1. THE SIGNIFICANCE
The Flyers open up a home & home series against the Devils tonight at Newark, and have the opportunity to gain four points in the standings to tie their rival with the possibility of moving into a tie for second place in the Atlantic Division… This is the first and only home & home series against any team this season for the Flyers… Tonight is also the third of five meetings on the year against the Devils and third and final meeting at the Prudential Center in New Jersey… The Flyers are 0-2-0 against the Devils this season and have not lost three straight regular season games against New Jersey since the 2008-09 season (Dec. 4 – Mar. 1).
2. COMING INTO TONIGHT
The Devils have alternated wins and losses in four straight games, but have won their last two home games and will be looking to win three straight on home ice for the first time this season… The Flyers won their last meeting (3-2 vs. Buffalo) and are looking to snap a two-game skid on the road… New Jersey has out-shot its opponent in each of the last seven matches and allowed the first goal in nine of it’s last 10 games… The Flyers have now scored at least two power-play goals in five of their last eight games and at least one PPG in six of their last eight, going 12-for-36 (33.3 percent) in that eight-game span… The Flyers now rank fifth in the NHL on the power play at 23.2 percent.
3. THIS, THAT & THE OTHER
Of the 11 goals scored in the season series thus far, only two have come on the power play with each team scoring once… The Flyers have scored 10 goals in the first minute of regulation periods this season… Ilya Bryzgalov is essentially tied for first in the NHL in minutes played with 1409:58, which is five seconds behind Pekka Rinne of Nashville… He is one of four goaltenders to record 12 or more wins this season and joins Evgeni Nabakov of the Islanders as the only two goaltenders responsible for all of their team’s wins this season… Nicklas Grossmann is leading the league in blocked shots with 77 on the season, and as a team, the Flyers are third in blocks (427).
4. Player to watch FLYERS: Kimmo Timonen – (D) #44
Timonen is averaging the highest point per-game pace in his 14-year NHL career with 19 points (3g-16a) in 27 games so far this season (.70)… He has recorded at least a point in three of his last four games, posting a goal and five assists for six points during that stretch, including two assists in the Flyers’ 3-2 win over Buffalo on Sunday… His 19 points also are currently tied for second in the NHL among defenseman, while his 14 points on the power play are second overall in the NHL among D-men, one point behind Montreal’s Andrei Markov.
5. Player to watch DEVILS: Ilya Kovalchuk – (RW) #17
In the previous two games of the season series with the Flyers, Kovalchuk has five points, posting a goal and four assists to go along with a plus-4 rating… His only goal came while shorthanded… He comes into tonight’s game with a four-game point streak where he has recorded two goals and five points… All-time against the Flyers, Kovalchuk has averaged over a point per-game pace with 48 points (23g-25a) in 47 games.
“We have to start with one. I think it’s a real important week for us… you can’t play both games, you can only play one… We’ll start with one, shift our focus to the one game in New Jersey and then reload when we get back home.”
- Peter Laviolette
With Martin Brodeur out, the New Jersey Devils have mostly struggled. However, two encouraging performances by his backup have them hoping they’re on the verge of turning things around.
The inconsistent Philadelphia Flyers are hoping the same thing after breaking a three-game losing streak their last time out.
New Jersey hosts Philadelphia on Wednesday night in the opener of a home-and-home series, with the Devils looking to extend their recent domination of the series.
New Jersey (12-9-5) has lost seven of nine since Brodeur began to suffer from back soreness during warmups Feb. 24. They’ve yielded 3.8 goals per game in that stretch compared to 2.2 in the first 17 – 13 of which were played in by Brodeur.
Johan Hedberg has gotten the majority of work in Brodeur’s absence and has had his issues, posting an .855 save percentage in eight starts since the injury and getting pulled twice in that span.
He’s been better of late, however, helping his team to 3-2 shootout victories in two of the last three games. He’s stopped 46 of 50 shots in those contests and denied all three shootout attempts in a win over Winnipeg on Sunday.
“I had to bounce back,” said Hedberg, who was pulled from a 6-3 loss to Carolina on Saturday after giving up five goals on 18 shots. “There’s no time for getting down and feeling sorry for yourself. I had to get back out there. I really needed this, and maybe now I can put a few games together.”
The Devils badly need that with Brodeur apparently nowhere near being ready to play. He skated Tuesday for the first time since getting hurt, but there’s no timetable for his return.
“It’s part of his rehab to get strength,” team president Lou Lamoriello told the team’s official website. “He’s been off the ice quite awhile now. It’s still going to be a little bit. As to (when), I couldn’t even tell you, or how long.”
The Flyers (12-14-1) will be glad not to see Brodeur, who beat them 3-0 Jan. 22. They snapped their third three-game skid of the season Sunday with a 3-2 home win over Buffalo, but the club still has major issues.
Philadelphia is among the most penalized teams in the NHL, having been short-handed 108 times, and like New Jersey has had problems with its goaltending as Ilya Bryzgalov has struggled.
The Flyers, whose 82 goals allowed are among the most in the league, are tied with the Islanders for last place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
“It doesn’t take much to understand what’s going on,” forward Simon Gagne said. “You look at the standings, and I think everyone came to the locker room today and looked at where we were at and how many games we have left. I’m not good at math but if you look at it we have to win games right now.”
They haven’t done much of that against the Devils recently, dropping four of five and seven of the last 10 meetings, including two in New Jersey this season.
Philadelphia will need to slow down Ilya Kovalchuk, who has four points in the season series and 13 in his last seven matchups with the Flyers. Kovalchuk has two goals and three assists during an overall four-game point streak.