After having six days off to heal up and, in some cases, become even more mysteriously injured, the Philadelphia Flyers are back at it on consecutive nights, starting in Anaheim and moving quickly to Phoenix. Puck drop for the Flyers and Ducks is scheduled for 10 p.m. this evening.
Returning to the lineup for Orange & Black is one Jaromir Jagr, who missed both of last weekend's games after suffering an undisclosed LBI against the New York Islanders the night before Thanksgiving.
Also back with the team are defenseman Matt Walker and forward Brayden Schenn. Walker cleared waivers earlier today to plug the holes left by the long-term absences of Chris Pronger and Andreas Lilja, while Schenn was recalled earlier this week. Aside from the team's Winter Classic jersey unveiling last month, this will be the first Flyers fans see of Schenn since losing him to both a separated shoulder and fractured foot after only four games in October. Walker, on the other hand, will not be in uniform this evening.
Meanwhile, James van Riemsdyk remains a scratch for the third straight game with an upper body injury. GM Paul Holmgren announced last Friday that the forward will be a scratch for the next week to ten days, meaning JVR could be available when the team returns East to face the Sabres in Buffalo next Wednesday.
As for the home-standing Ducks, tonight will be their first game under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau, you may recall, was the guy fired from the head gig in Washington this past Monday only to be picked up just three days later by the struggling-to-tread-water Ducks. Though his style is a marked departure from that of former head coach Randy Carlyle, they do bear an uncanny resemblance, save for the latter's (somewhat in tact) hairline.
Individually, in spite of a whole line of young all-star talents in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan, Anaheim, who sports a record of just 7-13-4 this season and has dropped 13 of its last 15, is still led by long-time right wing Teemu Selanne. With 22 points in 24 games, the 41-year-old Selanne continues to defy nature and climb further up the all-time lists. His 645 goals and 1362 career points are good for 13th and 24th all-time in league history.
In terms of big picture stuff, if you're looking for juicy storylines heading into tonight, there really isn't a whole lot of history between the Ducks and Flyers (I know, because I've seen most of it). That said, this weekend will be an interesting little homecoming for Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
On consecutive nights, he will face off against the only two other teams he has played for in his NHL career. Bryz actually spent seven years in the Duck organization, bouncing up and down for a few years between Anaheim and Cincinnati before splitting time with Jean-Sebastien Giguere for parts of the team's 2007 Stanley Cup run. He would be dealt to Phoenix the following season after generating a bit of acrimony between himself, the front office and the aforementioned Carlyle. Whatever it is, the guy seems to have something of a checkered history when it comes to leaving one team for another. He's a bad breaker-upper.
Speaking of personal history, no matter how old I get, I still get pumped up for a good Flyer-Duck matchup. As a proud product of the nineties and a big time Kariya-Selanne supporter, I attended many an Anaheim-Philadelphia game with my father while growing up, and may or may not still have an eggplant and jade jersey floating around in my closet.
Though the franchise ultimately won its first Cup in 2007 after coming up short four years prior, it always felt a little hollow as compared to what it could have been when they were still Mighty and had the classic helmet crest on their jerseys. Plus, it would mean one less frigging cup for the Devils.
Old habits die hard, I guess.
Off the floor, on the board. See you post-game.