Tonight at the Wachovia Center, two of the Eastern Conference’s hottest teams meet in an early-season heavyweight match up. The Washington Capitals and the home-coming Flyers are 2-0 on the season, both smiting the early opposition in convincing fashion, putting the out-of-division rivals on a collision course.
Both teams will be sticking with the same forward lineup that has made them successful so far this year.
Goaltender Brian Boucher will return to the Flyers after time on the IR. He will resume backup duties as goalie Ray Emery (1.00 GAA) will be in for the start against Semyon Varlamov (4.00 GAA). Depth scoring has been a huge for the Flyers early on, with Mike Richards (2 goals) and Jeff Carter (2 goals) leading the charge. Rookie James van Riemsdyk leads the team with three assists in two games and is tied for the team lead with a plus-3.
Simon Gagne – Mike Richards – Mika Pyorala (4 points)
Scott Hartnell – Jeff Carter – Danny Briere (5 points)
James van Riemsdyk – Claude Giroux – Darroll Powe (5 points)
Dan Carcillo – Blair Betts – Ian Laperrie (1 point)
Arron Asham and Riley Cote will be healthy scratches. The Capitals do not have an enforcer.
The Flyers’ defense has been stellar so far, allowing just two goals in two games which ranks them tops in the NHL. But in particular, it has been the penalty kill that has shined brightest. The Flyers have been shorthanded 13 times (second most in the league) but allowed just one goal.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has rejoined the team after a stint on the IR. He will remain inactive however.
Chris Pronger – Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen – Braydon Coburn
Ryan Parent – Danny Syvret.
The Flyers will see a familiar face as veteran forward Mike Knuble returns to Philly after having signing a hefty two-year contract with the Capitals in the offseason. He has yet to be a factor this season for the Capitals, being trumped by the outstanding performance of Brooks Laich, who has three goals and two assists in two games.
The Caps’ forward corp is a point-producing machine. Led by Alex Ovechkin (3g, 3a) and Alex Semin (2g, 3a), Washington leads the NHL in goals for with a total of 10 in two games. However, once the top line of Ovechkin, Semin and Nicklas Backstrom leave the ice, the talent drop off is noticable.
Ovechkin – Backstrom – Semin (16 points)
Laich – Morrison – Knuble (8 points)
Laing – Steckel – Clark (1 point)
Kane – Gordon – Bradley (0 points)
The Caps will change up their defense a bit coming into tonight’s contest. Brian Pothier will be a healthy scratch, being replaced by 6-foot-6, 220 lbs., pylon Jeff Schultz. Schultz is the goat of the Capitals’ defense corp.
Mike Green – Shaone Morrison
Tom Poti – John Erskine
Jeff Schultz – Milan Jurcina
Rookie goalie Varlamov will get a second-consecutive start after giving up four goals in the Capitals’ 6-4 victory over the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Washington coach Bruce Boudreau told the media he was interested to see how the 21-year old Russian backstop performed in front of a hostile Philly crowd.
Keys to the game
*Shut down Ovechkin and Semin
In the past two seasons, the Flyers have been one of the few teams able to (relatively) subdue Ovechkin, allowing just 14 goals in 16 games. If the Flyers want to be successful tonight they need to force the Capitals’ depth to beat them. If the Philly defense can take the game out of the hands of Ovechkin and Semin and put it in the hands off Morrison and Clark, its chance to win skyrocket.
It may sound like a broken record, but the Flyers can not continue to take (get called for) bad penalties. Emery has been outstanding and the Orange and Black defense is extremely formidable. However, giving a team with such a potent power play a few extra chances is just asking for a loss.
*Keep on the Attack
The Washington defense may be the team’s Achilles Heel as it is not very skilled and can get stuck in its own end at times. The Flyers need solid puck possession and they need to put the pressure on and keep it there to avoid a shootout, which works in favor of Washington. The Caps are a team that will give up goals, so the Flyers need to be ready to cash in any chances they get.