Flyers/Avalanche Preview: Injuries, Superstars, and Hot Goalies

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The Philadelphia Flyers kick off their three-game stretch against Western Conference foes Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are 19-8-3, good for second in the Central Division of the Western Conference. The Flyers come in with a 17-8-5 record, tied for third in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference with Carolina, but with a game in hand.

The Flyers hold the edge over the Avs in terms of overall record against each other (41-27-14-6), and hold a record of 5-3-2 over the last 10 games against Colorado. Colorado is in the midst of a seven-game point streak, winning six of the last seven. Much like the Avs, the Flyers have won six of their last seven as well.

Injury Bug Biting Hard

Colorado appears to be without stud rookie Cale Makar. Makar sustained an upper-body injury in the Avs’ game against Boston, taking a check behind the net from Brad Marchand. The official injury report is “day-to-day.”

While Makar practiced today in a red, no contact jersey, forward Nazem Kadri returned in full capacity, and is hoping to make his return to the lineup against the Flyers. Kadri has missed three games with a lower-body injury.

The Flyers will be without their points leader Travis Konecny for the foreseeable future. He’s out indefinitely with a concussion he sustained against Ottawa Saturday afternoon. Joining him in the press box is defenseman Philippe Myers.

Myers practiced Tuesday afternoon, but didn’t last very long due to his back spasms. Unlike Konecny, Myers will be on the three-game Western Conference trip, so he may be available for the slate of games this weekend.

Not-So-Special Teams

The Flyers powerplay has been floundering. They are one for 13 in their last five games and three for 27 in their last 10. Sitting at 19th on the season with an effectiveness of 18.1%, something’s got to give. The Avalanche penalty kill is in the same boat. With a kill rate of 78.6%, the Avs sit at 21st in the league. If there were a time for the Flyers to get their powerplay going, Wednesday night is the night.

Colorado’s powerplay is the definition of “middle of the road.” They are 16th in the NHL with a rate of 18.8%. The Flyers, on the other hand, have a stellar penalty kill that is tied for fifth in the league at 84.7%. Special teams edge should go the Flyers way, but will be tough to gauge with the injuries as well.

Dueling Netminders

Philipp Grubauer is set to go for the Avalanche. The former Stanley Cup champion is 10-5-2 on the year with a 2.76 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Carter Hart gets the nod for the Flyers. His record stands very similar to Grubauer’s at 10-5-3, with a 2.39 goals against and .909 save percentage.

Over his last three starts, Grubauer has been phenomenal. With a .943 save percentage and 1.67 goals against, markers will be hard to come by for the Flyers. On the flip side, Carter Hart has won his last four starts, while accumulating a .944 save percentage and 1.51 goals against.

Dueling goalies may end up being the theme in Colorado. Each gives their team a respective edge, it may come down to which offense can crack the opposing goalie first.

Other Tidbits

Tyler Pitlick looks to join Morgan Frost and Claude Giroux on the top line in Konecny’s absence. According to Bill Meltzer, Alain Vigneault’s rational was just this:

“It had to do with two things: balance of the lines and comfort of the position. There’s no doubt that Tyler has been playing well and working extremely hard. But JVR has also been playing hard. So that’s where my dilemma was.”

Chris Stewart suits up for the first time since November 16 and just the tenth time this year. Given how thin the Flyers have suddenly become, and their position in regards to the cap, this move makes sense.

The Colorado Avalanche are 8-3-2 at home this year, while the Flyers are 7-6-1 on the road. Take that as you may.

Puck drop is slated for 9:30 P.M. EST from the Pepsi Center in Denver Colorado. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports.

Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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