Gameday: Flyers at Devils (2/15/13)

Flyers-Devils

The Flyers and Devils meet up again in what’s sure to be a physical, nasty game.

Who:  Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Media: TV – MSG+ (Channel listings); RadioWFAN (660 AM or 101.9 FM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • Combined with their six-game winning streak to close out the 2011-12 schedule, the Devils are 14-2-3 in their last 19 regular season contests.
  • LW Alexei Ponikarovsky, who was re-acquired in a trade from Winnipeg on Wednesday, also made his Devils debut vs. Philadelphia last season. Ponikarovsky was traded to New Jersey from Carolina on January 20, scored the Devils’ only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Flyers the following day. He will become the 23rd player to be re-acquired and play for New Jersey.
  • Ponikarovsky’s only goal of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs came was the overtime game winner in game three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Philadelphia.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk has points in four consecutive games (3g-3a-6pts).
  • Kovalchuk had 1g-1a in the first meeting between the teams on January 22 after posting 4g-11a-15pts in 10 combined regular/post-season games vs. Philadelphia last year.
  • Kovalchuk is also just four points away from reaching the 800 mark in his NHL career.
  • Patrik Elias is tied for fifth in the NHL with 12 assists and has 1g-7a-8pts in his last five games.
  • Marek Zidlicky has points in back-to-back games (2a).
  • Bobby Butler could appear in his 100th career NHL game tonight.
  • New Jersey is 8/26 (30.8 %) on the power play over the past six games.

Expected Lineups

Forwards                                                              Defense                                                      Goalie
Ponikarovsky-Zajac-Kovalchuk                           Salvador-Fayne                                              Brodeur
Elias-Henrique-Clarkson                                    Greene-Larsson
Carter-Gionta-Bernier                                        Volchenkov-Zidlicky
Barch-Josefson-Butler

Inactives: Harrold, Tallinder, Matteau

New faces in the crowd: What should we expect from Alexei Ponikarovsky in his first game since rejoining the Devils? Obviously, a hat trick, two assists and seven hits, including one bone-crunching check on Claude Giroux, right? Kidding — sort of. Most likely, Poni will play a physical game, while manning Dainius Zubrus’ old spot on the first line. I wouldn’t be shocked if he picked up an assist on a Kovy goal at some point tonight. Heck, who knows, maybe his arrival will spark something in Zajac and that whole first line will carry the Devils for the first time this season. More importantly, I’m expecting him to look like he’s been skating with the Devils all season and play sound, solid “Devils hockey.” Meanwhile, the Flyers have their own new (old) face in the lineup tonight that didn’t play the last time these two met in Danny Briere. Although Briere has yet to light up the score sheet (four points in 10 games), he provides the Flyers with more scoring depth down the middle than they had earlier in the season. Briere is an extremely gifted playmaker and a key part of their power-play unit, which leads me to my next point.

Don’t be special: Special teams cost the Devils big time Tuesday night. The players and the coaches admitted as much afterward. There were lazy, untimely penalties by Andy Greene and David Clarkson late in the third period and a power play that seemed to regress after an early conversion. Obviously that has to be better on most nights, but in particular against a team likely the Flyers that has struggled to score goals this season (T-21st). Now, the Flyers have yet to ice the dynamic power play they had last season, but they remain incredibly talented. Anytime you can put Briere and Giroux on the ice at the same time the other team has to take notice. Add in the strong start of Jakub Voracek and the Flyers have all the looks of a dangerous team that has yet to break out offensively. The last thing you want to do with a team like that is give them the man advantage five, six or seven times in a game. The Devils must be more disciplined tonight and they must at least be effective at generating pressure and maintaining momentum while on the power play.

Payback (minus Mel Gibson): The last time the Devils and Flyers met, Philly wasn’t just outplayed, they were outclassed. The Devils spoke after the game about how Philly looked and played frustrated. The Devils scored twice early and the Flyers completely melted down. The game got very chippy, there were a few unnecessary scraps in the third period and it was clear the Devils had got under the Flyers’ skin. I didn’t expect the Flyers to forget it then and I don’t now. The Flyers will play a physical, bordering-on-dirty game and will try to get the Devils out of their comfort zone early. Even though Scott Hartnell isn’t playing, I expect a lot of early hits from Philly as they come out and try to set the tone. I wouldn’t be shocked if Krys Barch ends up going toe-to-toe with Zac Rinaldo at some point in the first period, either. If the game gets out of hand in the later stages, watch out. Just like last time, it’ll get chippy and the Flyers will likely start trying to exact physical punishment instead of playing out the string.

G needs a G: Giroux, the man affectionately known as “G,” has scored one goal since scoring once in each of the Flyers’ first two games. Sound familiar? Much like the Devils went through with Kovy, the Flyers are waiting for their best player to start playing like it. Is it the captain’s “C” that’s weighing him down? Or does he miss his buddy Jaromir Jagr, who left to sign for way too much money in Dallas? It’s probably a mix of both and it doesn’t help that his other line partner, Hartnell, is on the shelf at the moment. Unfortunately for Giroux, the Devils are the wrong team for a star player to be looking to score on. The Devils have made a lot of their bones thus far this season by keeping opposing stars off the board. Rick Nash, John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos have all been silent for long stretches against Martin Brodeur and the Devils this season. I expect Giroux will try to change that trend early tonight, charging the net and testing Brodeur before Marty can settle into a groove. If the Devils can survive the early barrage and manage to keep Giroux in check, it’s a pretty good bet they win this game.