And We're Back G-Line Dominates Hurricanes, Bryzgalov Nearly Perfect

And We're Back G-Line Dominates Hurricanes, Bryzgalov Nearly Perfect

We
waited the entire remainder of the Sopranos series to find out what
happened to the Russian who was lost in the woods, to no avail, as he
never resurfaced. We only had to wait one game to see the Flyers own
lost Russian re-emerge.

The home side gave their fans and themselves a huge injection of
confidence on Saturday, dominating all facets of play en route to a 5-1
win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Confidence is what Ilya Bryzgalov
emphatically said he was lacking after getting shelled in his two
previous outings, but you'd never know it watching this one. The only
goal scored on Bryz came when Scott Hartnell slid into him and plowed
him out of the crease, leaving the cage wide open for Jussi Jokinen to
put one in.

Hartnell was easily forgiven, however, as his crashing of the
opposing net resulted in the first goal of the game, and it was the
Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr line that collectively did nearly all the scoring
for the Flyers.

Giroux worked his ass off all night and was on the ice for every
goal. He assisted the first three and scored the fourth, then narrowly
missed getting an assist on the fifth, though his work did help lead to
it.

The only goal that wasn't scored by this line still managed to include a
Girouxian masterpiece. Down a man due to a crappy call on Jagr in the
third, Max Talbot blocked a shot, and he and Giroux skated down the ice
to net the Flyers' first shorthanded goal. As if the Flyers needed more
of a karmic refund, Jagr scored on his next shift after leaving the box.

Bryzgalov didn't have the busiest night, but he was sharp with his
stick and his pads, making only one mistake that I can remember (poorly
playing a puck behind the net). Great to see him looking plenty
confident for 60 minutes, and he would have had a shutout had it not
been for the accidental takeout by Hartnell.

The Flyers have a clear-cut #1 line, an explosive mixture of speed,
talent, and grit. Giroux and Jagr are just unstoppable with the puck.
Hartnell had one of the best games of his career. G's two-way play
continues to be great (although he's still making a few too many risky
passes), and Jagr's patience with the puck can drop jaws.

The rest of the team didn't get their names on the sheet, but
really, it was a very good all around effort. The game wasn't fully
dominated by the Flyers until about the halfway point, and certainly in
the third, but their work early on was a great sign of a team that is
way better than it's played recently. They were sharp all night, patient
when opportunities weren't there and aggressive when they were.

Notes:
Final tallies for the G Line: Giroux (1 G, 3 A), Hartnell (1 G, 2 A), Jagr (2 G).

Two Flyers scored on their very next shifts after sitting in the box—Hartnell in the first period and Jagr in the third.

Tough night for Brian Boucher, who made some big saves but was just
overwhelmed by the pressure of the G Line and increasingly shaky defense
in front of him.

Zac Rinaldo had another HUGE hit in this one. Great to see that out of a fourth line winger.

One place the Flyers did not fare well was the face-off circle, where they lost 39 while winning just 23.

Talbot
wore one of the A's tonight, with Briere out. One game after taking a
painful shot to the foot, he scored after blocking an identical attempt
in the third. He skated the night centering the third line, with Sean
Couturier on the fourth.

US Presswire photos

Flyers fans -- even living dead ones -- are happy on Saturday night.

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers at Bucks
3:30 p.m. - CSN/CSNPhilly.com/streaming live on the NBCSports App

The Sixers (12-26) look to get back in the win column when they face the Milwaukee Bucks (20-19) at the Bradley Center in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Let's take a closer look at Monday afternoon's matchup:

1. Back on the Embiid express
The Sixers have started to show flashes of coming together and finally turning the corner on their massive rebuild. However, they are nowhere near the point that they can remove the biggest piece of the puzzle and still expect to win games.

The Sixers found that out again on Saturday night, as they were pummeled during the second half of a 109-93 loss to the Washington Wizards with Joel Embiid sidelined for rest.

The team didn't want to use the rookie phenom's absence as an excuse, but it was clear his presence was missed.

“We didn’t have that extra oomph,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “Obviously, the omission of Joel Embiid clearly is impactful, but that’s the challenge. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Embiid and his 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game will be back in the lineup against the Bucks.

2. Freak of nature
The Sixers won't be the only squad with a star in the making on the court Monday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown plenty of potential since he was selected by the Bucks 15th overall in the 2013 draft (Anthony Bennett, who was recently released by the Brooklyn Nets, was taken No. 1 overall that year, for those of you keeping track at home). But the man known as "The Greek Freak" has taken his game to new heights this season.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting in addition to 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game this season - all career highs. He's also coming off a 33-point, eight-rebound and six-assist performance in the Bucks' 111-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With Antetokounmpo playing point guard full time now and the Bucks' starting five boasting players all above 6-foot-7, it's hard to determine how the Sixers will match up on defense. Whatever the plan is to slow down "The Greek Freak," it will have to be a total team effort.

3. Protect the paint
All of that size and athleticism for the Bucks is a big reason they attack the rim so much. Milwaukee is tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead in points in the paint with 50.6 per game.

The Sixers were dominated on the low block for 54 points by the Wizards on Saturday with Embiid out. For the season, they rank 14th in the league in points in the paint allowed at 42.3 a night.

One thing that might help the Sixers is their shot blocking. They swat 5.6 shots a game (sixth in the NBA), which could deter some of those romps to the rim by the Bucks.

4. Injuries
T.J. McConnell (right wrist), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Khris Middleton (hamstring) is out for the Bucks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Bucks.

• Ersan Ilyasova spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Bucks (see story on his return to Milwaukee). This will mark the fourth time he has faced his former team.

• Jabari Parker, selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft right before Embiid, has emerged this season with 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

The Sixers will get Joel Embiid back in the lineup when they meet the Bucks on Monday afternoon in Milwaukee, but they'll be without their starting point guard.

T.J. McConnell will miss Monday's game with a sprained right wrist suffered in Saturday night's loss to the Wizards in D.C., the Sixers announced Monday morning.

McConnell reportedly did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and is back home in Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old McConnell has been a presence this season for a Sixers team that desperately needed something from the point guard spot. In 38 games this season, McConnell has averaged 4.8 points, 5.8 points and 4.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists a night in an average of 22.3 minutes a game.

The highlight of McConnell's season, of course, came last week when he nailed the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Sixers a 98-97 victory over the Knicks.

Sergio Rodriguez is expected to start in McConnell's place Monday against the Bucks.