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Flyers @ Capitals - 1/2/2013


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PREVIEW 3:00 AM EST

Two struggling teams meet tonight in the nation's capital, as the Philadelphia Flyers (2-5-0) take on the Washington Capitals (1-5-1). Both teams are coming off one-goal losses in their last match, but the Flyers have had two days off while the Caps are playing on back-to-back nights. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. EST and will be televised locally on Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia.

This is the first of three meetings between the teams this season. Last year, the Flyers captured three of the four games, losing an October meeting by a 5-2 count but winning each of the next three games after Bruce Boudreau had been fired and Dale Hunter took over behind the bench. Philly outscored Washington 7-2 over the final three games.

The Flyers have received strong goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov thus far but not much else has gone right. Through the first seven games of the season, the team has had trouble scoring goals in any manpower situation, has struggled to killing penalties, has had considerable difficulty in winning faceoffs, and has taken too many undisciplined penalties.

With two days off since losing 2-1 to the New York Rangers, Peter Laviolette's team spent Wednesday's practice working heavily on special teams. Yesterday at practice, the squad featured different combinations from previous games on all four forward lines and two of the three defensive pairings. Will the latest round of lineup juggling pay off in a win?

On the injury front, the Flyers will be without Scott Hartnell (foot) until March and Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) until late February at the soonest. The healthy scratches tonight are likely to be forwards Tom Sestito and Jody Shelley plus defenseman Andreas Lilja.

Last night against Toronto, the Caps took a 2-1 lead into the third period on the strength of an early first-period goal by checking liner Joel Ward and an early second-period power play tally by Alexander Ovechkin (second goal of the season). Washington was unable to nail down the win in the third period, as the Maple Leafs scored two closely spaced goals three shifts apart to turn the one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead by the middle of the third period. The Capitals, who finished with 22 shots for the game, never recovered.

Michal Neuvirth, who was making his fifth start of the season, finished with 37 saves in a losing cause last night. With the back-to-back games, Braden Holtby could get his third start of the season. However, this is not set in stone. A rookie sensation in the playoffs last season, Holtby has scuffled in his two appearances to date.

As the Capitals record suggests, they've had just as many problems as the Flyers in the early going of the season. League-wide, only Florida and Columbus have given up more goals than the Caps. Meanwhile, scoring has been a struggle (15 goals) despite some of the big names in the Washington lineup.

Flyers fans have been concerned over the early-season struggles of new team captain Claude Giroux. He has not scored a goal since the second game of the season and has been scuffling of late even to create scoring chances for himself or his revolving door of linemates. Giroux has six career goals -- but only two assists -- in 13 regular season games against Washington. That's an unusual split for a player known as much for his playmaking as his goal-scoring.

Ovechkin is off to a similarly slow start for Washington. However, it should be noted heading into the game that Ovechkin has ripped Philly apart in his career to the tune of 23 goals and 38 points in 26 regular season games. Nicklas Bäckström (0 goals, 4 assists) has also played below expectations to date, but has tallied a robust 29 points (7 goals, 22 assists) in 18 career games versus the Flyers.

As with Laviolette, new Capitals head coach Adam Oates has been trying to find combinations that work but with limited success thus far. At times, he has tried to spread the wealth by separating his top offensive players onto different lines. At other times, he's tried to combine them. Thus far, little has clicked.

Washington has struggled nearly as much on special teams as the Flyers. The Caps bring a 17.9 percent success ratio on the power play and 73.7 percent on the penalty kill into tonight's game.

On the Capitals' injury front, Brooks Laich (groin) and Jack Hillen (upper body injury) are both on injured reserve, and Dmitry Orlov (upper body injury) is also unavailable. Potential healthy scratches include veteran defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti as well as forward Mathieu Perreault.

PROJECTED LINEUPS (Subject to change)

FLYERS

48 Danny Briere - 28 Claude Giroux - 17 Wayne Simmonds

24 Matt Read - 14 Sean Couturier - 9 Mike Knuble

15 Tye McGinn - 10 Brayden Schenn - 93 Jakub Voracek

26 Ruslan Fedotenko - 25 Max Talbot - 36 Zac Rinaldo

44 Kimmo Timonen - 22 Luke Schenn

5 Braydon Coburn - 27 Bruno Gervais

8 Nicklas Grossmann - 3 Kurtis Foster

30 Ilya Bryzgalov

[49 Michael Leighton]

CAPITALS

8 Alex Ovechkin - 83 Jay Beagle - 15 Joey Crabb

17 Wojtek Wolski - 19 Nicklas Backström - 20 Troy Brouwer

25 Jason Chimera - 9 Mike Ribeiro - 42 Joel Ward

26 Matt Hendricks - 90 Marcus Johansson - 16 Eric Fehr

27 Karl Alzner - 52 Mike Green

4 John Erskine - 74 John Carlson

55 Jeff Schultz - 36 Tomas Kundratek

70 Braden Holtby

[30 Michal Neuvirth]

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quite honestly i don't knowwhat to expect. Maybe the juggling of lines will spark something. The Caps are clearly stuggling also. Unlike the Flyers, the Caps are struggling in goal. Surprisingly Bryz is the least of the Flyers of our problems. So yeah...I have absolutely no expectations about tonights game. As my new motto for the season says:

hope for the best...expect the worst.....

See ya guys later tonite....(although I will be at work until 9:00 pm)

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At 2-6, things are heading off the cliff. We seem to be getting killed by short-term defensive lapses. There was hustle tonight. We even did well on faceoffs. But the offense is dormant. And 10-30 second defensive lapses result in bang-bang goals or the breakaway. This isn't Bryz's fault.

Peace,

Howie

P.S. If Simmonds is out of commission, it will be interesting to see who takes on a spark plug role.

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