Preview: Flames vs. Flyers
FLYERS (33-20-7) at FLAMES (28-23-10)
TV: CBC, CSN-Philadelphia
LAST 10: Philadelphia 3-6-1, Calgary 5-1-4
Season Series: It's an annual interconference one-and-done, but even meetings as rare as these can show a trend -- and a notable one is a three-game winning streak for the Flyers in the Scotiabank Saddledome. The three games, however, are stretched out over a decade, the last Flames win coming on March 22, 2001. As for the overall series, it's been steadily back and forth between these two, the Flames winning in a shootout last November in Philly, the Flyers taking two points the previous year in Calgary.
Big Story: They're both very much in playoff contention, which makes their recent play very frustrating to watch for fans, coaches and front-office personnel. Neither had a very good time against the Oilers, the Flames reeling from a 6-1 home invasion on Tuesday, the Flyers befuddled by a second straight shutout loss in Edmonton, 2-0 on Thursday. The Flames earned a point in a shootout loss to the Coyotes -- one that didn't make any points with general manager Jay Feaster, who vented his frustrations in a televised live interview during the second intermission of the game.
Flyers: It's like hitting every light on Broad Street. Light turns green, accelerate, jam on the brakes. Follow a nice win against the Predators with three straight losses to the New York locals, beat the Leafs and drop a pair to the Rangers and Red Wings. Score seven on the Sabres, give up six to the Penguins.
Start a trip to Canada with a 5-4 overtime win in Winnipeg and get mired in the Alberta tar sands. The Flyers came out flat in the second period and the speedy young Oilers took advantage -- goals by Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle gave Devan Dubnyk all he needed to lock down the win and drive Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to frustration.
"You'd like to think it serves as a wakeup call because we're in a playoff race," he said. "Tonight is unacceptable. We eased our way into the first period, the second period was horsebleep, wake up and try to win a game in the third period. Hopefully it's a wakeup call."
Flames: Last season, the Minnesota Wild came into Scotiabank Saddledome and embarrassed the Flames with a 6-0 dousing. That led to a six-game winning streak. The Oilers did nearly the same thing o Tuesday, so there was an opportunity for the Flames to rally and rebound on Thursday. Not this time.
They took a 2-0 lead over the Coyotes to the first intermission but had given it back by the second, prompting Feaster to fire a warning across the bow.
"I can't tell that the team in red tonight is the team that needs the two points. It seems to me that the team that's safely in seventh place is the team that's working harder," Feaster said. "Last year with the run that we made after the end of December I felt the team earned the opportunity to stay together and obviously we fell short. And so last year you fooled me and shame on you. This year, if you're going to fool me, shame on me. So if we don't show a whole lot more urgency heading into Monday you guys will be busy as it relates to the goings on in Calgary."
The Flames did manage to force overtime and secure a point for the ninth time in 10 games, but the message was loud and clear.
Who's Hot: James van Riemsdyk has had a solid three games since returning from a concussion that kept him out the previous 15. He assisted on Wayne Simmonds' game-tying goal in Winnipeg and has been logging consistent ice time. He's looked good enough to even rate trade rumors. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov kept his teammates in the Edmonton game with 28 saves after getting tagged for seven goals on 39 shots over his previous two starts.
Injury Report: Flyers forward Tom Sestito (groin) is still weeks away from returning, while forward Sean Couturier (lower body) missed the Edmonton game and is day-to-day. … As many of the Flames walking wounded returned to action this past week, a few more joined the list. Chris Butler was cut on the thigh by a skate Tuesday and will be out three weeks. Forward Mikael Backlund (shoulder) isn't expected back till mid-March, which is about the time Lee Stempniak will be fully recovered from his high ankle sprain. David Moss (foot), out since November, has resumed skating and may be back in two weeks.
Stat Pack: One big reason for Philly's inconsistency is Daniel Briere's 15-game goal-scoring drought that followed his hat trick-plus-a-fight performance against the Senators on Jan. 7. He's had six assists over that stretch but has failed to light the lamp. … Curtis Glencross led the Flames with 18 goals when he went down with a knee injury five weeks ago and is still third on the team. Olli Jokinen's game-tying power-play goal Thursday was the Flames' first with the extra man in six games and 15 chances. It forced a regulation tie, which the Flames have reached in five of their last nine games. They won only one of them and are 4-10 on the season.
Puck Drop: "When we started play on Tuesday night and we're sitting in the eighth spot and we had battled hard all season with a lot of guys out, a lot of kids in the lineup, I thought we did a real good job. But it's our veterans who haven't come to play here in the last two games, certainly in the game on Tuesday night against Edmonton and through two periods here. That's where we're going to have to talk about, intellectual honesty -- and if we're not showing we're serious about being a playoff team and our play isn't trending toward being a playoff team, then we have to be honest about it and start looking to marshal some assets." -- Feaster voicing concern about his team's play at a crucial point of the season and his options for doing something about it