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Flyers at Predators, 14/1/2012


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http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog/Bill-Meltzer/Flyers-Gameday-11412--Predators/45/41320

PREVIEW 6:00 AM EST

Looking for their fifth win in seven January games, the Philadelphia Flyers (26-12-4) are in Music City tonight for a showdown with Barry Trotz's Nashville Predators (24-15-4). The game starts at 8 p.m. EST (7 p.m. CST) and will be broadcast locally on the Comcast Network Philadelphia (no Comcast Sportsnet Philly coverage tonight).

This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season, and the only game in Nashville. The Flyers and the Predators will play each other in Philadelphia on Feb. 2.

Last season, the teams only met once, with the Flyers prevailing on home ice by a 3-2 score. In a seesaw affair, Ville Leino's two goals in the third period provided the victory. Jeff Carter also scored for Philly, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves. Joel Ward and Marcel Goc tallied for Nashville and goalie Anders Lindbäck (26 saves) waged a strong duel with Bob despite taking the loss.

The Flyers enter this game having won their last two games and four of five since their Winter Classic collapse. However, the team has had problems holding onto leads and nailing down games in the third period. The hallmark of any Trotz-coached team is that it competes hard for 60 minutes, and Philly needs to match or surpass that work ethic. The Flyers have been a very hard-working team for the bulk of the season, but players have been guilty of cutting some corners now that midseason is upon us.

Unless the Flyers can grab and decisively hold a lead against the Preds, they are courting trouble. Nashville is not a team that's afraid of playing comeback hockey. They have already pulled off five wins this season (5-12-0) when trailing after two periods; second only to Ottawa, who burned Philly with a third-period comeback last Sunday.

As for falling behind the Preds, that's certainly not advisable either. Nashville has the NHL's sixth-best winning percentage (.762, 16-2-3) when scoring first, despite some problems of their own in nailing down games they've led at the second intermission (10-2-2).

Of late, the Predators have been playing good hockey. They've won three in a row and seven of their last 10 heading into this game. Patric Hörnqvist, a 30-goal scorer two seasons ago, struggled early this season but has been in a good offensive groove of late with five points (3 G, 2 A) in the last five games. Meanwhile, his linemate David Legwand paces the team with 12 goals this season.

Nashville is a club whose success is, well, predicated on its blueline and goaltending. All-Star defenseman Shea Weber leads the team in scoring with 31 points (including five power play tallies among his nine goals) and also tops the club with a plus-12 rating. The Preds also receive high-caliber play from defenseman Ryan Suter (five goals, 25 points).

While Preds' goaltender Pekka Rinne (2.55 GAA, .919 save percentage) has not played to the same level that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist last year, he remains one of the top goaltenders in the game. On any given night, Rinne can steal a game for his club.

Philly players also needs to be aware of Jordin Tootoo. He'll score a few dirty-but-good goals (6 in 41 games this season) and deliver occasional dirty hits along with clean ones. As a team, Nashville is in the bottom half of the league in terms of times penalized, but Tootoo is a player who knows how to elevate the emotion level of a game.

The Flyers will have one line change for tonight. Rookie defenseman Erik Gustafsson is back in the starting lineup after recovering from wrist surgery. He'll replace veteran Andreas Lilja.

Of late, it's been the youngsters who've been getting the job done for the Flyers. Sean Couturier has tallied goals in three straight games, while Brayden Schenn strung four straight good games together before a quiet performance against the Islanders on Thursday night. Second-season goalie Bobrovsky has been outstanding in his last two starts since the Winter Classic.

In the meantime, the Claude Giroux line has been struggling at five-on-five since the Winter Classic, and Danny Briere's hat trick against Ottawa was his lone big game in a stretch that has seen him go pointless in six of the last eight games. Giroux and Jaromir Jagr in particular have looked out of synch in recent games.

PROJECTED LINEUPS (subject to change)

FLYERS

Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr

Talbot - Briere - Voracek

JVR - Schenn - Simmonds

Zolnierczyk - Couturier - Read

Timonen - Coburn

Carle - Bourdon

Gustafsson - Meszaros

Bobrovsky/ Bryzgalov

PREDATORS

Wilson - Legwand - Hörnqvist

Kostitsyn - Fisher - Erat

Bourque - Spaling - Tootoo

Halischuk - Smith - McGrattan

Suter - Weber

Josi - Klein

Bouillon - Ellis

Rinne

[Lindbäck]

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I thought that would get people going. I base this on: I want to REALLY know what Bryz is now, even at the expense of a few losses now. I don't want to be figuring this out and flip flopping around down the home stretch. We are paying this guy 51 mil / 9 years. Lets experiment now, not in the last 10 games of the season. We'll know long before that time IF we play him hard now and see what he is made of... Before the trade deadline also...

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I thought that would get people going. I base this on: I want to REALLY know what Bryz is now, even at the expense of a few losses now. I don't want to be figuring this out and flip flopping around down the home stretch. We are paying this guy 51 mil / 9 years. Lets experiment now, not in the last 10 games of the season. We'll know long before that time IF we play him hard now and see what he is made of... Before the trade deadline also...

He's a flake. Next question?

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@idahophilly

Yes, the polarization is Hu-mang-ous!

You've seen something different? We're halfway through the season and the guy who was brought in to stabilize our goaltending has been either horrible or average, except for 1 or 2 games. Do we continue to put him in and lose, or play the guy we're winning with? Logic tells me we go with the guy who is keeping us in games.

Hey, we're stuck with Bryz forever, and I hope someday he gets his act together. But I'm not into throwing away an entire season just to babysit a headcase.

Edited by flyercanuck
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I thought that would get people going. I base this on: I want to REALLY know what Bryz is now, even at the expense of a few losses now. I don't want to be figuring this out and flip flopping around down the home stretch. We are paying this guy 51 mil / 9 years. Lets experiment now, not in the last 10 games of the season. We'll know long before that time IF we play him hard now and see what he is made of... Before the trade deadline also...

Is the picture any clearer? No offence idaho, but it's looking very much like what you see is what you get. This isn't a rookie, it's a 31 year old. I really don't think he's as bad as he's been. But I also never really thought he was as good as some made him out to be. He plays with a gaping 5 hole, slow reaction, and completely unaware of what is going on around him. Unless he's been on a quaalude bender since he signed, I don't know what else to say.

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Is the picture any clearer? No offence idaho, but it's looking very much like what you see is what you get. This isn't a rookie, it's a 31 year old. I really don't think he's as bad as he's been. But I also never really thought he was as good as some made him out to be. He plays with a gaping 5 hole, slow reaction, and completely unaware of what is going on around him. Unless he's been on a quaalude bender since he signed, I don't know what else to say.

Oh, I'm not happy either. I just wanted to see him some more for 4-5 straight games and see if rights the ship. The defence was bad last night to. I don't know what else to say either. We are pretty much stuck with him unless we can buy him out this summer because of the CBA. Other wise we might be stuck with 51 million dollar paper weight.

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