PHILADELPHIA – It will be a little odd for the Bruins waiting so long in the season to play the Broad Street Bullies with their first meeting at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Flyers will undoubtedly be desperate given that they’ve lost three games in a row while attempting to stay relevant in the Metro Division, and keep away from the turmoil that opened up their season.
Claude Julien doesn’t see a whole lot of difference in this year’s edition of the Flyers aside from the new face behind the bench, and the new goaltender that’s helping hold things together.
“They have a coach that worked under another coach, and I don’t think they’ve changed a ton. They’re just playing better,” said Claude Julien. “They haven’t changed much about their players in that time, so it’s a matter of them just playing better hockey.”
Brayden Schenn has become a pretty decent force for the Flyers with 14 goals on the season, and continues to lead a bunch that’s looking very much the same as the team Boston skirmished with last year.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Jarome Iginla has one goal and a minus-4 rating in 19 games during the month of January, and has gone the last eight games without scoring a goal. The entire David Krejci-Iginla-Milan Lucic has struggled to make a consistent impact over the last few weeks, and the 36-year-old right wing has been very quiet offensively during that time period. It’s been boom-or-bust for them: they’ve been great in October and December, and quiet through much of November and January.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “Every game starts meaning more and more as we get toward the end. We played Pittsburgh three times in the first 25 games, so it seems like with the schedule now you’re getting teams in bunches. It just creates a rivalry and a mini-series going at a team right after you faced them. It can make for more heated hockey.” –Milan Lucic on playing the Flyers for the first time in late January, one of three games against them over the final three months of the season.
KEY MATCHUP: The Flyers have allowed 18 goals in their last six games with a flagging defense, and have lost three games in a row as they drop down into the Metro Division standings. This is exactly the kind of game where Krejci, Lucic and Iginla could get very healthy offensively against a team that continues to try to find defensive solutions since Chris Pronger was forced to retire. It will be up to Boston’s top six forwards to really do the damage against a slumping defense, and the 18th ranked penalty kill in the NHL.
STAT TO WATCH: 2 – the number of consecutive games that Brad Marchand has scored two goals as he’ll look to continue the scoring barrage against the Flyers on Saturday.
INJURIES: Chris Kelly and Dougie Hamilton have both been cleared to practice, but there’s a better chance of Hamilton potentially playing Saturday rather than Spooner. Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid (leg) hasn’t practiced since injuring himself in Sunday’s loss to Chicago, and didn’t make the two game road trip through Philly and Long Island.
Philadelphia forward Zac Rinaldo (ankle) skated Friday but remains out on injured reserve.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask has made one start in the last 11 days while getting some ample rest time courtesy of Chad Johnson, and should be fresh-legged against a Philadelphia Flyers team that remains significant to the Finnish goaltender some four years after one of his first playoff series. Rask is 1-3-1 with an .890 save percentage in his last game, and is looking to start a streak going in the other direction against the Flyers.
Steve Mason has a new zombie-laden goalie mask he’ll be featuring against the Bruins, and that will go along with the new contract extension he was awarded by the Flyers over the last week. Mason has been very solid with a 19-12-5 record along with a 2.57 goals against average and .915 save percentage this season in a nice comeback campaign in Philly.