By all rights, the Philadelphia Flyers should be angry and amped for tonight. They're coming off a humiliating weekend -- both on the scoreboard, losing twice to divisional rivals, and in the intimidation department, where they resorted to slew foots, hair pulls, and rookie Brayden Schenn getting sat down by Ilya Kovalchuk.
In come the comparatively pacifist Islanders. Antidote, or...?
Islanders (21-22-8, 12th/E) @ Flyers (30-16-6, 3rd/E)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+ (sans TWC) | Audio: NHL - WRHU
[Fort Someday Win] Center
Two Losses, No Problem: Broad Street Hockey
Ironically none of this season's previous three meetings has played out like any kind of thugfest. The Flyers have dressed Zac Rinaldo once, Jody Shelley once, and neither in the middle game. (Tom Sestito, the hair puller, is their clown of the moment.) With each team winning one in regulation and the Flyers taking the first one in OT, penalties have been light and the only fight was between Claude Giroux and Dylan Reese.
Though intense, it seems these teams are intent to avoid the '80s gong shows and go at it with hockey sticks still in hand. If that changes tonight, it's likely due to humiliation hangover on the Flyers' part.
Possibly more burning issues for the Flyers:
When asked what the difference was against the Rangers, Kimmo Timonen said: "The goalie. [...] We can do a couple of things better, but when they break down, their goalie makes saves."
So there's that issue, which is as old as Ron Hextall's rookie card and as tired as a cutesy Jay Greenberg simile.
There's also the health of concussed Danny Briere, who was to decide this morning whether he was good to return to the lineup tonight. As much as Islanders fans (understandably) dislike Briere and his hook-and-dive-and-fear-the-Frans routine, he is a big part of the mix and has 35 points (17-18) in 38 career games against the Islanders.
On the Islanders' side are their own health issues, with Travis Hamonic out for two weeks with a broken nose and P.A. Parenteau at best a sickness concern if he's even deemed fit to play today. [Note: In our zeitgeist series we entertained alternative theories.]
Hamonic's departure means the recall and likely NHL debut of Aaron Ness. The knee-jerk response is to fear Ness' small frame against preying big Flyers bodies, but of course Ness has made it this far -- and if he is to make it any farther -- in part by figuring how to use his mobility to elude and deflect big predators. No easy test, but a good test.
The bigger issue is that no matter what Ness brings, Hamonic's absence is a massive loss. Worse if Parenteau joins him in street clothes. A scenario in which Briere returns, the Flyers are refocused and the Isles are without Hamonic and Parenteau is not a pretty one. You'd have to hope for a goalie collapse.
Updates from Morning Skate: Ness will pair with Mark Eaton, Evgeni Nabokov starts, forwards (presumably including Parenteau) stay the same. Briere is indeed returning for the Flyers.
- Bridgeport chat: Today at 1:30 p.m. EST
- In which Kevin Poulin notices he made the top 10 saves of the week.
- Ness will never forget that Super Bowl, thanks to getting the call to the show.
- Newsday has a little more of Jack Capuano on Ness: "a guy that can move the puck; he's got quick feet, he can skate, so hopefully he can jump into the play and give us a little of a four-man attack."
- And the Isles have some happy-happy Brock Nelson action. All positive signs in Nelson's second year.
- Flyers owner and Comcast kingpin Ed Snider is part of a group interested in buying up the surviving Philly newspapers, which -- shock -- a hedge fund could not figure out how to both pillage and make profitable at the same time. It's purely out of civic altruism, I assure you.
- Interesting NHL economics post to keep in mind when dismissing Charles Wang and his low-revenue situation as cheap: "At this point, the salary cap is too high for most franchises to operate at a profit. These teams will either have to start reducing their salary cap, or increase their revenue so they’re operating at a profit."
- I'm sure all it took was a chat with dad for Sam Gagner to break out.
- Great Q&A with Howard Baldwin, once (and future?) Hartford Whalers owner.
Brooklyn Watch Party Tonight
A reminder from this site's Facebook wall:
Islanders Fans in Brooklyn wrote: “Gamewatch is set for tonight in Brooklyn – we will be on the second floor of Machavelle. Address is 602 Pacific Street, right across from Barclay’s Center.”
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight in this thread.