Philadelphia Flyers (24-12-4) at Carolina Hurricanes (14-22-7)
RBC Center, 7 p.m.
TV: FS-Carolinas, CSN-Philadelphia
The Hurricanes have made yet another lineup change as it is Chad LaRose who is injured this time and replacing him will be AHL All-Star forward Jerome Samson. It is odd that I wrote the article about LaRose's value to this team yesterday because that's when he injured himself in practice and will miss tonight's game with an "upper-body injury." He's gone through a bit of a rough patch in recent games but the Canes are going ot miss a lot without him on the ice tonight. He is one of their best forwards at creating scoring chances and the play is usually north with him on the ice. He has also taken a lot of tough draws and played against top competition on the first and third lines. That's a big hole to fill even if he isn't your ideal first liner, but it is worth noting that the Canes controlled 50.8% of the even strength scoring chances when Samson was on the ice last year so it's not like we've got a scrub up here.
Samson has been a top-scorer at the AHL level for years now but none of that has translated to the NHL in the 30 games he has played. He has yet to score a goal in the NHL but despite that, coach Kirk Muller is giving him a chance to succeed right off the bat as Bowman will be playing on a line with Jussi Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky tonight. The Canes have got a little more balance in their forward corps with Jokinen moving back to the second line and they will need all the balance they can get tonight as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight. It will be the final meeting of the season between these two teams and the Canes are hoping to even the season series.
Lines & more after the jump
Tlusty - Staal - Ruutu
Nodl - Sutter - Dwyer
Ponikarovsky - Jokinen - Samson
Stewart - Brent - Sutter42
Faulk - Harrison
Gleason - McBain
Spacek - Allen
Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
Talbot - Briere - Voracek
Van Riemsdyk - Schenn - Simmonds
Read - Couturier - Rinaldo
Timonen - Coburn
Bourdon - Carle
Lilja - Mezsaros
What happened last time?
The Flyers have dominated the Canes this year but Carolina managed to come away with the win the last time these two teams played and it was mostly due to a great effort on the powerplay. That's why the Canes had a shot advantage and a 2-0 lead after the first period. They managed to build on that throughout the game and took home a 4-2 win and put up a respectiful underlying performance, too. The Flyers ended up with a big shot total due to scoring effects since they were down 3-1 for a lot of the game.
Philadelphia were also playing with two AHL defensemen in that game (Bourdon & Marshall) but head coach Peter Laviolette did a good job at hiding them from tough competition and they didn't play too bad. It was Timonen & Coburn who got burned in this game and Jaromir Jagr wasn't playing either. I'm sure the score would have been different had that been the case. He is playing tonight though and their forward corps appears to be healthy for tonight's game.
The Flyers have been battling injuries to their defense all season but they appear to be in good shape at 2nd in the Atlantic Division and only four points behind the New York Rangers. The underlying numbers don't look terribly good, though. Their Fenwick tied percentage is below 50% and their team shooting percentage is near 10%. That usually means a team is getting lucky and is due for a drop in the standings soon, but the Flyers have a lot of guys that are underperforming right now. Giroux, Jagr, Hartnell, Talbot and Couturier have all been great but the rest of their forward corps has not played up to their standards. The most notable suspects are Danny Briere, James Van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds as they are all posting horrible underlying numbers but their point totals don't appear to be too bad. Briere's was recently boosted from a hat trick performance against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Philly's biggest disappointment, without a question, is their top-dollar goalie Ilya Bryzgalov who will not be starting tonight and instead it'll be Sergei Bobrovsky who the Canes saw back on November 14th. In the big picture, the Flyers should be in good shape. This team isn't exactly built for a cup run but they will make the playoffs and their future looks to be pretty good. Bryz can't stay this bad forever.
- Bobrovsky gave up 3 goals on 20 shots the last time the Canes played him but he has a pretty good history against Carolina so I wouldn't hold that against him. He's still prone to a give up a soft goal so getting the puck on net is a good idea.
- Alexei Ponikarovsky has not been on ice for an even strength goal with the score tied all season. He had a two-goal performance against the Flyers back in November so let's hope that this is the night he breaks that slump.
- Andreas Nodl is getting a promotion to the top-nine tonight (might as well be the second line since Sutter usually plays a lot of minutes) and I think this could be what he needs to get his game in order. He's done next to nothing as a Hurricane but he's been stapled to the fourth line for most of his time here so it's not like he's been given much of a chance. For the Flyers, he was a great defensive forward and him being used on a defensive line like Sutter's seems like the perfect fit for him. Of course, this will probably last only as long as LaRose's injury.
- Faulk/Harrison are probably going to get the Giroux line tonight and all I have to say is good luck to them. Yikes.
- Flyers powerplay is ranked in the top 10 traditionally but going by shot metrics, they are actually a bottom-10 team at generating shots. Keep an eye out for how their powerplay works tonight to see how good it really is. Conversely, their penalty kill is one of the best in the league at preventing shots but thier PK% is ranked only 15th in the league.