NHL Preview: Philadelphia Flyers vs Washington Capitals

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

 

Flyers (9-11-1) vs Capitals (7-10-1) 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Come Wednesday night, the sea of orange and black in Philadelphia will be very, very loud.

Partially because their beloved Philadelphia Flyers will be hosting the Washington Capitals, but also because they will see the return of a fan favorite.

Simon Gagne.

The soon-to-be 33-year old was acquired on Tuesday afternoon by the Flyers, in exchange for a conditional 4th round draft pick. He will be in the lineup just one day removed from the trade. In a conference call with the media, Gagne says he is looking forward to being reunited with some familiar surroundings.

“It’s tough to say exactly the way I feel right now,” Gagne said. “It’s always a shock, first of all, getting traded, but after when they told me the place I was going, the place I was for more than 10 years and where everything started, so it’s going back to the place where I’m really familiar and really excited to go back to Philly.”

Though he has been struggling this season with the Los Angeles Kings, perhaps Gagne can rejuvenate his career, as well as this Flyers team as a whole. It’s been a struggle for this team to put a consecutive string of wins together, as they failed to reach .500 on Monday night, falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 4-2. In five of their past six contests, the Flyers have seen themselves trailing by at least two goals. If they want to escape the basement of the Eastern Conference, they can’t get down in games early. Hopefully, the return of Gagne can provide a spark for this hockey club.

Washington, meanwhile, is coming into this game looking like a much more dangerous team than the beginning of the season indicated. They have won five of their last seven games and have seen the Alexander Ovechkin that many have awaited. He has 15 points on the season, posting five over the last two games. The combination of Ovechkin and dangerous playmaker Mike Ribeiro (22 pts) are seriously beginning to click, causing headaches for opposing defenses.

Between the Pipes

Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will make his league-leading 20th start tonight. He certainly hasn’t been the same Bryzgalov from the earlier stages of the season, so perhaps fatigue is starting to catch up to him. Bryz will be unveiling a new Star Wars decorated mask in this contest. Maybe he will receive the force?

The Capitals will likely go with young Braden Holtby in net. After a pretty inconsistent start to the season, Holtby has come on a bit as of late, allowing just five goals on 132 shots fired his way over the last four contests.

Keys to Win

Don’t become shorthanded: The Flyers certainly are no strangers to the penalty box, ranking second in the league in penalty minutes per game. They cannot allow Ovechkin and Ribeiro to play on the man advantage, as they will kill them. Ribeiro is one of the better setup men in hockey and will find the open player with ease. And Ovechkin is well, Ovechkin.

Just win baby, win: Philadelphia needs to find a way to win this game because their next slate of games are very tough, having to face Pittsburgh, Boston and the Rangers. Dig deep, use the home crowd to your advantage and get the victory. Simple, no?

Notes

Rookie Tye McGinn suffered a broken orbital bone during a fight on Monday night. General manager Paul Holmgren stated he will miss “about two weeks.”

With the return of Gagne, Harry Zolniercyzk will surrender the number 12, changing his number to 37.

Mike Knuble is expected to be a healthy scratch for this contest.

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