The Flyers, coming off of a deflating 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, look to inch their way closer to the .500 mark as they host the Washington Capitals, winners of two straight, on
Philadelphia (9-11-1) played strong hockey in narrowing the deficit to two goals late in the third period of Monday’s contest but were held-off by Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens, who took over in net after starter James Reimer was injured two weeks ago in the Leafs’ 5-2 victory over the Flyers.
Scott Hartnell, playing in just his second game since returning from injury, scored his first goal of the season in the second quarter, a deflection assisted by Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
The twenty-three-year-old Voracek, who also scored a goal, enters Wednesday’s game on a six-game point streak, with five goals and nine assists during that stretch.
The Capitals (7-10-1) come into play on a slightly different note, with impressive victories over New Jersey and Carolina in successive games. Goalie Braden Holtby made thirty-three saves in a shutout win over the Hurricanes, a welcome performance for a club that is struggling mightily to meet expectations this season, much like the Flyers.
Much of Washington’s struggles this year can be traced back to the goaltending. While not many of the Capitals’ losses have been blowouts, their goalies rank twenty-sixth (26th) in Goals against average at 3.2. Holtby himself sports a 3.37 mark for the season, though his performance has been slightly better than the numbers suggest over his last few games.
Star LW Alex Ovechkin has also been the focus of much criticism this year. Even with his hat trick Saturday, his eight goals place him at thirteenth (13th) in the NHL, and his tally of fourteen points overall is very underwhelming for a player of his caliber. C Nicklas Backstrom has also under-performed, collecting just thirteen points, and just one goal, this season.
The Flyers, after a hard loss Monday, will need to continue the strong, aggressive play that they have been showing in the last several games to compete against the Capitals. The Flyers have improved in many offensive and defensive categories lately, and it is evident in their play. They managed to out-hit and out-shoot the Maple Leafs despite losing, and were competitive until the end.
Wednesday’s game will be the second between the Flyers and Capitals this season, the first being a 3-2 Washington victory. It is also expected to be the first game LW Simon Gagne will play for the Flyers after being acquired from the Kings on Tuesday. He faces the task of helping to ease the loss of C Matt Read, who could miss up to six weeks after tearing muscles in his rib cage during last week’s win over Pittsburgh.
Gagne spent ten seasons with the team that drafted him in the first round of the 1998 NHL Draft, scoring 259 goals (524 points overall) before leaving town following the ’09-’10 season. Injuries have hampered the veteran, who has played just 97 games in the last two seasons combined and just eleven this season. Gagne had offseason surgery to correct a problem in his neck.