Alain Vigneault's Philadelphia Flyers are in DC on Friday to take on Peter Laviolette's Washington Capitals in the sixth and final game of the Flyers' preseason schedule. Game time is 7:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBCSP.
The season begins for real in one week when the Flyers host the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center in the regular season opener on Oct. 15.
The Flyers' training camp roster is down to 13 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders. Number one goalie Carter Hart took a maintenance day on Thursday, and will not make the trip to Washington per Vigneault. Felix Sandström remains with the NHL team for the time being.
Roster bubble players Garrett Wilson (signed to an AHL contract with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, on a professional try-out contract with the Flyers) and Noah Cates rotated reps on the fourth line at practice on Thursday. General manager Chuck Fletcher has indicated that the opening roster may have just 12 forwards and six defensemen. The team starts the season on a four-game homestand with days off between each game.
Thursday's practice lines:
28 Claude Giroux - 14 Sean Couturier - 11 Travis Konecny
86 Joel Farabee - 19 Derick Brassard - 89 Cam Atkinson
23 Oskar Lindblom - 21 Scott Laughton - 25 JVR
47 Garrett Wilson or 59 Noah Cates - 44 Nate Thompson - 62 NAK
9 Ivan Provorov - 94 Ryan Ellis
6 Travis Sanheim - 70 Rasmus Ristolainen
3 Keith Yandle - 61 Justin Braun
24 Nick Seeler - 45 Cam York
35 Martin Jones
[32 Felix Sandström]
Before the season starts, the Flyers will look to solidify a penalty kill that ranked next to the bottom in the NHL last season. Preseason stats are ultimately meaningless, in part because personnel is staggered from game to game and partially because of the lineup depth disparities between opponents in most preseason matches. Nonetheless, after yielding at least one power play goal against (seven in all) over the first five preseason games, the Flyers could use a game against a dangerous Washington power play where they keep the puck out of their net on the PK.
The Flyers have played pretty well overall at 5-on-5 during the preseason. They've heavily emphasized team-wide buy-in to a 200-foot game. Philly has also set a more physical tone in several games. On the flip side, the Flyers offense has been sporadic so far.
All of these things need to be taken with a grain of salt. Overall, though, the 2-2-1 record that the Flyers bring into the preseason finale is representative of ups and downs of exhibition gameplay and lineups.
TONIGHT'S OPPONENT: WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The Caps are also closing out their six-game exhibition schedule. The team is 1-3-1 to date, including a "B" lineup being defeated by the Flyers "A" lineup by a 3-1 score at the Wells Fargo Center last Saturday.
Laviolette dressed most of the Capitals regulars on Wednesday in Boston and is expected to do the same at home against the Flyers. On Wednesday, Washington skated off with a 4-3 overtime win for their first win during the preseason.
Twenty-seven players remain in camp for the Capitals heading into Friday. That total includes injured top-line center Nicklas Bäckström, who is dealing with a hip issue. Goalie Ilya Samsonov has a lower-body injury that may keep him out of the preseason finale and defenseman Martin Fehervary has an upper-body injury at present. Beyond that, several roster decisions still loom for Laviolette and general manager Brian MacLellan.
While the Flyers have steadily kept the same top three defense pairings together throughout the preseason, the Capitals have been experimenting with a variety of combinations. Michal Kempny, veteran depth defenseman Matt Irwin, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Fehervary have been competing for roster spots on the blueline. Vacancies were created when the ageless Zdeno Chara signed with the New York Islanders and rugged veteran Brenden Dillon joined the Winnipeg Jets.
There's also still some experimentation going on front. Wingers T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary were centered by Connor McMichael in the Boston game. Per Capitals.NHL.com, 19-year-old Hendrix Lapierre (drafted by Washington in the first round, 22nd overall, of the 2020 Entry Draft) is expected to be in the middle for that line against the Flyers.