The Philadelphia Flyers (9-4-3) are set to face the Buffalo Sabres (6-8-3) in a Saturday afternoon matinee at KeyBank Center in Buffalo in the first of a two-game set this weekend. Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Where They Stand
Philadelphia recovered from a blowout loss outdoors at Lake Tahoe last weekend and picked up 2 points in a 4-3 regulation victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday. The Flyers are 1-1-1 since resuming play after 11 days of paused activity due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19.
The Sabres sit at the bottom of the East Division after a shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Buffalo has struggled to find their footing recently, going 2-4-1 since returning from a 14-day pause of their own on February 15th.
Storyline to Watch- Beat an Inferior Team
Philadelphia will continue to gain reinforcements in the lineup. Captain Claude Giroux returned from a 2 game absence emphatically on Wednesday night, notching 3 assists and consistently driving offensive pressure in his best effort of the season. Jake Voracek, Scott Laughton, and Oskar Lindblom are also expected to return Saturday after being removed from the COVID protocol list.
A recovered Flyers roster indisputably outmatches the Sabres. Buffalo has accumulated 10 of their 15 points this season in 7 games against the Devils and Rangers, two teams projected to finish at the bottom of the East, while earning only 5 points in 10 games against their other 5 opponents, all considered legitimate playoff contenders.
The Flyers have failed to gain rhythm early in the season due to a 10 game absence from Sean Couturier, the difficulties resulting from the COVID outbreak, and generally inconsistent play. The Flyers need to find that rhythm during the upcoming stretch of 19 games in 33 days with no consecutive off-days in the month of March, and they can start by dominating an inferior opponent this weekend.
The span from 1997-2011 that featured 6 playoff series between the Flyers and Sabres is long gone, as the Sabres have now missed the playoffs in 9 consecutive seasons. Flyers fans should expect their team to come away with 4 points in Buffalo this weekend and avoid another effort like the 6-1 blowout at the hands of the Sabres on January 18th.
Players to Watch
Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk continues to lead the team in scoring, now with 22 points in 16 games, and Broad Street Buzz will continue to laud him as long as he keeps it up. JVR has developed chemistry with Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee, and he has been integral in the improvement of the Flyers power play. He is second in the NHL with 7 PPG.
The Flyers also hope Laughton, Voracek, and Lindblom will come out as hungry as Claude Giroux did in his return from the COVID protocol list.
Sabres captain Jack Eichel is questionable after missing Thursday’s game against the Devils. Whether or not Eichel plays, the Flyers will also have to keep an eye on Victor Olofsson. The 25-year-old Swedish winger is having a breakout season, leading the team in points with 15. Olofsson is particularly dangerous with the man advantage. He was tied for third in the NHL with 12 power-play points entering play Friday.
The Buffalo power play has generated the majority of their offense, converting at an NHL best 34.5% early in the season. The Flyers penalty kill struggled on Wednesday, allowing 2 PPG to a Rangers unit that was 2 for its previous 24 entering the contest. The Flyers were unable to contain New York’s Chris Kreider, and they cannot make the same mistake against Olafsson.
Projected Flyers Line-up
van Riemsdyk- Couturier-Farabee
Giroux- Hayes- Patrick
Voracek- Laughton- Lindblom
Raffl- Bunneman- Aube-Kubel
Brian Elliott (starter), Carter Hart (backup)
The Flyers currently sit as favorites at-130 on the Moneyline (odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook).
Remember to check out the Broad Street Buzz Twitter feed (@BroadStreetBuzz) during the game for live updates and Flyers chatter.