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5 THINGS: Flyers @ Kraken

Opening a four-game western road trip, interim head coach Mike Yeo's Philadelphia Flyers (12-12-5) are in Washington State on Wednesday to take on Dave Hakstol's Seattle Kraken (10-17-3).

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

Opening a four-game western road trip, interim head coach Mike Yeo's Philadelphia Flyers (12-12-5) are in Washington State on Wednesday to take on Dave Hakstol's Seattle Kraken (10-17-3). Game time at Climate Pledge Arena is 10 p.m. ET (NBCSP, 97.5 The Fanatic).

This is the second and final game of the season series between the inter-conference teams. On Oct. 18 at the Wells Fargo Center,the Flyers skated to a 6-1 blowout victory. 

The Flyers got first-period goals from Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Derick Brassard. Ryan Ellis and Justin Braun made it a 5-0 game before Seattle defenseman Carson Soucy got one back. In the third period, the Flyers kept the game under control and also tacked on a Joel Farabee goal. Carter Hart finished with 24 saves on 25 shots to earn the win. Philipp Grubauer lasted just 28:49 before he was chased from the game. The Flyers beat him five times on 20 shots. Chris Driedger took over in relief, stopping 6 of 7 shots.

The Flyers bring a 4-0-1 record over their last five games into this game (following an 0-8-2 stretch that dug a hole out of which Philadelphia is still working to climb). Due to NHL postponements of two games as well as the leaguewide holiday break, the Flyers last played on Dec. 18; a 4-3 overtime home win over the Ottawa Senators.

Due to four straight games being postponed for COVID-related reasons as well as the holiday break, the Kraken likewise have not played since a 5-3 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Dec. 18. Seattle is 1-3-1 over its last five games and 4-4-2 in its last 10.

Here are five things to track entering this game:

1. A Test of Depth.

The Flyers and Kraken both received some much-needed good news on the COVID protocol front on Tuesday. For the Flyers, both Kevin Hayes and Morgan Frost returned to practice and are slated to be in the starting lineup against the Kraken. Likewise, Seattle saw defensemen Jamie Oleksiak and Carson Soucy exit protocol and return to practice.

Both teams still have significant COVID-related and injury-related absences from their respective lineups, however. 

For the Flyers, No. 1 goaltender Hart, top-line center Sean Couturier, two-way forward Scott Laughton, Brassard (COVID protocol and hip issue) and Ellis (COVID protocol, lower-body injury) are all in protocol. Nate Thompson (shoulder surgery) is also out.  

The Kraken learned this week that high-energy forward Brandon Tanev (nine goals, 15 points,team-high +4) would miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery. The team is also missing forwards Ryan Donato and Mason Appleton as well as defensemen Adam Larsson (team-leading 22:05 TOI average) and Vince Dunn (12 points in 28 games) while they remain in COVID protocol.

The Flyers' extensive absences up front will present an opportunity for Gerry Mayhew to make his regular season debut for the team. Mayhew leads the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms in scoring (nine goals, 16 points in 24 points) this season, one more point than Frost (15 points in 16 games) had before his NHL recall. Prior to Frost's NHL recall, he and Mayhew found chemistry as Phantoms lineups together with rugged left winger Garrett Wilson. Now, Mayhew will join Frost on a line with James van Riemsdyk. Back in 2019-20, Mayhew led the AHL in goal-scoring and was third in total points despite a 14-game recall to the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Mayhew has both good speed and good hands, but is significantly undersized.

Following the NHL's temporary re-adoption of Taxi Squads and both teams adjusting their active rosters and Taxi Squad designations, Wednesday's projected lineups are as follows (subject to change):

FLYERS

86 Joel Farabee - 13 Kevin Hayes - 11 Travis Konecny
23 Oskar Lindblom - 28 Claude Giroux - 89 Cam Atkinson
25 James van Riemsdyk - 48 Morgan Frost - 20 Gerry Mayhew
71 Max Willman - 38 Patrick Brown - 17 Zack MacEwen

9 Ivan Provorov - 61 Justin Braun
6 Travis Sanheim - 70 Rasmus Ristolainen
3 Keith Yandle - 8 Kevin Connauton

35 Martin Jones
[32 Felix Sandström]

KRAKEN

17 Jaden Schwartz - 16 Jared McCann - 7 Jordan Eberle
19 Calle Järnkrok - 37 Yanni Gourde - 43 Colin Blackwell
90 Marcus Johansson - 21 Alex Wennberg - 72 Joonas Donskoi
71 Max McCormick - 15 Riley Sheahan - 67 Morgan Geekie

24 Jamie Oleksiak - 5 Mark Gioardano
55 Jeremy Lauzon - 28 Carson Soucy
4 Haydn Fleury - 3 Will Borgen

31 Philipp Grubauer
[60 Chris Driedger]

2. Post-Break Reset.

With both teams coming off lengthy hiatuses from their game schedules, there's no carryover momentum either for teams or individual players. It's a reset for everyone. 

Prior to the break, Giroux posted four points (2g, 2a) in his previous five games. Giroux's next point will be the 834th of his NHL career, moving him past Bill Barber into sole possession of second place on the Flyers' all-time scoring leaderboard. His next assist will be the 600th of Giroux's regular season career.

Likewise, Giroux's linemates Cam Atkinson was heating with a hat trick against New Jersey and six points overall in his last four games, Two of Oskar Lindblom's three goals on the season and four of his six points came in the three games he played on Giroux's line immediately preceding the break. James van Riemsdyk posted three goals and five points in the final five games before the schedule left off. 

Entering the unexpectedly long break, Travis Konency collected five assists in his last five games. However, he was goalless in 14 games and had just one goal and nine points in 20 games. 

As a team, the Flyers struggled mightily to score goals from the end of October until the Dec. 6 game against Colorado (Yeo's first game behind the Flyers' bench). Over the last seven games before the break, the Flyers scored a total of 26 goals (3.71 per game). 

3. Inside the Numbers.

Seattle relies heavily on low-event games to stay competitive. The team is tied with the Washington Capitals for the second-fewest opposing shots on goal allowed per game (28.7) but they are also third from the bottom of the league in terms of the volume of shots on goal they generate as a team (27.9). 

From a 5-on-5 shot attempt perspective, the Kraken rank 20th in the NHL at a 48.78 percent share. In terms of shot quality, the Kraken rank 24th leaguewide with an all-situation expected goal share of 47.94 percent. Despite recent improvements, the Flyers still rank 30th in all-situation expected goal share (44.56%).

More importantly, the Flyers still rank only 25th in the league in average goals per game (2.66) and 22nd in goals against average (3.17). Offensively, the Kraken rank 19th in GPG at 2.80 but 30th in GAA at 3.57 per game.

Tweet from @billmeltzer: Flyers vs. Kraken: goal and shot differentials by period, special teams, GF/GA by situation. pic.twitter.com/8m2SvmlRnI

4. Behind Enemy Lines: Seattle Kraken

The Kraken face a tall order in working around the absence of former Penguins forward Tanev from their lineup for the rest of the season. He was a sparkplug on the ice, a key penalty killer (third among Kraken forwards in shorthanded ice time), the team's leading hitter, and tied for fourth among the team's forwards with a dozen points at 5-on-5. He had also emerged among the club's locker room leaders and was an instant fan favorite in Seattle.

Jordan Eberle leads the Kraken in scoring (12g, 9a in 28 games), followed by speedy veteran Jaden Schwartz (6g, 14a), Jared McCann (12g, 5a), Yanni Gourde (6g, 10a) and Alex Wennberg (3g, 13a). Former Columbus and Florida forward Wennberg leads all forwards with an average 19:03 of ice time per game (15:55 at even strength, 2:18 on the power play, 0:50 shorthanded). 

With the returns of hulking minutes-eater Oleksiak (19:27 TOI) and Soucy to the active roster, the Kraken are not in full-fledged crisis mode in terms of their blueline personnel availability beyond team captain Mark Giordano (20:51 TOI, 3g, 5a). However, the team still has a major hole to fill in terms of matchup management with Larsson's stabilizing presence or the mobility and puck skills of the talented but inconsistent Dunn. 

In net, Grubauer (a 2020-21 Vezina Trophy finalist as a member of the Colorado Avalanche) has been a workhorse with 23 appearances in the team's 30 games played to date. Overall, the German netminder has posted a 7-12-3 record, 3.29 GAA and .882 save percentage. Driedger is 3-3-0 with a 3.23 GAA and .896 save percentage in eight appearances.

5. Players to Watch: Hayes and Eberle

In the absences of Couturier and Scott Laughton for most or all of the upcoming road trip, the Flyers will need Kevin Hayes to take over a larger share of the toughest matchups. Limited by injury to 11 games played this season (2g, 4a, 15:10 TOI, 40.0% on faceoffs), Hayes has a heavier burden on his back. Giroux and Frost will also have to step on their respective lines to make plays and hold their own in their matchups.

Eberle has had pretty good success against the Flyers in his career. In 28 regular season meetings with the Flyers, the 31-year-old Eberle has posted eight goals and 22 points.

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