Game 59 Preview: Laviolette returns as Flyers host Nashville



Photo courtesy of Kate Frese

The Philadelphia Flyers (24-23-11) welcome their former head coach to the Wells Fargo Center when they host the NHL leading Nashville Predators (39-13-6) this afternoon. This is the second of two meetings between the teams and lone game in Philadelphia. Game time is 1:00.

The game is the first game back in Philadelphia for former head coach Peter Laviolette. He was let go after just three games last season and replaced by current coach Craig Berube. Laviolette led the Flyers to the playoffs in each of his first three season, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals following the 2009-10 season.

The Flyers are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. It marked the end of a disappointing stretch of four games against teams below them in the standings. The Flyers earned just four out of eight points.

In response to the teams poor play of late, Berube shook things up at practice yesterday. The coach switched three of four line combinations and one defense pair. The biggest of which was the splitting up of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. 

The two have played together since the start of the 2012-2013 season. Voracek switched places Wayne Simmonds and was on the wing with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. Simmonds moved up on the line with Giroux and Michael Raffl.

It also appears Vincent Lecavalier will sitting out today as Zac Rinaldo was put on a line with Chris VandeVelde and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Rinaldo will be playing in his first game since serving his eight game suspension for boarding Penguins defenseman Kris Letang back on January 20th.

Luke Schenn will be replaced in the lineup by Andrew MacDonald. MacDonald has been a healthy scratch since missing a game for a family funeral. 

Nashville enters the game coming off a tough 5-2 loss in Long Island on Thursday. The Islanders jumped out to an early 3-0 first period lead and never looked back. 

Overall, Nashville has been near or at the top of both the Central Division and NHL standings all season. Their 84 points are five better than both Montreal and the Islanders and they are six points clear of St. Louis in the division.

Despite missing time due to injury, Pekka Rinne has been outstanding. His 34 wins leads the league. He sits second to Carey Price in both goals against average and save percentage. A solid finish to the season could land Rinne not just the Vezina but possibly the Hart as MVP.

Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with 51 points. James Neal's 21 goals are tops while Mike Ribeiro leads the team with 38 assists.  It has been a balanced scoring attack for Nashville all season as eight players are in double digits in goals. 

Game Notes

  • Power Play: Flyers (4th, 2nd at home), Predators (17th, 8th on road) 
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (28th, 21st at home), Predators (14th, 18th on road) 
  • Wayne Simmonds is looking to extend his point streak to a career high seven games

Flyers scratches: Steve Mason, Luke Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier, Carlo Colaiacovo

Flyers Projected Lineup

Line 1:  Michael Raffl-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds
Line 2: R. J. Umberger-Brayden Schenn-Ryan White
Line 3: Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Line 4:Chris VandeVeldePierre-Edouard Bellemare-Zac Rinaldo

D-Pair 1: Nick Schultz-Mark Streit
D-Pair 2: Michael Del Zotto -Braydon Coburn
D-Pair 3:Nicklas Grossmann-Andrew MacDonald

Goalie: Ray Emery

Where to Watch
TV: CSN Philly
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic 

Bill Minchin is a contributing writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow Bill on Twitter @wtfd103074