Bruins-Flyers preview: Back to the battle

Bruins-Flyers preview: Back to the battle
March 9, 2013, 12:30 pm
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The Flyers aren’t what they’ve been in years past, but it should still be a heavy, Eastern Conference slugfest between Philly and Boston.

(USA Today Images)

The Flyers aren’t what they’ve been in years past, but it should still be a heavy, Eastern Conference slugfest between Philly and Boston.

The Flyers are 11-13-1 this season while dealing with injuries and players that might not have been fully ready to play coming out of the lockout, and they play the opposite in the Boston Bruins. The Bruins are 15-3-3 and sit in a great position with only 21 games played this season, and stand ready in good position before even hitting the midway point of the season.

“First time seeing them this year, so I’m excited,” said Shawn Thornton. “These are usually pretty good games between us. This should be no different. They’re usually built the same as us and they’re a pretty ornery team. There are some good battles.”

Obviously the big problem with the Flyers is defense and the absence of Chris Pronger, where they’re 25th in the league while allowing three goals per game this season. Luke Schenn arrived in an offseason trade with the Maple Leafs, but he isn’t quite the stalwart player that Pronger was before being lost to post-concussion syndrome.

Of interest is that this will be the first game for Nathan Horton since suffering a concussion in Philadelphia last season.

But Tom Sestito isn’t around anymore with the Flyers after authoring the blow that knocked Boston’s forward out for the season last year. Still Zac Rinaldo and Scott Hartnell are in the Flyers lineup, so things should get a little testy out on the ice.

It wouldn’t be Flyers/Bruins hockey without it.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Tuukka Rask hasn’t played against the Philadelphia Flyers in three years since the Bruins collapsed in four straight games vs. Philly with Rask between the pipes in place of an ailing Tim Thomas. He was also between the pipes for third period collapses in each of his last two games against Montreal and Washington before Anton Khudobin backstopped the B’s to a win over Toronto on Thursday night. Rask is still 11-2-3 with a 2.09 goals against average and a .923 save percentage, so he shouldn’t exactly be lacking in the confidence department at this point.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “It’s a team we always have good games against. It’s a team that matches up well against us. They’re a team that’s always had some pretty good skill but they’re also a pretty gritty team as well. They’ve had their ups and downs this year, but there are a lot of things going on this year. We take them extremely seriously. We’ve always had to be at our best playing against them.” –Claude Julien, on a Philadelphia Flyers team that’s struggled to play .500 hockey amid big injuries this season.
KEY MATCHUP: For the Bruins it’s going to be all about attacking the Philadelphia Flyers top defensemen in Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn. While both are pretty good in their own end, they don’t dominate the defensive zone as Chris Pronger once did for the Flyers and the Bruins can take full advantage of it. This could be the kind of heavy game where Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton do a lot of damage, and David Krejci has also played with an extra gear against the Flyers. Interestingly enough Tyler Seguin led the Bruins with six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in four games against Philadelphia last season.  
STAT TO WATCH: 34 – the percentage of goals produced by the Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand line as they’ve factored into 25 of the 73 non-shootout goals scored by the Bruins this season.
INJURIES: Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) is questionable for Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon in what’s been an injury plagued season for the defenseman, but the Flyers will not have forwards Ty McGinn (orbital) and Jody Shelley (hip) available in Boston. For the Bruins Marc Savard is out for the season with post-concussion syndrome and it looks like his career might be in jeopardy. Otherwise the Bruins are healthy from top to bottom in their lineup.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: After getting Thursday night off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuukka Rask should be back in for a Saturday afternoon tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers. Rask hasn’t faced the Flyers at all since the playoff collapse three years ago when he couldn’t steal a game for Boston when they desperately needed it. The Finnish netminder is 7-1-2 in his last 10 games, but also saw his team collapse in the third period in each of his last two games played. It’s expected that Ilya Bryzgalov will bring his unique Russian style and flair between the pipes this afternoon for Philadelphia: The 2.79 goals against average and .899 save percentage could use some work, but so could the Flyers defensive unit.