Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7pm EST at Wells Fargo Center
This is the first meeting of the season for the Minnesota Wild and Philadelphia Flyers. Last time these two squared off was over a year ago (November 24, 2010) when the Flyers won in dominant fashion, 6-1 in Minnesota. The Wild had just 16 shots-on-goal in the last meeting with Patrick O’Sullivan, now with the Coyotes, scoring the lone goal.
The Wild is coming off a heartbreaking 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night. Wild rookie David McIntyre scored his first NHL goal, a shorthanded score at 7:13 of the first period. More devastating than the loss to the Blues was the fact the Wild has lost team captain Mikko Koivu for at least a month with a shoulder-injury. Josh Harding played a solid came in net for the Wild, allowing just two goals while be “peppered” by the Blues with 49 shots in the game.
Philadelphia made a rare appearance in Nashville on Saturday evening and returned home having lost 4-2 to the Predators. Rookie Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds had the goals for the Flyers, who snapped a two-game win streak. Philadelphia is winless in its last five trips to the Music City, with its last victory coming March 21, 2000.
Ilya Bryzgalov continues to struggle for the Flyers having lost six of his last eight starts. His goals against average has now slipped to 3.07 on this season and leaves the door open for the younger, Sergei Bobrovsky to step in as the starting goalie.
Offensively, the game matches up the Flyers’ No. 2-ranked offense (3.3 goals per game) against a Wild defense that ranks No. 8 at 2.5 goals per game allowed. The Flyers powerplay has clicked at a 18.9% rate while the Wild have a 83.1% rate on the penalty kill.
The Flyers currently sit in fourth place overall in the Eastern Conference with 56 points. They are second in the Atlantic division just four points behind the New York Rangers. The Wild continues to cling to eight place overall in the Western Conference just one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche and two over the Dallas Stars.
The Wild has a 4-6 record against the Flyers with two of those victories at Philadelphia.
Some interesting trends for both teams:
Minnesota Wild Recent Trends
– Are 0-9 in their last 9 road games
– Are 3-13 in their last 16 overall
– The 2nd lowest scoring team in the league at 2.3 goals
– Average just 1.6 goals per game in last 10 against Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers Recent Trends
– Are 6-2 in their last 8 vs Western Conference
– Leads the league in power play chances with 4.4 per game
– Are 5-5 in their last 10 games
Minnesota – Jarod Palmer (questionable, upper body), Niklas Backstrom (questionable, illness), Mikko Koivu (out until mid-Feb, shoulder)
Philadelphia – James Van Reimsdyk (out indefinitely, concussion)
Keys to the game:
– How will the Wild rebound with the loss of Mikko Koivu? Can they survive a month without him?
– Bryzgalov or Bobrovsky in goal for the Flyers?
– Josh Harding’s play has been solid and will need to continue to keep the game to stay close.
– Flyers offense get back on track after loss in Nashville.
Prediction – With the deck clearly stacked against the Wild with a number of injuries and the Flyers ability to score, this game could get ugly early. Going to be a long night in goal for Harding the likely starter for the Wild…Flyers come away with the victory 5-2.