Philadelphia is perfect in March and look to keep things rolling Saturday night in Toronto against a Maple Leafs squad that is fading fast in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
The Flyers have won all four games in March, including a 5-0 drubbing of the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 28 shots for his second shutout in his past three starts and will be in net again tonight for Philadelphia.
The perfect start to the month is more impressive when factoring in the injuries to the Flyers blueline corps. Andrej Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen and newcomer Pavel Kubina are all out of the lineup with different ailments.
In their place on the ice this morning were rookies Eric Gustafsson and Brandon Manning, who will play in just his second career game.
Manning is not the only player who will hit the ice tonight with limited NHL experience. Toronto’s deadline-day acquisition, Carter Ashton, will make his home debut after playing in his first game Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
“Its' been a whirlwind for sure. I’m just trying to take it day by day and try to make the best of it,” Ashton said. “With the few days I have been here, I have obviously learned a lot, jumping into my first NHL game. I was nervous going into it, but got a chance to be in the starting line –up which got me right into it.”
His father, Brent, is former a NHL player who is expected to be in attendance along with some other family members. The senior Ashton played for nine NHL teams including Winnipeg where a fellow Jet was current Leafs coach Randy Carlyle.
The tight lipped Toronto bench boss is expected to start Jonas Gustavsson for the fifth straight game which gives “The Monster” the task of garnering the Leafs their first win this season against the Flyers. Toronto dropped the first two games by a combined score of 8-5.
“They are a bruising hockey club and they do some things aggressively on the forecheck," Carlyle said. "They are a hockey club that takes the most penalties in the League, so if we can exploit that and get our speed game going, that’s what we have to focus on."
It will also mark the first time the Schenn brothers do battle in a regular-season game in Toronto. The younger of the two, Brayden, scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Flyers in the last meeting between the clubs February 9 in Philadelphia.
Older brother Luke, who patrols the blue line for Toronto, looks forward to another battle tonight, one that neither of the siblings feel ever gets old.
“It definitely hasn’t worn off," Luke Schenns said. "It’s always pretty cool every time you get the chance to play against your little brother.”