We've just about reached that blue-in-the-face point in the season. With only nine games left, there ain't much to say that hasn't been said already. The quotes coming from the players are the same, as are the outcomes of the games lately. I guess one positive is that they've been more consistent. They're losing with greater regularity now than they had been for a while.
Attempting to unsettle that balance against the Minnesota Wild tonight, Peter Laviolette has again shuffled his lines, only this time it's a more dramatic change:
At least, that's what they were at the morning skate, says Kevin Kurz. (That's two beers, right, KK?)
Other than Richards' 28 goals, there aren't a lot of red lights flashing on that top scoring line. The second has some surface-level potential, and I like Giroux and JVR working together. Either way, I like just about any shakeup Lavvy can throw at this team right now. They just can't frickin score.
Last time we saw the Wild, we were pretty excited that Nik Backstrom wasn't getting the start in net. Sadly, this only meant that we got to see another backup dismantle our scorers, with Anton "The Grill" Khudobin—their third string netminder—getting his first start annnnd a 2-1, 39-save win. No word on opposing the starter for tonight, but even if Backstrom goes, he hasn't beaten the Flyers (0-2).
The Flyers catch a different injury break though, with Minnesota's leading points scorer (Mikko Koivu) out of the lineup. Speaking of leading scorers being out, Jeff Carter will have a screw placed in his foot, and his timetable is not said to have changed.
The Wild are 13th in the Western standings right now, but their point total would be good enough for 9th in the East. They're a dramatic longshot for postseason play (and that's being polite), but that doesn't mean they can't come in here and drag the Flyers down with them. We've seen the Flyers play down to their opponents, and this game has that potential, even though the opponent isn't all that bad. Word is Derek Bbooggaarrdd will play tonight, as half of the book on the Flyers lately has been to goon them up.
The other half—and this is what I'll be watching for tonight—seems to be to collapse the defensive zone and let the Flyers putz around on the perimeter. They're getting some shots off, but there continues to be either no angle or a high percentage of blocks. Has Laviolette's system, which at one point was chasing starting goalies from the crease left and right, been solved? More than likely, I'm oversimplifying a bit, but I don't see any answers to the drought lately.
Bonus: The new headshot rule goes into effect tonight! Read more here.