FLYERS (0-1-0) @ CANADIENS (0-1-0)
There will be plenty at stake on Saturday night when the Canadiens welcome the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre for the teams’ second regular season match. Both squads, having lost their openers against the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be looking for their first points of the season. The Flyers went down against the Leafs 3-1 on Wednesday night while the Habs came up just short, losing 4-3 last Saturday.
On the heels of a first year out of the playoffs since 2006-07, Philadelphia’s general manager Paul Holmgren added some significant pieces to their team during the summer, acquiring Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit and Ray Emery to surround the core of the team formed by Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen. Lecavalier and Streit proved their worth in the early goings of the season opener, combining to set up Brayden Schenn for Philly’s lone goal against the Leafs. As for Emery, he watched from the bench as starter Steve Mason allowed three goals on 25 shots. Former Hab Hal Gill, who made the Flyers squad on a tryout contract, was a healthy scratch and was confined to the press box.
While the Flyers’ Gill and Streit will be returning to the city where they have both tasted playoff success, the Habs’ Daniel Briere will be facing off against former teammates for the first time since being let go by Philadelphia, his adoptive city of six years, over the past summer. Finding himself the odd man out due to his long-term contact, Briere was bought out by the Flyers front office before signing a new deal with the Habs. Now playing on the starboard side of a high-powered offensive line also featuring Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, the 35 year-old will be looking to get onto the score sheet for the first time as a member of the Canadiens.
Players counted on by coach Peter Laviolette to do the heavy lifting for the Flyers on Saturday night include Claude Giroux, who played a team-leading 26:02 against Toronto despite being a forward, Mark Streit (22:42), Scott Hartnell (21:51) and Kimmo Timonen (20:37). Meanwhile, Michel Therrien, who is more apt to spread out the playing time among his top three lines, relied mostly on his top defensemen P.K. Subban (24:41), Josh Gorges (23:14) and Andrei Markov (22:00) during the Habs’ season opener.
On the injury front, Philadelphia is missing none of their regular players with the exception of Marc-Andre Bourdon, who is out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome. Montreal meanwhile will not have the services of Douglas Murray (upper-body), Davis Drewiske (shoulder), Alexei Emelin (knee) and George Parros (concussion). Max Pacioretty will also not be available against the Flyers.
While the Bourque-Plekanec-Gionta, Pacioretty-Desharnais-Briere and Galchenyuk-Eller-Gallagher lines have remained intact since training camp and will likely continue to work together against Philly, Michel Therrien has yet to confirm the makeup of his lines after Saturday's morning skate. The Habs bench boss did indicate, however, that both Ryan White and Michael Bournival will be in the lineup against the Flyers. There are no anticipated changes coming to the defense corp, as all six blueliners who took part in the season opener have skated with their usual partners throughout the week (Markov-Diaz, Gorges-Subban and Tinordi-Bouillon).
In 2012-13, Montreal and Philadelphia faced off three times, with the Flyers winning the last two meeting. Saturday’s match will be the first of three more tilts between the inter-division rivals.
Practice with a purpose