Flyers Kick Off West Coast Mini-Swing Tonight in Anaheim

Flyers Kick Off West Coast Mini-Swing Tonight in Anaheim

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.

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).