Flyers Face Off Against Atlantic Division- and Eastern Conference-Leading Devils

Flyers Face Off Against Atlantic Division- and Eastern Conference-Leading Devils

You often have to wonder how the New Jersey Devils do it. Their
goaltender is 40, and their best player departed during free agency, yet the 2012
Stanley Cup Finalists rarely show signs of slowing down. With 19 points and an
8-2-3 record, the Devils sit atop the Eastern Conference once again.

It’s early, but New Jersey seems to be getting along just
fine without Zach Parise so far. The trio of David Clarkson, Patrick Elias, and
Ilya Kovalchuk have been able to shoulder the load just fine, with Clarkson in
particular breaking out for nine goals already – tied for fourth in the NHL.
And Martin Brodeur just keeps on ticking for the Devils in net, off to a 6-2-2
start.

We already know they can still shut down the Flyers. In the
third game of the season back on January 22, New Jersey blanked Philadelphia
3-0 in Newark, a losing effort that cost the team Scott Hartnell. The Flyers
dominated much of the first period, but were still trailing by two goals when
it was over, and Brodeur shut the door from there.

Marty stopped 24 shots, while the Devils got two of their
three scores from Clarkson and Kovalchuk.

It would be fair to say they’ve had the Flyers’ number going
back to the playoffs last season. Philly stole game one of the Eastern
Conference semis in overtime, then proceeded to flat-line for the remainder of
the series, dropping the next four in what amounted to an extended sweep of
sorts.

The problem of late has been their inability to sustain and
sometimes even generate offensive chances against New Jersey’s backcheck. The
Flyers averaged 2.2 goals per game against the Devils last postseason, and
obviously they were shutout in their first encounter in 2013.

That theme could continue on Friday night. Philadelphia is
tied for 21st in goals per game (2.49) and ranks 20th in power-play percentage
(16.9%), while New Jersey is tied for fifth in goals against average (2.08) and
eighth in penalty killing (84.1%).

The offense has shown some signs of improvement, as it looks
like Peter Laviolette may have found a solid combination in the tandem of Jakub
Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and Tye McGinn. We’ll see if the young guns can keep
up the pressure against a gritty division rival.

In other words, we may need another stellar performance out
of Ilya Byrzgalov to carry the Orange & Black, although they could get a little help should Sean Couturier return from a touch of the flu. Puck drops at 7 p.m. as the
Flyers search for their second win of their season-long six-game road trip.

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Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year, but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Peterson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much. 

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star for Toronto last season when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP

Rockies
1. Charlie Blackmon CF
2. D.J. LeMehiau 2B
3. Nolan Arenado 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez RF
5. Mark  Reynolds 1B
6. Gerardo Parra LF
7. Alexi Amarista SS
8. Tony Wolters C
9. Jeff Hoffman SP