It’s been a little over a month since the Flyers and Sabres locked up for another round of good ol’ hockey. Back on November 2nd the Flyers visited Buffalo for the first time since knocking them out of the 2011 playoffs in game 7 of the quarterfinals. Three early goals not only propelled Philadelphia to a 3-2 victory, but Ryan Miller to the bench as well. Just ten days after that game, Miller was drilled by Milan Lucic putting him on the shelf until this past Saturday.
Yes, Miller returned to play and made 32-out of-34 saves in a win over the Nashville Predators. He looked very sharp, almost reminiscent of the Ryan Miller that became the borderline phenom two seasons ago. The Flyers are going to see Miller at full strength tonight, which is exactly what they want.
Remember how sparkling that road record is (9-3-1). This is and for the past five or so years has been a team that has thrived on the road because of the environment. That crowd is going to be raucous tonight. There are few crowds that despise the orange and black more than Sabers fans do. If the Flyers are to silence the crowd at the HSBC arena this is what they are going to have to do:
Keep the power play going – On this brief road trip the power play has been decent (4-13 .33%), but scoring with the man advantage will be difficult to come by tonight. The Sabers are 14th in the league in penalty minutes and 5th in the league in penalty killing. If any one is going to score on the power play tonight expect it to be one of the three from the sparkling first line. Jagr, Giroux, and Hartnell have all scored on the power play as well as on even strength in the last two games.
Survive the rush early Bryz – Just when it looked like we were in store for the latest episode of the backup goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov stopped everything from the seven minute mark in the 2nd period. He was very good (36-for38, .947 SV%), but that was expected because he was getting the chance to play his former team in their building.
I expect the Sabres to come out and be the aggressors early. Last time they came out a little sluggish and the Flyers took full advantage of that, this time most certainly will not be the same. The more shots that you get on Bryzgalov the better because at times it seems like he is unable to pick up the puck on odd angles, which makes him take bad angles at pucks. If you need anymore proof go back to the Islanders game and look at some of the directions he was taking at pucks, head scratching to say the least. He needs to be sharp early and turn the tide of the game if Buffalo comes out hot.
Play like you’re behind – The most fascinating aspect of the Flyers is how more intense they seem to play on the road. It has been something that has been noticeable for about the past half decade or so. When they have to sit and listen to the other team being introduced with the thunderous ovation it motivates this team to not only quiet the crowd, but completely take them out of it. The only thing I can compare it to is when they are down by two goals at home and they begin to make the rally, simply put this team plays its best when they feel like they have their back against the wall.
Case and point last Friday at Anaheim, down three goals and on the road they fought all the way back and took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play to turn the tide of the game. Combine this with the fact that Buffalo has a 4-8-1 record at home and it certainly looks like the Flyers are going to walk into Buffalo with 33 points and walk out with 35.
Note: James van Reimsdyk will be returning to the lineup tonight after missing four games with an upper body injury, look for Harry Zolinierczyk to be a healthy scratch tonight.
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