring game with the Caps.

The Flyers should also come out focused tonight, as it is a home game. The team has been on fire recently at home, as they have rattled off six straight victories at the Wells Fargo Center. On the other hand, they have also lost four straight road games and eight of their last 10 games outside of the WFC. With a six-game road trip starting next week, it’s crucial for the Flyers to grab as many points they can tonight and on Thursday against the Blue Jackets.

Washington Capitals
Overall: 18-12-3
Road: 6-5-3
Against the Eastern Conference: 11-6-2
Against the Metropolitan Division: 7-4-0

Philadelphia Flyers
Overall: 14-15-4
Home: 8-7-0
Against the Eastern Conference: 11-9-3
Against the Metropolitan Division: 5-4-2

Washington Capitals
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Eric Fehr – Jay Beagle – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Martin Erat – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov – Mike Green
John Erskine – Steven Oleksy

Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

Philadelphia Flyers
Michael Raffl – Claude Giroux – Jakub Voracek
Scott Hartnell – Brayden Schenn – Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read – Sean Couturier – Steve Downie
Chris VandeVelde – Adam Hall – Zac Rinaldo

Kimmo Timonen – Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit – Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn – Erik Gustafsson

Steve Mason
Ray Emery

Washington Capitals
Goals: Alex Ovechkin, 27
Assists: Nicklas Backstrom, 28
Points: Alex Ovechkin, 37
Power-Play Points: Alex Ovechkin, 20
Plus/Minus: Mikhail Grabovski, plus-6
PIMs: Tom Wilson, 58
Average TOI: John Carlson, 24:43
GAA: Philipp Grubauer, 2.06
Save Percentage: Philipp Grubauer, .937

Philadelphia Flyers
Goals: Matt Read and Vincent Lecavalier, 9
Assists: Claude Giroux, 18
Points: Claude Giroux, 25
Power-Play Points: Claude Giroux, 12
Plus/Minus: Erik Gustafsson, plus-5
PIMs: Zac Rinaldo, 88
Average TOI: Braydon Coburn, 22:56
GAA: Steve Mason, 2.35
Save Percentage: Steve Mason, .924

Washington Capitals
Brooks Laich – Groin (out)
Michal Neuvirth – Lower-body injury (out)
Jack Hillen – Leg (out)
Michael Latta – Lower-body injury (questionable)
Mikhail Grabovski – Flu (questionable)

Philadelphia Flyers
Vincent Lecavalier – Back (Two-to-Three weeks)

Former Capitals in Philadelphia’s organization
With Philadelphia: Craig Berube, John Paddock (drafted by Capitals in 1974 NHL Entry Draft).
With Adirondack Phantoms (AHL): Terry Murray (head coach).
With the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL): Dwayne Zinger (assistant coach).

Former Flyers in Washington’s organization
With Washington: Adam Oates (head coach).
With the Hershey Bears (AHL): Julien Brouillette (Greenville Road Warriors), Mike Haviland, head coach (Trenton Titans).
With the Reading Royals (ECHL): Mike Banwell (Trenton Titans), Marvin Degon (Trenton Titans), Doug Clarkson (Adirondack Phantoms), Dustin Gazley (Greenville Road Warriors), Jesse Todd (Trenton Titans).