NHL Preview: Philadelphia Flyers vs Ottawa Senators
Flyers (10-11-1) vs Senators (12-6-3) 12:00 p.m., NHLN, CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Will they finally do it?
Many opportunities have presented itself for the Philadelphia Flyers to get back to .500 this season and each time they have failed. Well, the Ottawa Senators come into town on Saturday afternoon to make sure that does not happen.
The Flyers are coming off of a dominating 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals, seeing goals from Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot and of course, Simon Gagne. I mean, how fitting is it that Gagne scores in his first game back as a Flyer? The crowd was very energetic as the Flyers played one of their best games of the season, showcasing 60 minutes of all around solid hockey. Gagne’s goal was his first of the season and his presence truly sparked the team’s great outing.
“It felt like I almost never left,” said Gagne, who started his career in Philadelphia. “Just walking in the building before the game, knowing everyone. The nice welcome I got during the warm-up and after the first five minutes of the period. It’s almost like coming back home. Everything started here.”
After dropping six of their first eight contests, the Flyers have gone 8-5-1 since, putting themselves right back into the playoff hunt out East. You can thank the emergence of the high-powered offense we have been waiting to see out of the orange and black. After starting the season towards the bottom of the power play ranks, the Flyers currently rank seventh in the league (22.0%). They are also starting to light the lamp at a frequent pace, ranking sixth in hockey with 2.91 goals per contest. The red hot Jakub Voracek continues to be one of the team’s best players, totaling a ridiculous 21 points in the month of February alone.
Between the Pipes
The Flyers will give the nod to Ilya Bryzgalov (sounds like a broken record, huh?). It’ll be his league-leading 21st start of the season and despite the high amount of usage, Bryzgalov has been incredibly solid for the Flyers all season long. You can see that he looks more confident in the cage, as well as composed.
Ottawa, meanwhile, has themselves a cloudy goaltending situation. Starter Craig Anderson, who has been terrific this year, is dealing with an ankle injury and may not be able to return on Saturday. If that is the case, backup Ben Bishop will likely get the call. He certainly hasn’t been bad either, posting a GAA of 2.17 to match a .935 save percentage.
Keys to Win
Continue to start strong: On Saturday night, the Flyers kicked off the scoring just 23 seconds into the contest. Keep up that intensity and set the tone early. It’s no secret that this team has a reputation for starting off matinee games slow. Don’t let it happen, especially when you have the home crowd behind you.
Capitalize on man advantage: The Senators are coming into this contest ranking third in the league in penalty kill percentage (88.5). If the Flyers can find a way to convert on just a few of their opportunities, they will have a tremendous chance to come out on top.
The Flyers recently placed both Tom Sestito and goaltender Michael Leighton on waivers. Sestito was claimed by the Canucks on Friday afternoon.
Since the 2007-08 season, the Flyers are 7-2-1 while at home against the Senators.
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who suffered a lower-body injury, states that he will be available for Saturday’s game.