The Ducks will look to continue their winning ways on Saturday against a very good Philadelphia Flyers team. The Flyers, who I’ve picked to finish among the top teams in the East, are off to a quick start with three wins in their first four games. Their only loss was their last game against defending Cup Champions Pittsburgh.
This is obviously the first meeting between Chris Pronger and the Ducks since he was traded in the summer. Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa will also get to face their former teammates and, if the Ducks can continue their play from Thursday, this should be a great game.
Coach Randy Carlyle mixed up the lines a bit in Thursday’s game versus the Bruins. Although the RPG line stayed intact for most of the game, the other three lines were shaken up. Ryan Carter took Lupul’s spot on the second line, and Todd Marchant centered Evgeny Artyukhin and Lupul. The bottom line of Mike Brown, Andrew Ebbett, and George Parros was not a bad combination.
All the lines worked well together. The Lupul-Marchant-Artyukhin line brings back memories of when Dustin Penner patrolled the left wing instead of Artyukhin, a line that was dominating in the 2006 playoffs. Carlyle also decided to finally use the players of the RPG line in a penalty killing role, a change that every Ducks fan would have made years ago. I mean…why not put the best players out there for more ice time? They’re as defensively responsible now as they were then, and better puck handlers as well.
I, for one, hope that Jonas Hiller gets the start again. With back-to-back games this weekend it’s almost certain that Hiller and J.S. Giguere will split goaltending duties. But I’d rather have Hiller play against a stronger Flyers club than the Rangers on Sunday when the game should be, quite frankly, easier.
From Adam Kimelman at NHL.com:
DUCKS (1-1-1) at FLYERS (3-1-0)
Season series: In the teams’ only meeting last season, the Flyers won 5-4 in a shootout at the Honda Center. The Flyers rallied from a 3-1 second-period deficit to tie the game, and after Ryan Getzlaf scored to put the Ducks ahead 4-3 with 1:14 left in the second, Mike Knuble scored 14 seconds later to force overtime. Flyers captain Mike Richards scored the only goal in the shootout, beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The teams haven’t played in Philadelphia since Feb. 2, 2008.
Big Story: This will feel like a reunion game for players on both sides. Chris Pronger — celebrating his 35th birthday — faces the team he spent the previous three seasons with before being traded to Philadelphia this summer. Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa were the two players the Flyers sent to Anaheim. The Ducks also have former Flyer Steve Eminger in the lineup, and forward Bobby Ryan grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Ducks — Corey Perry has been the Ducks’ early offensive leader, with 2 goals and 4 points in his first three games. Anaheim needs to get tighter defensively, but better goaltending will help. Coach Randy Carlyle said he will let Giguere or Jonas Hiller earn the No. 1 job, but so far neither has stood out.
Flyers — After a strong start to the season, goaltender Ray Emery has given up five goals in each of his last two games. Not all of the problems defensively can be laid at the goaltender’s feet, however. Braydon Coburn threw a clearing pass into his own net, and of the team’s seven defensemen, only Pronger and Matt Carle are plus players.
Who’s Hot — Richards leads the team in scoring with 7 points; he has at least a point in all four games and goals in three straight. Teammate Jeff Carter also has a point in all four games. Perry’s three-point game Thursday against Boston was his first since Feb. 21.
Injury Report — Flyers rookie forward James van Riemsdyk, who fell hard into the boards Tuesday against Washington, does not have a concussion but was too sore to play Thursday against Pittsburgh and is questionable for Saturday. Fourth-line center Blair Betts dislocated his right shoulder against the Caps and will miss a minimum of four weeks. Ducks center Petteri Nokelainen, out with a groin injury, flew to Philadelphia with the team, but more to see area doctor William Myers, who repaired his abdominal injury this summer. Nokelainen has returned to practice but isn’t ready for game action.
Stat Pack — There could be as many as six players from Canada’s gold medal-winning World Junior Championship team on the ice in Philadelphia on Saturday — the Flyers’ Richards, Carter, Coburn and Danny Syvret, and the Ducks’ Perry and Getzlaf.
Puck Drop — Pronger said there’s no doubt he’ll have something to prove Saturday night.
“It’s always personal when you play against a former team, that’s a given,” he told NHL.com. “It’s a game like any other, you want to go out and compete and play well, make sure you’re doing your best to win the game, but obviously you put more importance on a game against a former team.”