Flyers-Sabres: Game 35 Preview


(Kate Frese/SB Nation) 

The Philadelphia Flyers begin a back-to-back before the holiday break with a trap game against the lowly Sabres in Buffalo tonight.

By Dan Heaning, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The Philadelphia Flyers have two more games before the holiday break. Tonight's contest against the Buffalo Sabres from the Keybank Arena at 7 p.m. is the low-hanging fruit in the team's back-to-back situation.

The lowly Sabres are the worst team in the Eastern Conference and just four points ahead of the Arizona Coyotes for dead last in the NHL. Head coach Phil Housley hasn't been able to increase the offensive output of Jack Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane despite the three leading the team in points.

The Flyers beat these Sabres in Philadelphia eight days ago. However, the game was a lot closer than what the standings would imply. If Philadelphia gift wraps a goal like Brian Elliott did for O'Reilly, Buffalo does have the skill to make the Flyers pay.

This is the game the Flyers will need to capture before getting some time off. Their next contest is against the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the East's best teams, and should prove to be more of a challenge than tonight's tilt.

Team Leaders

Philadelphia Flyers GP G A P Buffalo Sabres GP G A P
Jake Voracek 34 8 34 42 Evander Kane 34 14 17 31
Claude Giroux 34 13 26 39 Jack Eichel 34 11 17 28
Sean Couturier  34 16 15 31 Ryan O'Reilly 34 8 13 21
Shayne Gostisbehere 31 6 20 26 Jason Pominville 34 8 8 16
Wayne Simmonds 34 11 10 21 Kyle Okposo 34 5 9 14


Player to Watch
28 Claude Giroux 15 Jack Eichel
Last 5 Games: 1 G, 6 A, 7 P, +2 Last 5 Games: 3 G, 2 A, 5 P, -5
Claude Giroux absolutely wrecked the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. Of the four goals scored by Philadelphia in that contest, Giroux assisted on three. In fact, in his last five contests, Giroux has registered a point in every one except for the game against the Sabres in Philadelphia. As the offensive catalyst of his line, if the Flyers want to blow this game open tonight, they'll need Giroux  to have a big night which should result a great game for Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds.
Despite earning an astronomical contract in the offseason, Jack Eichel has not hit the next level that the franchise has expected. Eichel recently lit up the Carolina Hurricanes for three goals and four points so he definitely has the skill to make the Flyers pay if they expect a soft night from the former Boston University Terrier. However, for the Sabres, signing an eight-year, $80 million contract after a tremulous offseason when the head coach and general manager were fired after Eichel reportedly wanted Dan Bylsma gone denotes a desperate organization attempting to keep a young player who is not ready to take the reins just yet.
Goalie Matchup
37 Brian Elliott 40 Robin Lehner
13-7-6, 2.67 GAA, .912 SV% 7-14-4, 2.76 GAA, .914 SV%

Brian Elliott appears to be coming back to Earth after two weeks of stellar play. Now would be a good time to rest the goaltender, but with Michal Neuvirth's health still an issue and Alex Lyon the only other option, it may behoove the team to ride Moose into the break. After posting save percentages of .923 or over in five of his last six games, Elliott hasn't seen .900 in two games. Fortunately, Elliott is seeing the worst offensive team in the league tonight so if there's no better team for him to face in order to get his game right.

Despite the Buffalo Sabres woeful season, Robin Lehner has put together a decent season. Of late, Lehner has been great. The Sabres goalie has posted save percentages of .923 and higher in six of his seven games in December. However, season-wise Lehner has not been stellar by any stretch. His save percentage, goals allowed percentage and goals saved above average denote his average play. With a defense as bad as Buffalo's, reaching the average echelon is something of an accomplishment. With 12 Quality Starts and three Really Bad Starts, don't expect Lehner to give the game away early. If Lehner continues his sound play in the net, the Flyers may be facing another close game against the Sabres.

Flyers Projected Lineup

Injuries: Taylor Leier has an upper-body injury and it is unknown if he'll play tonight. Brandon Manning has a hand injury and is expected to miss three to four weeks, Michal Neuvirth is out one to two weeks with a leg injury.

Scratches: Jori Lehtera, Mark Alt (healthy)

Left Wing Center Right Wing
28 Claude Giroux 14 Sean Couturier 17 Wayne Simmonds
12 Michael Raffl 51 Valtteri Filppula 93 Jake Voracek
40 Jordan Weal 19 Nolan Patrick 22 Dale Weise
15 Jori Lehtera 21 Scott Laughton 11 Travis Konecny
9 Ivan Provorov 47 Andrew MacDonald  
8 Robert Hagg 53 Shayne Gostisbehere  
6 Travis Sanheim 3 Radko Gudas  
37 Brian Elliott    

Lineup Notes: With Neuvirth hurt, Alex Lyon will serve as the backup netminder

Sabres Projected Lineup

Injuries: Taylor Fedun is out with a lower-body injury.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
28 Zemgus Girgensons 15 Jack Eichel 23 Sam Reinhart
9 Evander Kane 90 Ryan O'Reilly 21 Kyle Okposo
67 Benoit Pouliot 10 Jacob Josefson 29 Jason Pominville
20 Scott Wilson 22 Johan Larsson 17 Jordan Nolan
6 Marco Scandella 55 Rasmus Ristolainen  
19 Jake McCabe 47 Zach Bogosian  
4 Josh Gorges 82 Nathan Beaulieu  
40 Robin Lehner    

Game Notes

  • Power Play: Flyers (16th, 7th on road), Sabres (30th, 3oth at home)
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (28th, 16th on road), Sabres (11th, 2nd at home)
  • Recent History vs. Sabres
    • Dec. 14, 2017 – Flyers 2, Sabres 1 (in PHI)
    • March 7, 2017 – Flyers 6, Sabres 3 (in BUF)
    • Jan. 10, 2017 – Sabres 4, Flyers 1 (in BUF)
  • Milestone Watch
    • Brian Elliott will play in his 400th game tonight

Where to Watch
TV: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

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