This Tuesday night in the Bell Centre, it’s time for the Habs to show no brotherly love to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Canadiens hope to extend their modest 2 game home winning streak tonight, while the Flyers hope to continue their 3 game winning string. Recently, the Flyers took a hiatus from their NHL schedule to take part in a 6 day team building exercise at the military academy in West Point. These group drills are similar to what the New York Rangers and a few other NHL teams faced during their training camps.
In their first game back on Saturday night, the Flyers defeated the Maple Leafs in Toronto 5-2. The Flyers top forward line of Peter Forsberg, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble has paid big dividends so far this season. Forsberg, while unable to pot his first goal, has contributed a league leading 12 assists in his team’s first 6 games. His wingers have been the top shooters for their team, with Gagne registering 7 markers and Knuble adding 3 more. This line has combined for an astounding 29 points in 6 games, and they have to be considered one of the league’s best at this point in the season. Former Habs defenseman Eric Desjardins scored a goal and an assist against the Buds, earning the first star selection on Saturday; Forsberg was accorded the second star, and rookie forward Mike Richards, with a short-handed, game winning goal, was listed as the third star. Desjardins is leading his team’s blueliners with 1 goal and 6 assists so far this season. Richards has also been a pleasant surprise as a rookie, with 6 points in 6 games, while playing a consistent 2-way, hustling style.
For the Canadiens to be successful, they will have to focus on neutralizing the Forsberg line, and continue their improved play with the man advantage. Since an earlier struggle, the Habs have scored 6 goals in 22 opportunities over the past 3 games, giving them 27.2% efficiency. This has helped improve their power play rating to 13th overall, with an 18.9% rate. Conversely, their penalty killing has struggled over the past 3 games, allowing 6 goals in 22 chances for 72.8% efficiency. That leaves the team ranked 12th in the league, with an 84.5% penalty killing rating. On the other hand, the Flyers special teams have floundered in both categories, with their power play at a meager 12.8% [24th] and their penalty killing at 76.3% [28th] overall.
Mike Knuble-Peter Forsberg-Simon Gagne
Donald Brashear-Keith Primeau-Branko Radivojevic
Michal Handzus-Mike Richards-Brian Savage
Jonathan Sim-Jeff Carter-Patrick Sharp
Derian Hatcher-Kim Johnsson
Eric Desjardins-Chris Therien
Mike Rathje-Joni Pitkanen
Injuries & Scratches: Sami Kapanen [LW/RW, shoulder injury], Freddy Meyer [D, fractured leg], Ryan Ready [LW, groin], Turner Stevenson [RW, hip], Antero Niittymaki [G, healthy scratch]
Alex Perezhogin-Saku Koivu-Alexei Kovalev
Tomas Plekanec-Mike Ribeiro-Michael Ryder
Jan Bulis-Radek Bonk-Steve Begin
Pierre Dagenais-Chris Higgins-Mathieu Dandenault
Sheldon Souray-Mike Komisarek
Andrei Markov-Craig Rivet
Francis Bouillon-Mark Streit
Goaltending Match up
Injuries & Scratches: Cristobal Huet [G, knee], Raitis Ivanans [LW/RW, fractured orbital], Niklas Sundstrom [LW, groin], Richard Zednik [LW, groin], Yann Danis [G, healthy scratch]
Habs Notebook: The preliminary Team Canada roster for the 2006 Olympics included Habs Jose Theodore, Michael Ryder and Sheldon Souray….Richard Zednik practiced with his teammates on Monday, working with Chris Higgins and Pierre Dagenais to form a new 4th line. He’s unlikely to start against the Flyers, but he may return to the lineup on Thursday or Saturday…..Look for Koivu’s line to match up against Forsberg’s line, as coach Julien attempts to shutdown the Flyers main source of offence. Utilizing the natural Finnish-Swedish rivalry would be an interesting strategic move. Look for Bonk’s checking line to see ice time against Forsberg, Gagne & Knuble.
Flyers Rumblings: The preliminary Team Canada roster for the 2006 Olympics included Flyers Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Eric Desjardins, Simon Gagne, Keith Primeau….Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock mentioned that the Habs are the best team the Flyers will have faced this season.
The Week Ahead:
Thursday: Montreal @ Ottawa, 7:30pm
Saturday: NY Rangers @ Montreal, 7:00pm