With the annual end-of-year west coast road trip wrapped up, the Flyers return to home ice for the first time in 2022 when they host the Penguins.
Since these teams last met (November 4), it’s safe to say an abundance has changed for both the Flyers and Penguins. There’s been a coaching change, an embarrassing losing streak, *very* small glimmers of hope, losing your franchise goaltender to illness (both COVID and non-COVID related) for a decent amount of time, a subpar west coast road trip (though we’ve seen worst in the past) … and the Penguins … well, they found their way back to being one of the most productive teams in the league. Go figure.
The Penguins will be looking for their 10th consecutive win and will show no remorse against a watered down Flyers roster.
Is there anyone left?
Even though COVID-19 protocols have been in place since the start of the season, the recent spike in cases have made it a revolving door for the Flyers’ roster.
The Flyers recalled defenseman Egor Zamula and forward Connor Bunnaman from the Phantoms and will draw into the lineup tonight. Derick Brassard also returned to practice for the first time in a few weeks and is expected to play against the Penguins.
Between injuries and COVID protocols, this is becoming a very Phantoms-heavy roster. Here is everyone that remains unavailable for Thursday night:
There is a small piece of good news though, per interim head coach Mike Yeo. Those who tested positive during the road trip are traveling home today.
“We were able to get them back, and get them back safely,” said Yeo. “I’ll say that none of them have any symptoms — at least last I talked to them. I haven’t talked to anybody today, but my last conversation with them was they’re all symptom free.”
It won’t be easy
There’s no way to sugar coat things heading into this matchup. The Penguins have been playing very well recently, while the Flyers have been rather subpar. It’s difficult to get an accurate read on the current team, due to the amount of players that are currently out, but the puck will still drop, two points will still be rewarded, and the Flyers will have to make do with what they have.
It won’t be easy — and Yeo is well aware of that.
“The bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity,” said Yeo following Thursday’s morning skate.
In addition to the Flyers roster struggles, the Penguins have also hit quite a stride.
Through the past 10 games, the Penguins are 9-0-1 — their last loss dating back to just over one month ago. Even though they’re on the back end of a back-to-back, expect them to come out strong.
Divisional matchups are always important, especially when the teams are next to one another in the standings. The Penguins are currently fourth in the Metropolitan division, while the Flyers are fifth — however, they couldn’t be further apart. The Flyers sit 11 points back from the Penguins and while it’s not a gap that can be cut overnight, it definitely does not need to get any bigger.
Farabee — Laughton — Atkinson
Brassard — Frost — van Riemsdyk
Bunnaman — Hayes — Willman
Lindblom — Brown — MacEwen
York — Braun
Zamula — Ristolainen
Yandle — Connauton
How to watch
Tonight’s game is streaming exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu. For more information on how to watch, click here.
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. EST.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre