Game 47 Preview: Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils (26-18-2, 54 points) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (27-14-4, 58 points)
January 21st, 2012 – 1:00 PM EST
TV: MSG+, Radio: WFAN 660 AM
This is the third of six meetings between those guys from Philly and the Devils this season. The Flyers took the Devils’ season opener at the Prudential Center, 3-0. The Devils took the second meeting in Philadelphia, 4-3 in a shootout, and overcame a two-goal deficit to do so, including Adam Henrique’s first career NHL goal. The Devils are on a 7-3-1 run right now, while the Flyers are 6-4-0 in their last 10 games overall. Philly’s last game, however, was their first loss to the Islanders in 14 meetings with the Isles in Philadelphia, as the Islanders cruised, 4-1. The Devils also fell at home by the same score to the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
One goal wasn’t enough, but there’s a new face in town:
The Devils played extremely hard for the first two periods of Thursday’s eventual loss to the Bruins, but the loss didn’t sit well with the team. After getting shelled, 6-1 earlier in the month, the team seemed determined not to allow another letdown. They held a 1-0 lead into the third period, on Petr Sykora’s 12th goal of the season, but the Bruins caught a few breaks that allowed them to come back and defeat the Devils again. Four unanswered third period goals cost the Devils their first win in three tries against Boston this season.
Despite the most recent loss, however, the Devils have been playing better hockey recently, and they by game time, we’ll know if the newest Devil will be making his debut for the team. Late last night, Alexei Ponikarovsky was traded to the Devils from Carolina in exchange for minor league defenseman Joe Sova and a 4th round draft pick. He put up 7 goals and 8 assists in 48 games this season. He gives the Devils size and depth at forward, and he didn’t cost them much in terms of a trade return to Carolina. The trade could result in Mattias Tedenby’s demotion to Albany, as he has recently been a healthy scratch.
In all likelihood, if he makes it to New Jersey in time (with the snow storm, it might not happen), Ponikarovsky will play with Jacob Josefson and David Clarkson on the third line, which gives the Devils three quality lines that can produce offense. After playing the Bruins twice in just over two weeks, it’s obvious that scoring depth is important in this league. Ponikarovsky has also scored four power play goals this season, and that could benefit the Devils tremendously if he can produce on the power play. Improving the power play was the intent of the Devils’ other trade this season: adding defenseman Kurtis Foster from Anaheim.
The Devils also begin life without Henrik Tallinder today, who is out 6-8 weeks with a blood clot in his leg. He unexpectedly missed Thursday’s game and has since been diagnosed with the blood clot. Lou Lamoriello did not trade for or call up any other defenseman from Albany, so Matt Taormina will be in the lineup today.
Goals: Ilya Kovalchuk – 19
Assists: Patrik Elias – 28
Points: Patrik Elias – 45
Devils’ projected lineup:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora – Elias – Zubrus
Ponikarovsky – Josefson – Clarkson
Boulton – Mills – Carter
Salvador – Fayne
Taormina – Larsson
Volchenkov – Foster
Brodeur (starting), Hedberg
Flyers’ latest: goaltending drama:
It just wouldn’t be a Flyers team without some goaltending drama. After taking the loss against the Islanders on Thursday, Sergei Bobrovsky will probably watch his veteran countryman Ilya Bryzgalov man the pipes for Philly against the Devils. Bryzgalov shut the Devils out on October 8th in his only start against them this season so far. Bryzgalov’s season has been a roller coaster to say the least. Overall, he’s 17-10-3 with a 3.00 goals against average and a save percentage seven points shy of .900. He stopped 25 of 26 shots faced against Minnesota in his most recent start, but he’s lost six of his last nine starts (including one shootout loss).
Despite the often-troubled goaltending, the Flyers remain one of the best teams in the conference. They’re four points up on the Devils entering this game and possess one of the NHL’s most elite scoring lines (Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr). When all three are healthy, they’re extremely dangerous every time they’re on the ice. It’s no surprise that the trio is 1-2-3 on the Flyers in terms of scoring points, as each has 34 or more points this season (the Devils’ top three of Parise-Henrique-Kovalchuk also each have 34 points or more).
Also like the Devils, the Flyers have their own pair of prized rookies. For the Devils, it’s been Adam Larsson and Adam Henrique impressing many in their first NHL season. For the Flyers, it’s been Matt Read and Sean Couturier. Read has 14 goals and 30 points this season, while Couturier, playing mostly on the third and fourth line, has 10 goals of his own.
Martin Brodeur and the Devils will have their hands full containing the Flyers’ top line, Danny Briere, the rookies and the entire Philly lineup.
Goals: Scott Hartnell – 20
Assists: Claude Giroux – 32
Points: Claude Giroux – 50
Flyers’ projected lineup:
Hartnell – Giroux – Jagr
Talbot – Briere – Voracek
Read – Schenn – Simmonds
Shelley – Couturier – Zolnierczyk
Timonen – Coburn
Carle – Bourdon
Gustafsson – Meszaros
Bryzgalov (likely starter), Bobrovsky