PHILADELPHIA – It’s a strange thing to have a Flyers/Bruins game in March at the Wells Fargo Center that isn’t a potential preview of a showdown in a later round of the playoffs. But Philadelphia hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain through the entire season and now sits just above the Eastern Conference cellar with only 29 points on the season.
The Bruins are moving right along at a playoff pace, but only hold 5 wins in their last 10 games and need to find something to build on as they ramp up for the playoffs in less than a month. Perhaps it starts today by planting the final nail in the coffin for a Broad Street Bullies team that seems ripe for a thrashing, and could be exactly the kind of energizing slump buster that Boston needs moving forward.
For Boston it’s about getting off to an energetic start.
“It’s about hammering into the guys that they have to be ready from the get-go,” said Claude Julien. “Every team has its challenges and for right now for us it’s about getting off to a better start. The last few games we’ve come back from two goal deficits, which is a good sign of us not giving up and battling back.
“But at the same time we’ve given up those leads and lost some games. Right now we’re still trying to find our game and find our identity.”
Perhaps that identity materializes for the Black and Gold this weekend by serving last rites to both the Flyers and the Sabres in back-to-back road tilts.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Andrew Ference is a minus-4 in the last five games and is coming off a Montreal shootout loss when he finished an unsightly minus-3. Some of it is playing with different defensemen partners over the last couple of weeks as injuries, scratches for trades and ‘D’ shuffling has mixed everything up. Ference could have things take a turn for normalcy with Johnny Boychuk jumping back into the lineup on Saturday afternoon, but the veteran blueliner really needs to stabilize his game prior to the playoffs. Ference has been much streakier than he normally is, and that’s made for more mistakes in his own end than normal.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “Every shift we have to go out there with the mindset to play well defensively. If we do that then we’re going to get some turnovers and some chances on the rush. But for us it all starts with our play in our own end. If we take care of that then we’ll go from there.” –David Krejci, ready to turn defense into offense to pull themselves out of their month-long funk.
KEY MATCHUP: It will be strength vs. strength as the league’s best penalty kill (91.2 percent success rate) for the Bruins goes up against the league’s top power play (24.2 percent success rate) in Philadelphia. It will come down to Boston’s PK units taking down Jakob Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Kimmo Timonen and Claude Giroux at the controls of the Flyers’ man advantage. Getting Johnny Boychuk back into the lineup will be a nice little boost for Boston’s penalty killing crew.
STAT TO WATCH: 9-1-1 – Boston’s record against the Flyers over the last 11 games with Boston taking points in each of the last 10 contests.
INJURIES: Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid (shoulder) could be done for the rest of the regular season. Chris Kelly is out with a fractured left tibia and hasn’t been out on the ice yet. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk (foot) is day-to-day but looks like he might play on Saturday against the Flyers after missing the last three games. … Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn sustained an upper-body injury against the Islanders and is doubtful. Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann (upper body) is questionable. Both forward Danny Briere (concussion) and defenseman Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) are on injured reserve and out for the Flyers.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask gets the start for the Bruins and Ilya Bryzgalov gets the starting nod for the Flyers in what’s been a star-crossed season for the Philly goaltender. Rask is 11-3-3 in his last 17 decisions, but he also presided over a loss to Montreal where he surrendered five goals while aided by bad luck and ill-timed penalties. Bryz is sporting a 2.83 goals against average and .899 save percentage in season statistics that Flyers brass and Philly fans probably expected to be much, much better this year.