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Home opener vs. Canucks another test for Flyers

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- If it's true that to be the best a team has to beat the best, then the Philadelphia Flyers are getting a terrific opportunity early in the season to see where they rank among the League's elite teams.

The Flyers will host the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RIS) in their home opener. The matchup against the defending Presidents' Trophy winner and Western Conference champion comes on the heels of last week's season-opener at the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

That night, the Flyers scored twice in the final minute of the first period to win 2-1 and ruin the Bruins' banner-raising celebration.

"I guess that's a positive," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said of the schedule. "You play good teams, you hope to do well and like the way you played. I don't know if it necessarily translates to meaning you're going to have a great year. You have to do a lot of work, and any team can beat anybody on any given night. It's always fun when you play good teams and have success."

Part of the reason for the Flyers' early success has been their defense, as they've allowed just one goal in their first two games. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, their priciest offseason acquisition, stopped 42 of 43 shots in the first two games, and his shutout Saturday against the New Jersey Devils was the Flyers' first regular-season blanking since April 6, 2010, when Brian Boucher shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs.


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As good as the goaltending has been, however, another point of emphasis among the team is they're allowing just 21.5 shots per game, the third-fewest in the League.

"When you play well defensively and allow one goal in two games … it's goaltending, it's defense, it's forwards," Flyers captain Chris Pronger said. "It's team defense, not just the defense doing whatever or the goalie making saves. It's a collective group. You go around the League, the teams that are always near the top in goals-against, they have good goalies, but they also play well defensively and they play a system and adhere to that system well, and that's what we're trying to do."

With things going so well, the Flyers will use the same lineup they've had the first two games, including giving Bryzgalov his third straight start in net.

While the Flyers are happy with their game, the Canucks still are trying to find the spark that drove them to the best season in franchise history in 2010-11.

They lost their opener at home to the Penguins in a shootout, and then needed two third-period goals Monday to erase a 2-1 deficit in Columbus and escape with a 3-2 victory.

Roberto Luongo will be back in goal for the first time since the opener, and defenseman Andrew Alberts will play, replacing Christopher Tanev.

"I think we have to find a way to get back to the way we want to play," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "The first two games haven't been close to good enough. We've had parts that have been up to standards we want to be at, but most of the games have been below par. We've got to get back to playing our game."

Sedin, who was one of nine players to take part in Wednesday's optional morning skate, said his right leg was feeling fine and that he would be in the lineup today. He was injured Monday against the Blue Jackets on a hit by Marc Methot.

The Vancouver Province reported Sedin suffered a "charley horse," and that the leg was stiff, swollen and sore. However, Sedin said he's feeling just fine now.

"It was better today. It's not a problem," he said, adding he didn't feel restricted in his skating.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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