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.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”