Gagne Returns as the Flyers Host the Capitals
Philadelphia Flyers (9-11-1) vs. Washington Capitals (7-10-1)
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
7:30 p.m. on NBCSN and 97.5 The Fanatic
Setting the Stage
This is the second of three meetings for the two teams. The Capitals won the first game back on February 1, 3-2, in Washington. The next two matchups, including tonight, will be home games for the Flyers.
This will be the second half of a back-to-back for Washington, who come in after shutting out a very good Hurricanes team, 3-0. They could either be gassed for this game or ride off of the momentum heading in.
The Flyers are coming into this game off a poor performance against Toronto on Monday. They sputtered to a 4-2 loss, failing to reach the .500 mark for the sixth time this season.
They did get a boost, however, when they acquired Simon Gagne from the Kings Tuesday afternoon. Gagne will play tonight for the Flyers but Peter Laviolette hasn't specified with what line he will play with yet. Mike Knuble is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight.
What to Expect
Alex Ovechkin has been having a great month in February. In 11 games, he has six goals and six assists, and has clicked with Jason Chimera and Mike Ribiero on the top line. He netted a hat trick back on Saturday and has five points in the last two games.
Ovechkin and Troy Brouwer lead the Capitals with eight goals apiece. Ribiero is their scoring leader with six goals and a team-high 16 assists for 22 points.
The Flyers have been getting production out of their top tandem of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Both were involved in the Flyers' only two goals Monday against Toronto. Voracek is in the middle of a six-game point streak (5 goals, 9 assists) and Giroux is on a five-game streak (3 goals, 7 assists).
Voracek leads the Flyers in scoring with 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists - both leading the team as well) while Giroux is on his tail with 20 (6 goals, 14 assists). The play of these two have helped the Flyers rank 10th in the NHL with an average of 2.87 goals per game after scoring only 25 goals in their first 11 games.
The Masked Men
Ilya Bryzgalov will once again get the start for the Flyers. Making his league-leading 20th start, Bryzgalov has been in a bit of a rut lately. He has allowed three or more goals in seven of the last nine games for him, spiking his GAA to a 2.79.
The Capitals recalled rookie goalie Philip Grubauer. Either he or Braden Holtby will get the start tonight. Holtby stopped 33 shots in yesterday's 3-0 shutout win over the Hurricanes. He's made seven of the last eight starts for the Capitals. Grubauer is 6-4-1 in 12 games with the Hershey Bears, posting a 2.10 GAA and .928 saver percentage.
Keys to the Game
1. Score First. The Capitals are a dangerous team when scoring first. They have scored the game’s first goal in each of the last eight games, going 5-3 in those games. Scott Hartnell talked about it last night for the Flyers, saying "we can’t get down 2-0 every game and expect to win.
2. Caps PP. The Capitals power play has been clicking, especially with Ribiero and Ovechkin clicking together. The unit ranks second in the NHL with a 28.6% success rate. In their last 10 games they are 13-for-30 (43.1%). The Flyers PK has climbed to 83% success rate, good for 13th in the NHL. The unit has been playing exponentially better as of late.
3. Gagne's Butterflies. All eyes are going to be on Simon Gagne as he makes his return to Philadelphia for the first time since the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010. He has only five assists in 11 games with the Kings this season. But Gagne is the healthiest he's been in three years and expects himself to have a much better showing with the change of scenery.
"I have to say I felt really good – the games that I played this year, I felt really good on the ice. My leg was feeling good, the skill was coming back, but it’s hard when you start to feel your game coming back and you’re not playing the next five games, and after that you have to go back into the lineup, any player it’s going to be hard to ask someone to go back in the lineup after not playing for five games."
- LW Simon Gagne on how he feels despite not playing much in Los Angeles this season.