Flyers Gameday: 4/17/21 vs. WSH
GAME 44: FLYERS vs. CAPITALS
Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (20-17-6) are home on Saturday afternoon to host Peter Laviolette's Washington Capitals (28-12-4). Game time at the Wells Fargo Center is 12:30 p.m. EDT. The game will be televised on NBCSP.
This is the sixth of eight meetings this season between the teams. The Flyers are 1-4-0 against the Capitals this season. Most recently, in Washington four nights ago, the host Capitals jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first period and went on to easily defeat Philadelphia, 6-1, in one of the least competitive all-around performances the Flyers have mustered all season. After this game, the teams will reconvene at Capital One Arena to conclude the season series on May 7 and 8.
The Flyers followed up their dismal showing in Washington on Tuesday with a greatly improved effort two evenings later in a 2-1 (2-1) road shootout win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Carter Hart keyed the win with 30 saves while thwarting five separate odd-man rushes for Pittsburgh. The long-suffering penalty kill, which had struggled most of the season then been greatly improved in April until getting torched (0-for-3) by the Capitals, picked up the pieces with a strong showing in going 3-for-3. Jakub Voracek scored a third-period goal for the Flyers while Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier scored artistic shootout goals to nail down the bonus point in Philly's first-ever shootout win over the Penguins in the 16-year existence of the postgame skills competition. Hart made glove saves on Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang in the second and third rounds.
The Flyers held an optional practice on Friday. Vigneault said that Hart would get the start against the Capitals, backed up by Alex Lyon. On Sunday evening against the New York Islanders, Brian Elliott will start in net. Samuel Morin, who is on an ongoing maintenance program related to his twice-repaired right knee and has been sat out in two recent games including Thursday's, will return to the lineup for this game.
The coach indicated that there are some players dealing with injuries whose availability for Saturday is questionable. Lineup juggling and/or NHL roster and Taxi Squad personnel shuffling may be necessary. The coach would also like to give an off-day to some players whose sports science biofeedback shows them deep in the red but that consideration may be surpassed by immediate necessity.
Vigneault said on Friday that the report on Nolan Patrick was positive: He continued to feel OK in the aftermath of getting struck near his ear by a Philippe Myers shot in the game in Pittsburgh the previous night. Patrick was one of seven players who did not take part in Friday's optional practice. However, he may be able to play this weekend depending on how he feels.
The other six players who took the option to remain off-ice during Friday's practice were as follows: Justin Braun, Shayne Gostisbehere, Giroux, Voracek, Oskar Lindblom and Tanner Laczynski.
Braun in particular seemed to be laboring in Thursday's game in Pittsburgh. Whether that was due to a nagging injury or the wear-down effect of the 34-year-old playing 20-plus minutes (with a high of 23:35) in three of the last five games over a span of a week -- or a combination of the two -- the veteran defenseman noticeably struggled.
With Elliott getting an off-day on Saturday, he will skate in the morning and then be rested until game time on Sunday, the Flyers will move Lyon from the Taxi Squad to the active roster. Depending on other players' availability, this could necessitate some 23-man-roster juggling with Elliott as a healthy scratch.
Additionally, rookie players rarely miss optional practices barring injury or illness. As such, it is possible that Laczynski is one of the players whose availability for this game is questionable.
On the heels of soundly thrashing the Flyers on Tuesday, the Capitals had a letdown game at home against the Buffalo Sabres two nights later. A three-goal second period by Buffalo proved to be the difference. Defenseman Dmitri Orlov and power forward Anthony Mantha, who had a goal and an assist against the Flyers in his Caps' debut on Tuesday, scored for Washington.
Nicklas Bäckström, playing in his 1,000th career NHL regular season game, assisted on the Mantha goal in the loss to Buffalo. John Carlson and T.J. Oshie also got onto the scoresheet via an assist apiece.
Last season, for the first time since he entered the NHL in 2005-06, Alex Ovechkin did not record a single point in Washington's season series (four games) against the Flyers. He has made Philly pay, big time, this year. Through the first five meetings with the Flyers in 2020-21, Ovechkin has racked up six goals (three at even strength, three on the power play) and three assists.
As a team, the Capitals are 5-for-9 on the power play against the Flyers through the first five meetings of the season series. The Flyers are 2-for-13 on their own power plays.
93 Jakub Voracek -14 Sean Couturier - 11 Travis Konecny
86 Joel Farabee - 28 Claude Giroux - 57 Wade Allison
23 Oskar Lindblom -13 Kevin Hayes - 25 James van Riemsdyk
81 Carsen Twarynski - 21 Scott Laughton - 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel
9 Ivan Provorov - 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 5 Phil Myers
55 Samuel Morin - 53 Shayne Gostisbehere
34 Alex Lyon
[37 Brian Elliott]
PP1: Giroux, Patrick, Farabee, Voracek, Provorov.
PP2: Hayes, Couturier, JVR, Konecny, Gostisbehere.
Scratches: 8 Robert Hägg (healthy), 79 Carter Hart (lower body), 58 Tanner Laczynski (lower body), 19 Nolan Patrick (upper body).
Injured reserve: 48 Morgan Frost (shoulder surgery).
COVID-19 protocol: None.
8 Alex Ovechkin - 92 Evgeny Kuznetsov - 43 Tom Wilson
39 Anthony Mantha - 19 Nicklas Bäckström - 77 T.J. Oshie
73 Conor Sheary - 20 Lars Eller - 10 Daniel Sprong
62 Carl Hagelin - 26 Nic Dowd - 21 Garnet Hathaway
9 Dmitry Orlov - 74 John Carlson
4 Brenden Dillon - 2 Justin Schultz
33 Zdeno Chara - 3 Nick Jensen
30 Ilya Samsonov
[41 Vitek Vanecek]
PP1: Ovechkin, Kuznetov, Oshie, Bäckström, Carlson
PP2: Wilson, Sheary, Mantha, Orlov, Schultz
Scratches: 28 Daniel Carr (healthy), 57 Trevor van Riemsdyk (healthy), 17 Michael Raffl (pre-existing injury sustained before deadline day trade from the Flyers).
Injured reserve: 6 Michal Kempny (Achilles tendon surgery), 47 Beck Malenstyn (Achilles tendon surgery), 35 Henrik Lundqvist (open heart surgery).
COVID-19 protocol: None.