The fight for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan division is about as stable as a bouncy house. There are three teams that are going back and forth in wild card spots and only a single point separates the second spot. Even the two teams in 2nd and 3rd place in the division could easily slip up and find themselves fighting to stay alive in the playoff race. Only the Capitals are safe right now. The Islanders have Pittsburgh biting at their heels and could easily fall down to the wildcard fight. Which makes a Flyers win important for two teams tonight.
Here are the standings as of now:
Jake Voracek returns.
It’s not like this Flyers team has been terrible without Jake Voracek. Secondary scoring has been surging since Sean Couturier’s second injury which started a carousel of injuries to key players. Since Voracek’s injury, the Flyers have been averaging four goals a game. The issue with Voracek’s return was which of those depth players, who have been doing so well recently, would be scratched to accommodate Voracek.
Chris VandeVelde made that decision easy for Hakstol when he elbowed Jonathan Toews along the boards in Wednesday’s game against Chicago. VandeVelde was suspended for two games for the hit which opened up a spot for Voracek while leaving Sam Gagner, Michael Raffl, Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton in the lineup. It’s the best lineup we could hope for up front.
In Practice, Voracek skated with Nick Cousins and Matt Read on the 3rd line. Voracek makes the 3rd line a more dangers offensive threat and gives the Flyers a top 9 that will be hard for the Penguins to deal with. It also gives them another possible scoring option in case the Couturier line is put on Crosby watch. Unfortunately, Hakstol will have to finally see the end of his favorite line as Laughton moves into VandeVelde’s place.
Not everyone out on the ice yet, but here’s how it’s shaping up:
Weal & Umberger on ice. VV isn’t yet.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) March 18, 2016
Starting in net
Dave Isaac noted that Neuvirth was playing the starting goaltender role in practice, but things can change quickly.
Neuvirth is coming off a win against the defending Stanley Cup Champions. In his last five games, Neuvirth only has won four and only lost once (against Edmonton). Steve Mason has been on a tear recently, though. Ever since Neuvirth started to challenge him for the No. 1 spot, Mason has been outstanding. For the season, Neuvirth has a better save percentage (.925% against Mason’s .915%), but Mason has experience against this Pittsburgh team. It’ll be a “game-time decision”.
Most beats seem to think Neuvirth starts today, I think it’s King Biscuit time. He’s your horse and the Flyers are going to the rodeo.
— Big Sammy (@BroadStBullshit) March 19, 2016
The Penguins are missing one of their top forwards while the Flyers are getting one back. As a Flyers fan, it’s fun to hear that the Penguins will be without Malkin. It means that Couturier will have one less man to worry about and that the Penguins will have less talent to deal with our top 9. That doesn’t mean the Penguins can’t be dangerous, though, there’s still Phill Kessel.
It’s easy to forget about Phil Kessel since he’s joined the Penguins. No one seems to talk about him extensively and that’s just how he likes it. Kessel has a goal in his last five games, so it’s not like he’s in the middle of a crazy scoring drought, but he’s not just a competent bum, he’s a threat. There’s no crazy voodoo bullshit working against the Flyers like rookies looking for a first career goal, players on a 30 game goalless streak, or backup goaltenders.
It’s gonna be rough folks.