Four Flyers to watch in exhibition clash with Penguins

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Today’s the day. Hockey is finally back. The Philadelphia Flyers are set for a clash with their most bitter rival at 4PM EST. While it may be a scrimmage, here are four Flyers to watch when the puck drops.

Derek Grant

Acquired in a late trade with Anaheim, Derek Grant didn’t take long to make his presence felt for the Flyers. He rallied to 5 points in 7 games, averaging 14 minutes of ice-time per night – a 5 minute boost to what he was seeing in Anaheim.

Grant had played in 49 games prior to the trade that season, tallying 20 points and scoring four game-winning goals. After being traded out of the blue, Grant jumped into a Flyers jersey and notched a streak of 3 consecutive games with at least 1 point scored.

The Flyers will need someone who can start fast and set the tone for when they play their round-robin games. Grant is no stranger to being dropped into the unknown and thriving and if he can provide a spark against the Pens, there’s a good chance he can when the play-ins begin.

Carter Hart

On Monday, Flyers Head Coach Alain Vigneault revealed his plans for his goaltenders:

Both goaltenders are going to split the game. Carter’s going to start and Brian will finish. I think Carter will go the first two periods and Brian will go the last period.

The great news here is that Carter Hart will not only see the ice, but play a substantial portion of the game after being pulled from a practice exactly one week ago today due to back spasms. As far as Flyers to watch go, all eyes will be glued on the wonderkid.

There’s a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a 21-year-old goalie who is no stranger to succeeding on neutral ice. Hart amassed a stunning .914 save percentage in his first full season, ranking 10th overall in wins, while his sensational 20-3-2 record at home turned heads everywhere. Without the Flyers’ faithful to cheer him on though, his record is 4-10-1. The experience against Pittsburgh will be pivotal in helping him find his rhythm before the pressure ramps up.

James Van Riemsdyk

Prior to the NHL suspension, JVR had 40 points in 66 games for Philadelphia. What’s interesting though is that he’s always been a player who heats up as time goes on. It took him eight games to register his first point. If you take those away from the 66 played in, 40 points in 58 games sounds even better, right? When you factor in his +5 rating season (the second-best of his career),

The Flyers will need JVR firing on all cylinders as soon as possible. After he broke his finger back on March 4th, it was assumed the team would be without him for their playoff run. If every cloud has a silver lining, the return of JVR, who has just become a Father, is absolutely it for the Flyers.

This exhibition game will be the perfect opportunity for him to get back into the groove he was in prior to that injury and of course the extended break.

Fun side note: JVR has 23 points in 32 career games against the Penguins. If that strong form can continue, he should be back up to speed in no time.

Egor Zamula

Perhaps the most interesting of the Flyers to watch tomorrow also happens to be the youngest. Former UDFA Egor Zamula was a surprise addition to the team’s playoff roster and after a strong Training Camp, looks to have earned the nod from AV.

We are going to dress Friedman and Ghost tomorrow, and Z on D. We’re allowed to dress 7 D. I’m going to keep the 13 forwards I’ve been using here throughout these last few days of camp in lineup. I envision this being a normal exhibition game in the sense spread out almost equal ice time 5-on-5 and depending on the specialty teams that you have. Certain guys get to play power play. Certain guys get to play penalty killing. It’s a first game in a long time. We’ll try and spend the minutes out.

Zamula amassed 28 points and a +19 rating in 28 games for the Calgary Hitman (WHL) last season. The 6’3, 172 lbs, defenseman has all the traits Alain Vigneault covets and after shining at every rink he’s skated on, he’ll have a chance to prove he’s ready to hang with the big boys. For those taking notes, he’ll be wearing #54. Keep your eyes peeled.

Photo Credit: Alex Mcintyre