Flyers Try to Keep the Momentum Alive in Sunshine State Battle of the Shorthanded (Plus: The Return of Briere!)

Flyers Try to Keep the Momentum Alive in Sunshine State Battle of the Shorthanded (Plus: The Return of Briere!)

Wins such as the one the Flyers scored over the New York
Rangers on Thursday night can sometimes serve as the turning point for an
entire season. Granted we are only through four games of this year’s slate, but
the fellas in Orange & Black were beginning to gain an identity for being
soft after the first three, all losses. They were anything but that while
pummeling the Rags into submission, finishing their rivals off with a series of
potentially defining penalty kills in the third period.

The opening week of the schedule did not come without its
costs however. Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros were both lost to injury for
a month or more, joining Zac Rindaldo on the ever-growing list of injured. Now
the shorthanded Flyers must embark on a four-game road trip amid hopes they can
not only survive these misfortunes, but continue to excel in the process.

In what could be a bit of a break, they arrive in the state
of Florida to find their first opponent in a similarly compromised state. The
Panthers are banged up as well, and should be missing several key players on
Saturday night including two members of their top line in Kris Versteeg and Stephen
Weiss. All of the absences have helped the 2011-12 Southeast Division Champions
get out to a 1-3 start.

Offense has been the Panthers’ downfall thus far, as they
rank 27th in the NHL in goals scored per game (1.75). They do have one of the
most exciting rookies in the league in their employ however in Jonathan
Huberdeau. The third-overall pick in the ’11 draft, Huberdeau exploded for two
goals and an assist in his NHL debut versus the Ottawa Senators last Saturday.
However, the 19 year old has been held in check since, with zero points in the
last three games and just five shots on goal.

Last season, Philadelphia was 2-1-1 against Florida thanks
in part to contributions from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was 2-1 with a
shutout and four goals allowed in three head-to-heads. The Panthers had the
last laugh though, taking the series finale by a final of 2-1 on March 20. The
Flyers managed to put 36 shots on Scott Clemmensen, but were unable to solve
the backup netminder. This time, Jose Theordore will be in the crease.

With so many bodies stuck in the trainer’s room for both
sides, it’s hard to predict who really has the advantage. The Flyers could
surely use a win tonight in their bid to climb back to .500, as they face Tampa
Bay on Sunday in the second half of a Sunshine State back-to-back, so running
into a shorthanded opponent tonight certainly shouldn’t hurt their outlook.


Right as we were going to post,
reporter Anthony SanFilippo revealed Danny Briere will make his first appearance
of the season
in Orange & Black tonight! Briere had been out with a wrist
injury he suffered while playing overseas. It goes without saying this could
provide a huge boost.

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No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."