|Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made several bold decisions this past offseason in an effort to re-shape his team’s roster. After the Flyers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the eventual champion Boston Bruins, Holmgren and his staff took a hard look at the makeup of the team and decided that a shake-up was necessary. |
The NHL Entry Draft in Minneapolis-St. Paul was the beginning of the makeover. Holmgren pulled the trigger on two separate blockbuster trades that dispatched two players he once referred to as “cornerstones of the franchise,” and in the process accumulated young talent to complement a solid veteran core. Jeff Carter was traded to Columbus in exchange for Jakub Voracek and two draft picks, and former captain Mike Richards shipped to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a draft pick. It signaled a drastic shift in the Flyers philosophy and head coach Peter Laviolette has his team off to a fast start in 2011-12.
Star winger/center Claude Giroux headlines a high-octane Flyers offense coming off the first All-Star Game appearance of his career. He leads the Flyers in scoring, trailed not too far behind by 39-year-old Jaromir Jagr, back in the NHL after spending the past three seasons in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. Those two have seen regular time together on Laviolette’s No. 1 line, and have developed early chemistry on the Flyers power-play unit. Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell have been steady sources of secondary scoring with young players like Voracek and Simmonds also seeing time in the top six.
Holmgren acquired Maxime Talbot in free agency to add veteran checking depth, and a pleasant surprise has been rookie Sean Couturier, drafted eighth overall in 2011. Those two have been penalty-kill fixtures in Philadelphia and played an important role in the team’s strong start.
It’s hard to mention the Flyers and defense without thinking of captain Chris Pronger. The 37-year-old defenseman is out of the lineup due to a scary eye injury and not expected to play against the Blue Jackets, but his recovery is said to be progressing and in his absence, other members of the Flyers blue line have stepped up their games. The always-reliable Kimmo Timonen has played increased minutes in Pronger’s absence and Matt Carle is playing a bigger role on the back end, and the Flyers depth has allowed them to remain steady in the meantime. Andrej Meszaros and Braydon Coburn log valuable minutes and are able to contribute on the offensive end, as well, giving the Flyers options at even strength and the power play until Pronger returns.
The seemingly decades-long search for goaltending in Philadelphia ended with the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov this summer. Holmgren traded for the Russian netminder’s negotiating rights prior the start of free agency and inked him to a nine-year, $51 million contract to be “the guy” between the pipes for the Flyers.
| || || |
|Prospal (5) ||Giroux (8) |
|Nash (6) ||Giroux (9) |
|Nash, Prospal (10) ||Giroux (17) |
|Dorsett (26) ||Rinaldo (42) |
|MacKenzie (+3) ||Hartnell, Couturier (+7) |
|Mason (2-9-1) |
|Bryzgalov (5-4-1) |
|Mason (3.36) ||Bryzgalov (3.04) |
|Mason (.880) ||Bryzgalov (.887) || |
|• Tonight marks the lone meeting this season between the Flyers and Blue Jackets. Columbus is 2-5-3 all-time against Philadelphia, including a 0-3-1 mark at Wells Fargo Center. The home team has won two of the past three meetings, including the last game at Philadelphia on Jan. 19, 2010 (Flyers won 5-3). |
• Columbus’ penalty killing has been vastly improved, and against a potent Flyers team, they will need to stay out of the penalty box. Columbus killed off both of Toronto’s power play opportunities Thursday and has gone 10-for-10 on the penalty kill the last three games after going 6-for-13 the previous four games.
• In order to climb up the standings, the Blue Jackets need to get wins away from Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets will look to pick up their first road win of the season tonight against the Flyers. The club is 0-5-0 away from Nationwide Arena to open the season. Overall, the club opened the season winless in its first eight games (0-7-1), but has gone 2-3-0 in the last five games.
• Antoine Vermette has assists in six of the past seven games and back-to-back games after picking up a helper Thursday against Toronto. He had a four-game assist streak snapped Oct. 29 at Chicago. He has 0-6-6 the past seven games after opening the season pointless the first six games. He has played in 193 consecutive games, the fourth longest streak in franchise history. Tonight he is expected to tie David Vyborny, who is third on the list and played in 194 straight games from Oct. 17, 2002-Dec. 20, 2005.