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Flyers vs Canes, 2/2/2013


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http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=48977#.UQ0rAlqlp15

PREVIEW 7:00 AM EST

Entering tonight mired in the Eastern Conference cellar, the Philadelphia Flyers (2-6-0) will try to avoid a four-game losing streak when they return to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Carolina Hurricanes (3-3-0). 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 won three of four in a season series that was wrapped up in early January.

Last night in Washington, the Flyers' paid dearly for their mistakes in a 3-2 loss. On the positive side, the Flyers had strong games on the penalty kill (including a lengthy 5-on-3 kill to start the third period) and a good night in the faceoff circle. The rest of it was simply not good enough to win.

Despite the Capitals having played the night before on the road and Philly having been off the previous two nights, the Flyers were the team that came out with no jump early. In addition, in was Washington that somehow was the team that stepped up in the third period. Considering the back-to-backs, the Capitals own early season struggles and the failed 5-on-3 power play, the Flyers let an eminently winnable hockey game get away from them on a night where they really, really needed to two points to right their ship.

Whenever the Flyers did something right last night, they'd soon cancel it out with a costly mistake. Bruno Gervais broke a scoreless tie in the middle stanza with a smart pinch in the offensive zone. He was wide open and made no mistake after Danny Briere got him the puck in front. That should have been a deflating goal for Washington. Instead, a turnover at the offensive blueline by Sean Couturier with a line change going on behind him resulted in a breakaway goal for Nicklas Bäckström (who had entered the game without a goal on the season).

Instead of leading, the Flyers went to the locker room tied. Even so, once the Flyers killed off the carryover five-on-three on the fresh sheet of ice at the start of the third period, they should have gotten another surge of momentum. Instead, the Caps were the team that buckled down both defensively and on the forecheck.

Ilya Bryzgalov gave the Flyers another strong game in goal but then got leaky in the third period as everything else collapsed around him. Troy Brouwer put the Caps ahead, 2-1, with a short-side goal upstairs. It was a perfect shot over the goalie's shoulder but it didn't even need to be, as there seemed to be a little too much shooting angle available. Blame the team defense, too, as Brouwer had all sorts of time and space to either shoot or pass across the ice.

The Capitals put a 3-1 stranglehold on the game shortly thereafter. On a faceoff in the neutral zone, the puck was won cleanly back to Luke Schenn, who was stationed at the red lone. Schenn spent a full second trying in vain to settle a badly bouncing puck. That was ample opportunity for Wojtek Wolski to poke the puck past Schenn, go in alone on Bryzgalov and backhand a shot that dribbled through the goaltender's pads and into the net.

Again, Bryzgalov could not be directly faulted -- nor, really, could Schenn, except perhaps for not initially suspecting the common set play of an opposing forward skating right at the attacking blueline directly off a neutral zone draw. But the last thing the Flyers needed there was another breakaway opportunity for Washington, and it was a momentum save that Bryzgalov had to made in that situation to bail out his club. Such is the life of a goalie.

The Flyers got one of the goals back on a tally by the team's second power play unit moments after the expiration of a Washington penalty. Matt Read rang a shot off both posts, and the puck was immediately claimed and stuffed in by an open Brayden Schenn.

That was the one other positive for Philly out of the game, but it was too little and too late. Philly really didn't even muster a lot of pressure over the remainder of the game, with a chance to tie the game and force overtime. The Capitals deserve credit for doing a good job of going into shutdown mode, but the Flyers made life rather easy on them.

Apart from being yet another loss in the standings, the Flyers also suffered a potentially major loss to the lineup. Wayne Simmonds, who has been the team's best sparkplug player in about half of the games to date, was on the receiving end of a John Erskine elbow to the nose and then had the back of his head crash to the ice. He is officially out with a "head injury and whiplash-type symptoms", though the team avoided using the dreaded c-word last night and said he'd be evaluated again today.

Immediately after Simmonds went down, Zac Rinaldo and Matt Hendricks dropped the glove during a neutral zone faceoff. They should have waited just a split second longer, as it turned out to be a false draw and the puck never hit the ice. The linesman was in the process of re-setting as the fight started. As a result, both players received game misconducts, and the Flyers were left with just 10 forwards the rest of the net.

After last night's game, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was in an understandably foul mood. Although every match is one that the team sets out to win, there are certain games where the ingoing odds are either stacked for you or against you. Last night, all signs pointed toward a Philadelphia win but the team still had to go out and play a game worthy of a victory. They didn't, and now they have to come home and try to win the trailing end of the back-to-back weekend games.

Last night, Hurricanes captain Eric Staal scored the lone goal his team would need -- or get -- in a 1-0 win over Ottawa. Backup goaltender Dan Ellis earned a 33-save shutout for the Canes. Cam Ward will return to the net tonight for the club.

Carolina enters this game with a full lineup intact. Apart from Simmonds being very unlikely to play tonight, the Flyers will be without Scott Hartnell (foot) and Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) for the next month.

PROJECTED LINEUPS (Subject to change)

FLYERS

15 Tye McGinn - 28 Claude Giroux - 48 Danny Briere

24 Matt Read - 14 Sean Couturier - 9 Mike Knuble

26 Ruslan Fedotenko - 10 Brayden Schenn - 93 Jakub Voracek

32 Tom Sestito - 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]

HURRICANES

19 Jiri Tlusty - 12 Eric Staal - 28 Alexander Semin

53 Jeff Skinner - 11 Jordan Staal - 22 Zac Dalpe

21 Drayson Bowman - 36 Jussi Jokinen - 39 Pat Dwyer

59 Chad LaRose - 37 Tim Brent - 14 Andreas Nodl

25 Joni Pitkänen - 4 Jamie McBain

27 Justin Faulk - 6 Tim Gleason

77 Joe Corvo - 44 Jay Harrison

30 Cam Ward

[31 Dan Ellis]

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