Game 35 Preview: Facing off against Laviolette

The league-mandated three-day holiday break has come to an end, with the Flyers reaching the halfway point of their eight-game road swing on Saturday in Nashville — taking on the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Both teams will meet for the first of two games this season, with the second coming on Feb. 21 at Wells Fargo Center.
This isn't just any regular matchup between the Flyers and Preds. The Flyers will take on Peter Laviolette — just the second coach in the team's 16-season history — for the first time since his unceremonious dismissal on Oct. 7 of last year. You may remember Craig Berube as Laviolette's right-hand man during his tenure behind the Flyers' bench, and they will now face each other for the first time.

The Orange and Black (14-14-6) have been idle since Tuesday, following their 5-2 win over Minnesota. The Predators (22-9-2) last played on Tuesday as well, losing to Boston, 5-3.
All-time, the Flyers are 8-3-3-4 against the Predators (with the third and fourth columns representing ties and overtime losses, respectively). In eight games at Bridgestone Arena (also known as the Sommet Center, Gaylord Entertainment Center and Nashville Arena), the Flyers are 3-1-2-2, with their last win in the Music City coming on Nov. 30, 2013. The Flyers currently sit at fifth in the Metropolitan Division with 34 points, and are six points behind the New York Rangers for the division's third playoff spot.
Leading the way offensively for the Winged P is the top-line duo of Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. Voracek's 46 points place him at tops in the NHL, while Giroux's 41 points tie him with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for third in the league. Three more Flyers — Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Mark Streit — have 20-or-more points (24, 23 and 22, respectively). Additionally, Sean Couturier has recorded 10 points in his last 11 games, including two goals three points on the team's current road trip.
Ray Emery is tabbed to start for the second-consecutive game, after a 22-save effort against the Wild on Tuesday. In 13 games this season, Emery is 7-4-1 with a 3.04 GAA and .896 save percentage.
With 46 points, the Predators sit at second in the Central Division — two points behind Chicago. They're led on offense by rookie Filip Forsberg. In 33 games this season, 'Prince Filip' has made a strong case for the Calder Memorial Trophy with 13 goals and 32 points — good enough to lead all rookies in the league. Mike Ribeiro isn't far behind, with nine goals and 28 points. Shea Weber — a three-time Norris Trophy finalist in the past four seasons — also has six goals and 22 points, and will be the subject of a bobblehead giveaway to fans at tonight's game.
Pekka Rinne will make his 30th start between the pipes for the Preds, and his record stands at 22-6-1. His 22 wins lead all netminders in the league, while his 1.84 GAA and .934 SP are both tied for third.
For what it's worth, this will be the first time since March 21, 2000 that a Flyers-Predators matchup won't feature Kimmo Timonen or Scott Hartnell. The Flyers won that game 2-0, with John LeClair and Simon Gagne scoring. Additionally, this will be the Flyers' first game against Laviolette since Nov. 28, 2008. Laviolette's Carolina Hurricanes won that game 3-2 in overtime, which would ultimately be his last win behind their bench — as he was fired less than a week later.
Game Notes:
  • Power Play: Flyers (7th at 22.3 percent, 16th on road at 15.8 percent), Predators (29th at 11.3 percent, 30th at home at 4.3 percent).
  • Penalty Kill: Flyers (27th at 75.9 percent, 29th on road at 69.4 percent), Predators (22nd at 78.6 percent, 18th at home at 82.9 percent).
  • The Flyers and Preds last played on Jan. 16 of last season — a game in which the Predators won in a shootout, 4-3.
  • Milestone Watch: Sean Couturier is one point away from 100 in his career. Nicklas Grossmann is three games away from 500 games played, while Braydon Coburn is three games away from the 600-game plateau. 

Flyers scratches:  Zac Rinaldo, Carlo Coliaicovo, Michael Del Zotto, Steve Mason

Flyers Projected Lineup

Line 1: Michael Raffl-Claude Giroux-Jake Voracek
Line 2: Wayne Simmonds-Scott Laughton-Brayden Schenn
Line 3: R.J. Umberger-Sean Couturier-Matt Read
Line 4: Chris VandeVeldeVincent Lecavalier-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

D-Pair 1: Nicklas Grossmann-Mark Streit
D-Pair 2: Braydon Coburn-Nick Schultz
D-Pair 3: Andrew MacDonald-Luke Schenn

Goalie: Ray Emery

Where to Watch
TV: Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia

Radio: 93.3 WMMR

Rob Riches is a contributor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Riches61.

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