GAME 3: FLYERS vs. SABRES
In the third game of a season-opening four-game homestand and the front of a back-to-back set, Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0) will take on Ralph Krueger's Buffalo Sabres (0-2-0) at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised locally on NBC Sports Philadelphia and nationally on NBC Sports Network.
Monday's game is the first of eight meetings between the teams. The clubs will rematch immediately at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night (7:00 p.m. ET) and then play each other at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo on Feb. 26 and 28. On March 9, the teams come back to Philadelphia. Next, there's a back-to-back in Buffalo on March 29 and 30 before the season series concludes at the Wells Fargo Center on April 11.
For a history of the ebbs and flows of the matchups between the Flyers and Sabres in the regular season and playoffs, click here
. The home team has won seven of the last eight meetings between the Flyers and Buffalo.
The Flyers scored a combined 11 goals and yielded five to the Pittsburgh Penguins over the two games the teams played to open the season. While Philadelphia is happy with its opportunistic offense (including three power play goals) and the goaltending of Carter Hart over the first two games, the team knows that it can play a lot better overall than it did over the first two games. The Flyers' team puck possession splits in the first two games, and especially the second, were pretty ugly but masked by their own goal output and the play of Hart.
Every Flyers forward who played in the first two games recorded at least one point. Joel Farabee enjoyed a career-best four-point game (1g, 3a) in the opener last Wednesday, while Travis Konecny (hat trick, one assist) followed it up with a four-point game on Friday. Oskar Lindblom was credited with a goal in the opener that went in off his helmet and added an empty netter in the second game. One goal apiece so far has been scored by James van Riemsdyk, Nolan Patrick, Michael Raffl, Kevin Hayes (1g, 2a) and Ivan Provorov. Claude Giroux has three assists, while Jakub Voracek has two helpers.
The Flyers lost Selke Trophy winning center Sean Couturier on his second shift of the game on Friday on a clean hit by Pittsburgh's Jared McCann. Initially thought to be a right shoulder injury, an MRI on Saturday revealed a costochondral (rib) separation. A two-week timetable has been approximated for the player's return. McCann was later the culprit on a dirty-looking elbow on Travis Sanheim, for which McCann received a $10,000 fine from the NHL. Fortunately, Sanheim was not injured.
In Couturier's absence, the Flyers will plug NHL rookie/ second-year pro center Morgan Frost into his spot at both five-on-five and the power play. Frost last played a meaningful hockey game (in the American Hockey League for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms) on March 11, 2020. The latter of the Flyers' two first-round picks in the 2017 NHL Draft, Frost was an AHL All-Star as a rookie last year and scored in each of the first two of his 20 NHL games but had an uneven first campaign overall. The 21-year-old had a strong training camp with the Flyers earlier this month, and also split time between center and left wing.
Hart will get the start in the first game against the Sabres. Brian Elliott will go on Tuesday.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (COVID-19 protocol) remained off the ice on Monday. He has been out unavailable since Jan. 9.
At Monday's practice, taxi squad center/left winger Connor Bunnaman skated as a 13th forward. The Flyers may move him to the active roster at some point while Couturier is out.
The Flyers will not hold a morning skate on Monday.
The Sabres lost each of their first two games of the season on home ice to the Washington Capitals. The opener was a high-scoring battle in which the Capitals prevailed, 6-4. The latter was a low-scoring game in which Washington nipped Buffalo, 2-1, in the rematch last Friday.
New addition and former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall scored a power play goal and later added an assist in his Sabres' debut. Linemate Jack Eichel collected two assists in the game. Buffalo also got goals from Tobias Rieder, Jake McCabe and Victor Olofosson. Sabres 2019 first-round pick Dylan Cozens picked up an assist in his NHL debut. Carter Hutton had a tough night in goal, however, and spotty defense in front didn't help matters.
The next night, the Sabres generated 31 shots on goal against debuting NHL rookie Vitek Vanecek (a frequent goaltending nemesis to the Phantoms while playing for the Hershey Bears). Unfortunately for Buffalo, it took two-plus periods to finally get a puck past Vanecek on a goal by Rasmus Ristolainen before Washington's Tom Wilson scored a goal high to the short side on Linus Ullmark from slightly above the right dot on a sequence that initially looked like Wilson might get a tripping penalty.
Sam Reinhart, who left Friday's game in the third period due to a lower-body injury, did not skate on Sunday. He is considered day-to-day. Krueger did not officially rule out Reinhart for tonight's game, telling the team's official website that the decision will be made after a morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. Casey Middelstadt (taxi squad) skated in Reinhart's place with Eichel and Hall at Monday's practice.
Additionally, Krueger placed Cozens to work on a line with veteran center Eric Staal and left wing Olofsson. In the first two games of the season, Cozens was with veteran center Cody Eakin and Rieder as his linemates.
Also unavailable to the Sabres is veteran forward Kyle Okposo (upper-body injury). He did not make the trip to Philadelphia, staying behind in Buffalo to rehab.
(subject to change)
28 Claude Giroux - 13 Kevin Hayes - 86 Joel Farabee
25 James van Riemsdyk - 19 Nolan Patrick - 93 Jakub Voracek
23 Oskar Lindblom - 48 Morgan Frost - 11 Travis Konecny
12 Michael Raffl- 21 Scott Laughton- 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel
9 Ivan Provorov - 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 5 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg - 56 Erik Gustafsson
79 Carter Hart
[37 Brian Elliott]
PP1: Provorov, Giroux, Hayes, Frost, TK
PP2: Farabee, JVR, Patrick, Voracek, Gustafsson
Scratches: 14 Sean Couturier (costochondral separation), 53 Shayne Gostisbehere (COVID-19 protocol, INR), 3 Mark Friedman (healthy) , 82 Connor Bunnaman (healthy).
SABRES (based on Sunday's practice)
4 Taylor Hall - 9 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
68 Victor Olofsson - 12 Eric Staal - 24 Dylan Cozens
13 Tobias Rieder - 20 Cody Eakin - 72 Tage Thompson
53 Jeff Skinner - 27 Curtis Lazar - 15 Riley Sheahan
19 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
26 Rasmus Dahlin - 62 Brandon Montour
33 Colin Miller - 10 Henri Jokiharju
40 Carter Hutton
[34 Jonas Johansson]
PP1: Reinhart (if available), Eichel, Hall, Olofsson, Dahlin
PP2: Skinner, Cozens, Staal, Thompson, Ristolainen
Scratches: 44 Matt Irwin (healthy), 23 San Reinhart (lower body, day-to-day) or 37 Casey Mittelstadt (taxi squad, skated on Eichel line at practice), 21 Kyle Okposo (upper body), 28 Zemgus Girgensons (IR, hamstring surgery), 35 Linus Ullmark (personal).