Game 37 Preview: Minnesota Wild @ Philadelphia Flyers

flyers-wild-2013

Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

After a disappointing third period effort in Columbus, Philadelphia returns to the Wells Fargo Center to face Minnesota before the three-day Christmas break takes effect.  Minnesota has lost 7 of their last 8 on the road, so you know what that means..

 

Minnesota Wild (20-13-5) @ Philadelphia Flyers (16-16-4), 7:30 PM EST
TV: NBCSN, TSN2, CSN-PH

RECORDS:

Minnesota Wild: 20-13-5
Away: 6-10-3
vs. Eastern Conference: 9-6-2
vs. Metropolitan Division: 4-3-1

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5v5 score-close stats, chart courtesy of @ExtraSkater

Philadelphia Flyers: 16-16-4
Home: 10-7-0
vs. Western Conference: 3-6-1
vs. Central Division: 2-3-1

phi-stats-2013

5v5 score-close stats, chart courtesy of @ExtraSkater

GAME 37 PREVIEW:

The Philadelphia Flyers (16-16-4) play host to another central division playoff-picture team in the Minnesota Wild (20-13-5) this evening.  The game will be nationally televised on NBCSN and locally televised on CSH-PH at 7:30 PM EST.

There are fourteen games across the NHL on the schedule tonight.  After tonight’s game, a three-day “Christmas Break” will go into effect.  Teams won’t resume play until this Friday, December 27.  On Saturday, December 28, the Flyers will begin another daunting six-game road-trip.  They’ll have a three-in-four against the three Canadian Pacific Division teams – in Edmonton on the 28th, in Vancouver on the 30th and in Calgary on the 31st.  Buckle up.

This is the final match-up between the two teams this season.  Philadelphia lost 2-0 in Minnesota on December 2.  It was pretty smooth sailing for MIN goaltender Josh Harding, who was relatively un-tested in a 21-save shutout, and two goals scored 57 seconds apart by Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle proved to be the difference.

QUICK NOTES:

  • Despite playing ridiculously good hockey at home, MIN is a lowly 6-10-3 on the road.  They’re coming off of a pretty flat performance against the New York Rangers, a 4-1 loss in New York City.  They close out their road-trip in Philadelphia tonight on a back-to-back.  The Flyers have got to bury this team early.
  • Steve Mason’s your starter tonight (13-9-4, 2.40 GAA, .922 SV%).  Flyers goaltenders have been pretty, uh, awful lately.  The month of December hasn’t been kind, that’s for sure.  Let’s hope he can right the ship as the calendar year comes to a close.  On the other end, Nicklas Backström (2-7-2, 3.19 GAA, .895 SV%) will most likely get the start against Philadelphia as Josh Harding continues to receive treatment for MS.  Those numbers are hilarious.
  • Per Paul Holmgren, Erik Gustafsson will be out for about two weeks with a left knee sprain.  Andrej Meszaros will be slotted back into the lineup for tonight’s game, and he’ll most likely be paired with Luke Schenn. Great.. Meszaros will have to replace the mobility in transition that Gustafsson so easily provided.  Those defensive pairings (aside from the top-pairing of 44-5) scare me.  They should scare you.  I don’t expect them to fare so well against a superior puck-possession team.  Although they’ve dropped in the past couple weeks, Minnesota’s 5v5 fen-close is still above 50% (the rough benchmark for playoff vs. non-playoff teams).  Flyers have yet to reach that mark this season (cumulatively).
  • Flyers will try for their ninth straight home victory tonight.  This is will be the last game of the calendar year in the Wells Fargo Center.  They won’t be back until January 8; they’ll face the Montreal Canadiens in their first game back from another grueling six-game road-trip.  After an abysmal start to the 2013 season(s) and missing the playoffs last season, it’d be nice to end 2013 on a good note.

PROJECTED LINEUPS:

Philadelphia Flyers:

Michael Raffl (12) : Claude Giroux (28) : Jakub Voracek (93)
Scott Hartnell (19) : Brayden Schenn (10) : Wayne Simmonds (17)
Matt Read (24): Sean Couturier (14) : Vincent Lecavalier (40)
Zac Rinaldo (36) : Chris VandeVelde (76) : Adam Hall (18)

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

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

Scratches:

Steve Downie
Hal Gill
Erik Gustafsson
Chris Pronger
Jay Rosehill

Minnesota Wild:

Zach Parise (11) : Mikko Koivu (9) : Charlie Coyle (3)
Nino Niederreiter (22) : Mikael Granlund (64) : Jason Pominville (29)
Dany Heatley (15) : Kyle Brodziak (21) : Matt Cooke (24)
Stephane Veilleux (19) : Zenon Zonopka (28) : Michael Rupp (27)

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

Niklas Backström (32)
Backup: Johan Gustafsson (31)

Scratches:

Matt Dumba
Justin Fontaine
Josh Harding
Torrey Mitchell
Nate Prosser