Wayne Simmonds celebrates his goal from the Flyers 4-2 win over the Coyotes on Dec. 3, 2011, the last time the Flyers and Coyotes faced each other.
It took four games, but the Flyers emerged from the losses to pick up their first win of the 2013-14 season on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. That gave them two days between games leading to the fifth game of the season, a meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes.
While meetings between the two teams are rare - the Flyers and Coyotes have faced each other just six times since December 2007 - the recent history between these non-conference foes is generally exciting. In those six games, the teams have posted even 3-2-1 records. The Flyers won the last two meetings, both in 2011-12.
With the first solid practice time between games finished and Craig Berube's new lines getting extra time to prepare, the Flyers are looking for crisper play. The offensive stars have stated there has been recent lack of chemistry as they adjust, but are assured it is coming along.
Once again, it appears Wayne Simmonds will join Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell on the top line. Vincent Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn, both tied for the team lead with three points, are joined by Jakub Voracek.
Berube also likes his defense pairings of his six veteran defenseman. Paired together are Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn, Andrej Meszaros and Mark Streit, and Braydon Coburn and Nick Grossmann.
After a stellar performance on Tuesday that led the Flyers to their first win, Steve Mason is back in goal. Mason is 3-6-0 with a 3.25 goals-against average against the Coyotes and also a .895 save percentage. Emery is 2-2-1 against Phoenix with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
The Coyotes recently regained the services of gritty winger Paul Bissonnette on Thursday, so he will be in the lineup tonight. The top line features Mikkel Boedker, Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette. Other forwards to watch are Lauri Korpikoski, Martin Hanzel, Mike Ribiero and Radim Vrbata.
Phoenix is coming off a motivating win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, 4-2, with two defensemen scoring in the game. Derek Morris and Michael Stone scored in the win. And also don't forget about Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Rusty Klesla and Keith Yandle, two of the top defensemen in the game today.
Mike Smith did get the start in goal for the Coyotes on Thursday. There is always a chance the Coyotes would turn to their top goalie on back-to-back nights, but they may also throw a start in the direction of Thomas Greiss.
The Coyotes are struggling on special teams entering the game. Like the Panthers on Tuesday, Phoenix has struck on just 11.1 percent (1-for-9) of power plays this season (24th in NHL) and killed off just 68.8 percent (five power-play goals allowed) of penalties (25th in NHL), giving the Flyers power play - sitting in 26th at 10.5 percent (2-for-19) - a great chance to score on the man advantage. The Flyers power play is 0-for-7 in the past two games after scoring twice in the first two games. The Flyers penalty kill ranks 10th in the NHL, killing 85 percent of penalties this season (three power-play goals allowed).
Look for an offensive shootout tonight as well. Many chance may not develop into goals - Phoenix had scored just six goals until Thursday's 4-2 and the Flyers are sitting at five goals total on the season - but the Coyotes are averaging 31.8 shots on goal. Conversely, they are also allowing 33.2 shots per game, which should give the Flyers another chance of firing on Smith/Greiss. The Flyers currently average 25.8 shots per game, 27th in the NHL.
Among the Flyers in search of his first point of the season is Matt Read. Read has scored in each of his games played against the Coyotes, making this a perfect chance for the third-year forward to get on the scoresheet. Claude Giroux, also desperately in need of a point, has four - two goals and two assists - in his career against Phoenix.
Also expect a physical contest. The Flyers lead the NHL in hits with 125. Trailing not far behind in third are the Coyotes with 120.
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