The Canadiens are in Philadelphia for a mid-afternoon game against the Flyers, the second meeting of the year between these teams. The Habs downed Philly 5-1 at the Bell Centre on Oct. 29, a big turnaround game: it broke a six game winless streak, starting a four-game win streak, was Carey Price’s 100th win and saw Max Pacioretty — who was not expected to play — score twice, all in their first game after the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn.
But that was then, this is now and the Flyers are 7-3-2 since that game while the Habs are pretty much in win one-lose one mode at the moment. Philly is fourth in the East with 27 points, four ahead of the Habs and the Canadiens have played one more game.
They’ll face a Flyers team that looks as if it will be without both Jaromir Jargr and Chris Pronger.
The Flyer captain, Pronger also missed that first game vs. Montreal with an eye injury. This time he may be scratched because of a virus, which has kept him out of the last two games. When he’s out, the Flyers are 4-3-1; they are 8-3-2 with Pronger in the lineup. Last season, they won only 16 of their 32 regular-season games without him.
Jagr reinjured his groin in Wednesday’s game vs. the Islanders, a 4-3 OT win for Philly and a game they trailed 3-1. Jagr had injured himself three games earlier and it was his first game back. He believes he wasn’t ready to return and now will miss this game and the Flyers next, against the Rangers on Saturday. The last time Jagr was out of the lineup, against the Jets last Saturday, rookie call up Harry Zolnierczyk took his spot with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell and tough guy Jody Shelly dressed to get fourth line duty.
Regardless, the Flyers still have most of their big guns up front firing. Who’s hot for Philly? Briere is averaging a point a game over his last 13. James van Riemsdyk has 12 points in his last 11. Claude Giroux has eight points in his last five. Rookie Matt Read has six points in his last five games — and he’s also the team leader at plus-9 and had a goal in five straight matches until the Islanders game. Hartnell has five points in the last three games; he’s plus-8 on the season. Even some of their depth guys are contributing: Max Talbot has six points in the last eight games.
Who will be in goal for the Flyers? It’s not clear at the moment. After Ilya Bryzgalov stopped only six of nine shots on Long Island, Sergei Bobrovsky came in and got the victory. Danny Briere had two goals in that game. Bryzgalov is 0-3-1 with a 3.75 GAA in lifetime against Montreal. Bobrovsky is 2-1-0 with a 2.68 GAA against the Habs.
As Dave Stubbs tweeted earlier today, the Flyers are most penalized team in NHL (nothing new there), averaging 17.1 minutes per game. The Habs power play is ranked 23rd at 14.1 percent. The Flyers PK is just average, 83.3 percent 13th in the NHL.
The Habs PK continues to be a strength. They are now third in the league at 89.9. Despite all their firepower, the Flyers PP is not overwhelming: 18.6 percent, 12 in the NHL.
Here’s how the Flyers could line up this afternoon:
Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Harry Zolnierczyk
James van Riemsdyk, Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds
Matt Read, Max Talbot, Jakub Voracek
Jody Shelly, Sean Couturier, Zac Rinaldo
Andrej Meszaros, Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn
Marc-Andre Bourdon, Andreas Lilja