Flyers and Oilers Duel as Trade Deadline Approaches

Flyers and Oilers Duel as Trade Deadline Approaches

The Flyers left Winnipeg riding high after a dramatic finish, heading straight for the sights, sounds, and of course lurid temptations of western Canada's hedonistic mecca, Edmonton. Hopefully they all made curfew and rested up, because despite the Oilers assuming their customary position near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Flyers could really use a win, regardless of the opponent.

The boys in Orange & Black are very much in prove-it mode, and they could use a few in a row to reverse an overall downward trend and build on the win over the Jets. The Oilers, meanwhile, might consider a name change to the Turmoilers (thank you! be here all week!), as trade rumors encircle talented winger Ales Hemsky again. Hemsky is a friend of Jaromir Jagr, and when talking to the Edmonton News Journal about their plans to meet for dinner last night, the Flyers' Czech star said he hoped Hemsky wasn't traded before then.
As we approach game time (9:30 EST), Hemsky is still scheduled to play for the Oilers tonight. Their top rookie, however, will not.  

The Flyers brandish a dangerous complement of rookie firepower, with Matt Read currently leading NHL rookies in goals, Sean Couturier contributing valuable checking line minutes due to a numbers game ahead of him, and Brayden Schenn now healthy and showing the well-rounded game the team hoped for when trading for him.   

Edmonton used the top pick in last year's draft to select Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but unfortunately for you Beastie Boys fans out there, we won't see The Bryz vs. The Nuge tonight. Dan Tencer, a sports radio host in Edmonton, says RNH will miss his seventh straight game tonight, marking 20 of his last 22 spent on the shelf.

The Oilers are still a decent scoring team, about average at even strength, and very good on the power play (4th overall). Not the best news for a Flyers PK unit that was victimized on each of three Winnipeg man advantages on Tuesday. Maybe the added time with newcomers Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina will pick things up a bit for tonight's matchup.

Edmonton is coming off a huge 6-1 win at Calgary, but they'd lost three in a row and five of six before that. This team can lose in bunches, too. They've had seven different losing streaks of three or more games, three of which were four or more in a row.

Nikolai Khabibulin is another Oiler with his name in some trade rumors, though he too is out tonight with a groin injury. Either Yann Danis or Devan Dubnyk will get the call tonight.

Ilya Bryzgalov wasn't among the Flyers who stepped up to gut out a win in that shinny match against the Jets, and he'll be expected to improve on that tonight, making sure goaltending isn't a reason for a Flyers loss to a team they should certainly beat. His team can do more to help him out, particularly keeping the Oilers PP unit grounded, one way or another.

After seeing their effort on Tuesday, we're pretty excited at tonight's prospects. Will Wayne Simmonds continue to dominate in front of the net? Will the Jagr-Briere duo strike again? Can the PK bind up Edmonton's power play?

Some fun questions heading into what will hopefully be another entertaining game in the western provinces.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp sit

Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, both struggling mightily through the first month of the season, will get Saturday night off when the Phillies take on the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

Joseph is hitting .190 with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 18 games, while Rupp is batting .180 with one homer and 20 strikeouts through 15 games. Last season, Joseph had 21 home runs and Rupp 16.

Brock Stassi will spell Joseph at first base and bat seventh. Andrew Knapp takes over for Rupp behind the plate and will bat eighth.

Daniel Nava also receives a start, playing left field. The first-year Phillie is hitting .346 with a pair of homers and as many walks as strikeouts (seven).

Zach Eflin takes the mound in a meaningful start for the right-hander (see story). He opposes resurgent Dodgers righty Brandon McCarthy (see game notes).

Here are tonight's lineups:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Daniel Nava, LF
7. Brock Stassi, 1B
8. Andrew Knapp, C
9. Zach Eflin, P

Dodgers
1. Andrew Toles, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Yasmani Grandal, C
5. Yasiel Puig, RF
6. Cody Bellinger, LF
7. Chase Utley, 2B
8. Chris Taylor, 3B
9. Brandon McCarthy, P

Eagles draft Washington DT Elijah Qualls with final pick

Eagles draft Washington DT Elijah Qualls with final pick

With their final pick of the 2017 draft, the Eagles selected 6-foot-1, 313-pound Washington defensive tackle Elijah Qualls in the sixth round on Saturday.

He's the second Washington player the Eagles took in this year's draft. They selected injured cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round (see story).

Qualls had 77 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss and 7½ sacks in 30 career games (see bio).

"I for sure stop the run well," Qualls said at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine. "And I'm actually a lot better pass rusher than a lot of people think. Typically a lot of our game plan as far as pass rushing was to keep the quarterback contained, so I really couldn't get after him like I'm capable of.

"I'm not going to say I'm one of the best pass rushers ever or anything like that — I've only been playing defensive line since I got to college. I'm still learning, but I'm a lot better than people do think."

Qualls was actually a running back in high school, but he said he got bored scoring touchdowns.

"I was 260 playing running back in high school," he said. "I had 1,300 rushing yards, though. It honestly became too easy, that's why I switched to defensive line. Scoring touchdowns wasn't exciting to me anymore, it was just something I expected.

"Then my last year, my coach came to me and said, 'Hey, would you be willing to play some defense?' My mindset was that if I played defense, I could get the ball back. So I played some defensive line, middle linebacker. I was recruited at both of those positions.

"I kind of just did a little research project trying to see what the long term was like for both running backs and defensive linemen, and defensive linemen tend to last longer, have less severe injuries, and honestly on average probably make more money, so I decided to be a defensive lineman. Plus I like the challenge."

With Bennie Logan leaving as a free agent, the Eagles have Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Beau Allen and now Qualls in the mix on the interior of the defensive line.

"I feel like I can fit into any scheme," Qualls said. "I can do anything you ask me to, I played everything from zero to outside linebacker, so there's not much I can't do. It's just whether or not someone can accept me being a couple inches shorter than the person they prefer playing there.

"But I'm stronger than a lot of people, and my football intelligence is top notch."