Flyers to Host the Suddenly Powerhouse Nashville Predators

Flyers to Host the Suddenly Powerhouse Nashville Predators

Let's face it: more than a decade after the Predators' inaugural season, the words "Nashville" and "hockey" still don't make a ton of sense. Add in those mustard yellow jerseys and it becomes increasingly difficult not to ask the, "So is this really the same league with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs and Canadiens?" question.

But yes, apparently it is, because the Nashville Predators are outplaying and outscoring just about everyone right now.

Tied with Vancouver for the second most points in the Western Conference (66), Nashville is a remarkable 13-2-0 in their last 15 games.

And according to CSNPhilly's Tim Panaccio and Sarah Baiker, things aren't going to bode well for the Flyers should they surrender the first goal this evening:

Perhaps even more daunting for the Flyers, who are notoriously s-l-o-w starters at home this season, Nashville’s record says much when it scores first – 21-2-3.

Allow the Preds the first goal tonight, and well, the Flyers will likely finish 0-2 against them this season.

The first loss to which they're referring came just 19 days ago when the Flyers were downed 4-2 in Nashville. Goaltender Pekka Rinne turned aside 28 of the Flyers 30 shots in the Predators win, a game that no doubt helped him record his brilliant 1.92 GAA and .935 SV% in the month of January. Thankfully for the Flyers, Rinne will not be in goal this evening.  Rather, the Flyers will attempt to do damage against backup netminder Anders Lindback, who will be making just his sixth start of the season. In an e-mail earlier this afternoon, our own Matt P. labeled this turn of events as "good."

As for the Flyers, Ilya Bryzgalov will continue his quest to right the ship with his second straight post-All Star start this evening.

On the injury front, both Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk were held out of practice yesterday and remain sidelined indefinitely with concussions. Forward Zac Rinaldo, meanwhile, has been cleared to play, necessitating Ben Holmstrom's re-shipping to Adirondack.

Of note, after Tuesday's OT loss to Winnipeg, the Flyers are just 11-7-4 at home this year (so, functionally 11-11) as compared to 18-7-2 on the road. They have dropped their last three straight at the Wells Fargo Center. Can the Orange & Black give the people something to cheer about tonight, or is the pressure of sending the fans home happy perhaps getting to this young team?

Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. Video of coach Peter Laviolette discussing tonight's matchup and Danny Briere on his head injury below:

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

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Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.