Weekly Flyers Preview: Dec. 23-29

The Flyers get most of the week off with the Christmas break but return to action Saturday when they begin the annual Disney road trip.

Monday, December 23, 2013 vs. Minnesota Wild (20-13-5, 45 points, 4thCentral)

The Flyers faced the Wild in Minnesota on December 2, losing 2-0.  Minnesota shut the Flyers down, with goalie Josh Harding stopping all 21 shots he faced.  However, Harding is out of the lineup and it will likely be Niklas Backstrom (2-7-2, 3.19 GAA, .895 save percentage) between the pipes.

Backstrom was in net for the Wild’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers Sunday.  The loss ran the Wild’s road record to 6-10-3, and have lost seven of their last eight games on the road.  Their last regulation road win was November 20, a 4-3 victory against Ottawa.

As was the last game, this game should be another low scoring affair, with the Wild averaging 2.16 goals per game (29th) but only allowing 2.32 (8th).

Despite the low scoring, Minnesota has the ninth-best power play (19.7), led by Zach Parise’s eight.  Jason Pominville has five, giving him a team-high total of 17.  Captain Mikko Koivu leads the team in points with 27 (7 goals).  Skilled forward Mikael Granlund returned to the lineup last night, but has only scored two goals on the year.

Surprisingly, the Wild have struggled on the penalty kill, ranking 26th at 78 percent. 

The Wild do not allow many shots (26.8%, 3rd) and that can be attributed to puck possession, as they are top ten in both takeaways and faceoff percentage.

Saturday, December 28, 2013 @ Edmonton Oilers (11-24-3, 25 points, 7thPacific)

The annual Disney road trip begins in Edmonton, where the Flyers take on the struggling Oilers.  The Oilers are the second-worst team in the league currently, with 25 points.

Edmonton has lost eight out of ten, including their last seven.  A 6-0 embarrassment to the Blues on Sunday led head coach Dallas Eakins to criticize the Edmonton faithful.

Former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov has been in net for Edmonton three of the last four games, and only has won of his seven games this season. Devan Dubnyk hasn’t fared much better, allowing three or more goals in his last four starts, raising his GAA to 3.38.  Overall, the Oilers rank 30th in goals allowed per game at 3.47.

As bad as the defense has been playing, the offense has not been doing their job, either. Edmonton’s 21st ranked offense averages 2.45 goals per game. Not an awful number, but with the names and talent they have up front, that number was expected to be higher.

David Perron (14 goals), Taylor Hall (13) and Jordan Eberle (11) are the only Oilers in double figures, and only Hall has reached the 30 point mark.  Six of Perron’s goals have come on the power play, but the team is only 17th on the man advantage at 17.2 percent.

Weekly Expectations: 4 points

Since Nov. 18 Dan has been predicting Flyers points.

Realdeal: 22

Flyers: 20