Game 71 Preview: FLYERS @ MAPLE LEAFS
Interim head coach Scott Gordon's Philadelphia Flyers (34-28-8) are in Ontario on Friday night to take on Mike Babcock's Toronto Maple Leafs (42-23-5). Game time at the Air Canada Centre is 7:00 p.m. ET.
The game will be televised on NBCSP. The radio broadcast can be found on 97.5 FM The Fanatic with an online simulcast at FlyersRadio247.com.
This is the second of three meetings this season between the teams and the second and final game in Toronto. The Flyers 0-1-0 thus far.
On Nov. 25, in what proved to be the final game with Ron Hextall as the Flyers' general manager, the host Maple Leafs trampled the Flyers by a humiliating 6-0 score. All six Toronto goals were scored at 5-on-5. There was no special teams play at all in this game; nary a penalty on either side or any coincidental infractions whistled. Andreas Johnsson scored a first period hat trick. All three goals came at the expense of now-former Flyers goaltender Cal Pickard.
Friday's game is the second game of a season-critical three-in-four series of games, and the second half a back-to-back set. The Flyers' playoff hopes took a damaging blow on Thursday in a 5-2 loss
to the Washington Capitals at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers came into the game emphasizing the need for a fast start, unlike the previous time they played Washington. It didn't happen. The Flyers fell behind, 2-0, in the first period on plays where they didn't give starting goaltender Carter Hart (27 saves on 31 shots) much of a chance at making saves. A James van Riemsdyk goal early in the second period put Philly back in the game but Washington scored the next two goals -- a 3-on-1 goal and then one where Hart was guilty of a misplay -- to put a 4-1 stranglehold on the game.
Scott Laughton extended a personal point streak to six straight games as he narrowed the deficit down to 4-2. In the third period, the Flyers had back-to-back power plays with a chance to move back within one goal but were unable to do enough with the opportunity. The Caps added an empty netter to seal the game.
Brian Elliott will get the start in goal in Toronto on Friday night. Jakub Voracek will return to the lineup after serving a two-game NHL suspension.
The Flyers are 19-6-2 over their last 27 games. The team has claimed points in 10 of their last 14 games (9-4-1). Unfortunately, time is running out rapidly to pull off a miraculous comeback from having been mired dead last in the NHL standings with only 38 points entering January 14. There are only 12 games left in the regular season, and the Flyers are still six points (five standings points plus a ROW tiebreaker disadvantage) out of the playoffs with two teams to leapfrog in Columbus and Montreal.
Maple Leafs Outlook
The Leafs already know they are virtually (although not yet mathematically) locked into being the third-place team in the Atlantic Division and are going to play the second-place Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs with Boston holding the home-ice advantage.
Toronto had gone 6-1-1 over a recent eight-game stretch, but the team has dropped back-to-back games in regulation: 6-2 at home over the President's Trophy-bound Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday and then 5-4 at home at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
A four-goal outburst by Chicago in the first period was too deep of a hole out of which to climb for the Maple Leafs. Trailing 5-0 late in the second period, the Leafs staged a 4-goal comeback bid -- including Auston Matthews' 32nd goal of the season and John Tavares' 39th with Mitch Marner collecting his 59th and 60th assists of the season.
The Leafs are dealing with a few injury-related absences from the lineup. Kasperi Kapanen is out with a suspected concussion. Jake Gardiner is day-to-day with a back injury and Travis Dermott is dealing with a shoulder issue. Zach Hyman has been under the weather with the flu and is questionable for this game.
(Subject to change)
25 James van Riemsdyk - 19 Nolan Patrick - 28 Claude Giroux
23 Oskar Lindblom - 14 Sean Couturier - 93 Jake Voracek
12 Michael Raffl - 21 Scott Laughton - 11 Travis Konecny
44 Phil Varone - 10 Corban Knight - xxxxxx
9 Ivan Provorov - 6 Travis Sanheim
53 Shayne Gostisbehere - 61 Phil Myers
8 Robert Hägg - 3 Radko Gudas
47 Andrew MacDonald
37 Brian Elliott
[79 Carter Hart]
Scratches: 38 Ryan Hartman (illness), 33 Cam Talbot (healthy), 5 Sam Morin (healthy), 30 Michal Neuvirth (IR, lower body).
42 Trevor Moore - 91 John Tavares --16 Mitchell Marner
18 Andreas Johnsson - 34 Auston Matthews - 29 William Nylander
12 Patrick Marleau - 43 Nazem Kadri - 28 Connor Brown
63 Tyler Ennis - 33 Frederik Gauthier - 19 Nic Petan
44 Morgan Rielly - 2 Ron Hainsey
8 Jake Muzzin - 22 Nikita Zaitsev
52 Martin Marincin - 92 Igor Ozhiganov
31 Frederik Andersen
[40 Garret Sparks]
Scratches: 3 Justin Holl (healthy), 11 Zach Hyman (questionable, illness), 23 Travis Dermott (shoulder, day-to-day), 24 Kasperi Kapanen (concussion), 51 Jake Gardiner (back, day-to-day).