Perhaps the best thing for the Canucks on Tuesday was that their 5-1 loss against the Predators to kick off a five-game road trip happened to be of the blowout variety. After all, had the game been any closer, Vancouver may have been tempted to walk away with a sense of moral victory. Instead, the Canucks should come into this game feeling a sense of desperation. Not only have they lost three regulation games in a row for just the second time this season, but their once seemingly solid hold on second place in the Pacific Division is now a thing of the past.
Vancouver enters play today sitting tied for fourth place in the Pacific Division, as well as tied for the second wildcard playoff spot, with the Flames and could be outside the playoff picture entirely by the end of this night with a loss to the Flyers coupled with a Flames win in Arizona. Nick Bonino and Chris Tanev were both absent from yesterday's practice and are questionable for tonight's tilt. If they can't go, look for Bo Horvat and Yannick Weber to slot back in. Ryan Miller is also expected back between the pipes after giving up two straight scheduled starts with the flu.
Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Flyers are looking to rebound with a win tonight after being blanked for the fifth time this season yesterday in a 1-0 road loss to the Capitals. The Flyers, who have performed below expectations this season and are sitting 11 points back of a playoff spot, have had a hot and cold offence over the past month. In their last 15 games, they've been held to two-or-fewer goals on nine occasions but they've also posted seven-goal games against the Leafs and Lightnhing, a four-goal game against the Jets and a five-goal game against the Wild all during that stretch.
The Flyers are also dealing with some injury concerns. Starting goaltender Steve Mason and top-four blue-liner Braydon Coburn are among the walking wounded, while rookie forward Scott Laughton left last night's game against the Capitals with a suspected head injury. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the Flyers go with Ray Emery in net tonight after Rob Zepp got the call yesterday but the Flyers seem unusually high on the 33-year-old with limited NHL experience. Considering Zepp played the best game of his NHL career yesterday despite suffering his first career loss, don't be too surprised if he gets the call again tonight.
Keys to the Game
Win the races. With the exception of a few brief episodes, the Canucks didn't manage to have much sustained pressure in the offensive zone against the Preds on Tuesday. That'll happen when you're consistently second to loose pucks. The Canucks have to start winning more of those battles. They might even draw a few more penalties that way.
Fire away. With starter Steve Mason sidelined, the Canucks will either face the slumping Ray Emery or the ageless wonder Rob Zepp, the 33-year-old who has played mostly in Germany and has just three NHL career games under his belt. With all due respect to those two netminders, this should be a game even where the struggling Canuck scorers should be salivating.
Set the tone early. Given the Canucks' recent struggles, you'd have to believe their confidence would plummet if they were to find themselves trailing again early in this game. Considering the Flyers boast one of the league's worst records (2-15-2) in games they trail after the opening period, the first 20 minutes figures to be critical in this one.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Flyers when playing on zero days rest (2-5-1).
Win percentage for the Canucks in their last five head-to-head games against the Flyers (3-1-1).
Win percentage for the Flyers in their last 10 home games (6-3-1).
Goals each for Ryan Kesler (ex-Canuck) and Tye McGinn (ex-Flyer) to share the lead in last year's season series.
Percent power play efficiency rate on home ice for the Flyers this season (22-for-73), best in the NHL.
Games played by Luca Sbisa with the Flyers, the team that drafted him in the first round (19th overall) in 2008.