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Flyers Gameday: 2/27/21 @ BUF

February 26, 2021, 5:26 PM ET [226 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
GAME 17:  FLYERS @. SABRES

Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers (9-4-3) are in New York State this weekend for back-to-back weekend day games against Ralph Krueger's Buffalo Sabres (6-8-3). Game time on Saturday is 1 p.m. ET, while Sunday's match is at 3 p.m. ET. Both games will be televised on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The Flyers are 9-1-1 against all Eastern Division teams except Boston (0-3-2). Philly's lone regulation loss against that group was an ugly 6-1 blowout defeat on home ice dealt by the Sabres on Jan. 18. The next night, however, the Flyers recorded a 3-0 shutout backstopped by Brian Elliott.

Flyers Outlook

The Flyers enter this game coming off a 4-3 home win against the New York Rangers.  Philadelphia hopes to have both defensemen Justin Braun (who exited COVID-19 protocol on Feb. 24) and Jakub Voracek (Feb. 25) back in the lineup over the weekend. Additionally, Oskar Lindblom and Scott Laughton returned to practice on Friday -- two weeks from when they apparently first tested positive, with both eligible to potentially play on the 26th.

Elliott will get the start in goal on Saturday, and Carter Hart will start on Sunday.

At Friday's practice, Phil Myers skated on the "fourth pair" with Taxi Squad defenseman Nate Prosser -- a potential sign of being a healthy scratch for this game -- while Braun skated with Travis Sanheim. None among Robert Hägg, Myers or Sanheim played well on Thursday. 

The Flyers pared down their Taxi Squad on Friday as they loaned second-year pro winger Maksim Sushko to the Phantoms with the main NHL roster getting healthy. The lone player left in COVID-19 protocol now is Travis Konecny.

Starting with this game in Buffalo, the Flyers will embark on a slate of 19 games in just 33 days. As of this writing, the Flyers are  in fourth place in the East Division in terms of points (22) but second in terms of points percentage (.656).

Sabres Outlook

The Sabres enter this game tied for seventh place in the East with the Rangers, both in points (15) and points percentage (.441) with both teams having 6-8-3 records as of this writing.  The Rangers hosted the Bruins on Friday night.

All eyes in Buffalo are on the condition of star center Jack Eichel, who is battling a suspected ankle injury and was unable to play in Thursday's 4-3 home overtime loss to New Jersey. Officially day-to-day, Krueger described Eichel's availability for this game as "questionable."

On Thursday, the Sabres took leads to the first (1-0) and second (2-1) intermissions but then had to rally from a 3-2 deficit to force OT. Buffalo took full advantage of New Jersey's abysmal penalty kill (58.3 percent on the season, by far the worst in the league) for power play goals by Casey Mittelstadt (1st) and Sam Reinhart (7th) after Riley Sheahan opened the scoring at even strength. A Taylor Hall double-minor for high sticking proved costly for Buffalo. 

Linus Ullmark got the start for the Sabres but had to leave the game after the first period due to a lower-body injury. He stopped all 15 shots he faced before exiting the game. Carter Hutton made 21 saves on 25 shots in relief, ultimately absorbing the loss. Ullmark will miss both games this weekend against the Flyers.

As with the Flyers, the Sabres had to endure a COVID crisis on their own roster, including defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen enduring an ordeal that would be classified as "moderate symptoms" but who is still on a day-to-day basis as he tries to recover his strength sufficiently to play. The Sabres also recently learned that defenseman Jake McCabe (right knee) is likely out for the season. 

Long-time Flyer killer Jeff Skinner has been in Krueger's doghouse all season. He was placed on the fourth line and then made a healthy scratch. He could, however, be back in the lineup this weekend.  When asked about it after practice on Friday, he gave an esoteric response.

"This situation is maybe not that straightforward in the fact that lessons being learned is maybe more of a vague concept, In that sense, it’s tough when it’s so vague to come to a concrete answer," Skinner said.

Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

25 James van Riemsdyk - 14 Sean Couturier - 86 Joel Farabee
28 Claude Giroux - 13 Kevin Hayes -  19 Nolan Patrick
23 Oskar Lindblom - 21 Scott Laughton - 93 Jakub Voracek
12 Michael Raffl - 82 Connor Bunnaman  - 62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel

9 Ivan Provorov - 53 Shayne Gostisbehere 
6 Travis Sanheim - 61 Justin Braun
8 Robert Hägg - 56 Erik Gustafsson

37 Brian Elliott
[79 Carter Hart]

PP1: JVR, Couturier, Hayes, Farabee, Provorov.
PP2: Giroux, Patrick, Voracek, Gustafsson, Gostisbehere.

Scratches: 5 Phil Myres (healthy).

Injured reserve: 48 Morgan Frost (shoulder surgery).

COVID-19 protocol: 11 Travis Konecny.

SABRES

68 Victor Olofsson - 27 Curtis Lazar - 23 Sam Reinhart
4 Taylor Hall - 12 Eric Staal - 24 Dylan Cozens
13 Tobias Rieder - 20 Cody Eakin - 21 Kyle Okposo
53 Jeff Skinner - 37 Casey Mittelstadt -15 Riley Sheahan ​

26 Rasmus Dahlin - 33 Colin Miller
78 Jacob Bryson - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
10 Henri Jokiharju - 62 Brandon Montour

40 Carter Hutton 
34 Jonas Johansson

PP1: Reinhart, Hall, Olofsson, Staal, Dahlin
PP2: Mittelstadt, Thompson, Okposo,Cozens, Miller

Scratches: 9 Jack Eichel (suspected ankle injury), 44 Matt Irwin (healthy), 72 Tage Thompson, healthy, 35 Linus Ullmark (lower-body).
40 Carter Hutton 
[34 Jonas Johansson]

PP1: Reinhart, Hall, Olofsson, Staal, Dahlin
PP2: Mittelstadt, Thompson, Okposo,Cozens, Miller

Scratches: 9 Jack Eichel (suspected ankle injury), 53 Jeff Skinner (healthy), 55 Rasmus Ristolainen (day-to-day, post-COVID recovery), 13 Tobias Rieder (shoulder, day-to-day), 35 Linus Ullmark (lower-body).

IR: 19 Jake McCabe (right knee), 28 Zemgus Girgensons (hamstring surgery).

COVID-19 protocol: None
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