Game 38 Preview: Philadelphia Flyers @ Edmonton Oilers

Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Philadelphia Flyers (17-16-4) @ Edmonton Oilers (13-24-3), 10:00pm, CSN-Philly/CBC

Ilya Bryzgalov may have called it “just another game,” but you have to wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers will look at the contest in the same way. If it wasn’t for the acquisition of Bryzgalov the Flyers wouldn’t have Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, or Brayden Schenn and still have Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

The Russian goaltender was the reason Paul Holmgren made his bold decisions on June 23, 2011. Whether you agree with Holmgren’s decisions or not, these transactions were made to acquire a goalie that was supposed to solve a problem in net for the Flyers. Instead, Bryzgalov provided average play at best for two seasons before being bought out this past summer. Any way you look at it, there will be some emotion in this game from the current Flyers towards their old vocal and awkward netminder.

In his time with Edmonton, Bryzgalov is 2-4-0 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.80 GAA. Playing in over three times as many games as Bryzgalov this year, Steve Mason has produced better numbers for much less money, as he currently has a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA. Both goaltenders should come out with a purpose tonight, as they both have something to prove stemming from the goalie crisis in Philadelphia.

Aside from the Bryzgalov situation, another thing to look for tonight is the return of Steve Downie to the lineup. With both the Brayden Schenn-Scott Hartnell-Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Vincent Lecavalier lines playing well as of late, it seems as though Downie may be relegated to the fourth line at the moment, which may not be a bad thing. Since Adam Hall may miss the game with the flu, Downie might be playing with Chris VandeVelde and Zac Rinaldo. Craig Berube will most likely want Downie to see more ice time than his fourth liners usually do, so it seems as though Downie will fill in for a winger on the second or third once every few shifts or the fourth line will finally become a serviceable commodity and be on the ice for nearly 10 minutes tonight.

In addition to the lineup juggling, the Flyers will try to figure out a way to win away from the Wells Fargo Center, as they are currently on a five-game road losing streak. Philly’s last win on the road came against the Detroit Red Wings on December 4th, a win that required a monstrous four-goal third period to cap off a comeback effort. Although they managed to grab two points in those five losses via shootout defeats, the Flyers’ other three losses were a 5-1 decision against the Dallas Stars, a 7-2 defeat against the Chicago Blackhawks, and a 6-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Earlier in the year the Flyers seemed to struggle at home and do better on the road. Now it seems the Flyers can’t lose at home and can’t win on the road. It was a win over the Edmonton Oilers that seemed to spark the Orange and Black’s resurgence back into the playoff race, so perhaps a win against the Oilers tonight can help the Flyers end their road woes.

A win tonight would also be huge for the Flyers since it is the beginning of a six-game road trip. With what looks to be the least difficult tilt of the lengthy road trip, a win tonight would let the team build confidence for their next five games away from the WFC. After the game tonight against Edmonton, the Orange and Black have a back-to-back against the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames on Monday and Tuesday. Philly’s next three games are spread out over six days, as they take on the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, the Phoenix Coyotes next Saturday, and finish the trip on the following Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.

RECORDS
Philadelphia Flyers
Overall: 17-16-4
Away: 6-9-4
Against the Western Conference: 4-6-1
Against the Pacific Division: 1-3-0

Edmonton Oilers
Overall: 13-24-3
Home: 6-11-1
Against the Western Conference: 7-11-1
Against the Metropolitan Division: 3-6-0

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

Kimmo Timonen – Braydon Coburn
Mark Streit – Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn – Andrej Meszaros

Steve Mason
Ray Emery

Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – David Perron
Jesse Joensuu – Sam Gagner – Jordan Eberle
Ryan Smyth – Boyd Gordon – Ales Hemsky
Luke Gazdic – Anton Lander – Nail Yakupov

Andrew Ference – Justin Schultz
Nick Schultz – Jeff Petry
Corey Potter – Anton Belov

Ilya Bryzgalov
Devan Dubnyk

TEAM LEADERS
Philadelphia Flyers
Goals: Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, and Claude Giroux - 10
Assists: Claude Giroux, 23
Points: Claude Giroux, 33
Power-Play Points: Claude Giroux, 14
Plus/Minus: Erik Gustafsson, plus-4
PIMs: Zac Rinaldo, 90
Average TOI: Braydon Coburn, 22:48
GAA: Steve Mason, 2.35
Save Percentage: Steve Mason, .923

Edmonton Oilers
Goals: David Perron, 15
Assists: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 20
Points: Taylor Hall, 33
Power-Play Points: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 10
Plus/Minus: Ben Eager and Mike Brown, plus-1
PIMs: Luke Gazdic, 78
Average TOI: Justin Schultz, 22:14
GAA: Ilya Bryzgalov, 2.80
Save Percentage: Richard Bachman, .916

INJURIES
Philadelphia Flyers
Adam Hall – Flu (Questionable)
Erik Gustafsson – Knee (Out)

Edmonton Oilers
None

FORMER PLAYERS
Former Oilers in Philadelphia’s organization
With Philadelphia: Chris Pronger, Chris VandeVelde
With the Adirondack Phantoms (AHL): Yann Danis
With the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL): Mike Marcou (Oklahoma City Barons)

Former Flyers in Edmonton’s organization
With Edmonton: Ilya Bryzgalov, Craig MacTavish (General Manager), Keith Acton (Assistant Coach), Pelle Eklund (Scout)
With the Oklahoma City Barons (AHL): Ben Eager, Matthew Ford (Adirondack Phantoms), Austin Fyten (Invited to Flyers’ Prospects Camp)
With the Bakersfield Condors (ECHL): Wes Cunningham (Greenville Road Warriors)