Flyers' Weekend Outlook: Capitals then Hurricanes, with a Chance of Scoring

Flyers' Weekend Outlook: Capitals then Hurricanes, with a Chance of Scoring

If the Flyers are ever going to get their offense back on
track – and their season for that matter – this weekend would be a great time
to start laying the groundwork.

After two days off, the Bullies are in our nation’s capital
on Friday night to face off against the Washington Capitals, who reside at the
bottom of the Eastern Conference with three points, and have allowed the fourth-most
goals per game in the NHL at 3.57. Then the Flyers return home on Saturday for
a clash with the Carolina Hurricanes, a club that’s not much better off with
their four points and third-highest 3.60 goals against average.

Both clubs have also played poorly on special teams as well,
particularly their penalty killing units. Washington (73.7%) and Carolina
(73.1%) rank 23rd and 26th respectively in PK percentages.

It truly is no secret what has each of these teams in an
early hole in the standings along with the Flyers, as all three have plenty in
common. Inability to consistently score on and kill power plays has been a
fairly big indicator of success.

The main difference has been in net. Despite the troubles in
front of him, Ilya Bryzgalov has held up very well. At the moment Bryz is tied
for eighth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage, ninth with a 2.19 goals
against average. His 2-4 record in net can largely be blamed on what head coach
Peter Laviolette is calling a lack of “run support.”

So basically Ilya Bryzgalov is Cliff Lee right now.

The good news for Bryz is the Flyers’ offense showed some
life the last time they played a similarly porous defensive squad, hanging
seven on the Florida Panthers last Saturday, including a pair of power play tallies.
Statistically Florida is second-worst in the league, surrendering 4.00 goals per
game.

The Panthers were also crippled by injuries for that tilt,
so it remains to be seen how much we can take from that effort. It certainly
hasn’t been reflected in any way since, as the Flyers have failed to light the
lamp more than once in either or their last two games. Philadelphia is 26th on
the season with 2.00 goals scored per game.

It was announced yesterday they’ll try yet another shakeup
on the top line
though, with Danny Briere joining captain Claude Giroux and
Wayne Simmonds. Of course, that could take some of the offensive punch away
from their other pairings, however little of it there was to begin with.

Still, this is a good opportunity for the Flyers to separate
themselves from the bottom of the pack. Then again, perhaps it’s also an
opportunity to cement themselves in the cellar alongside this weekend’s
opponents.

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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.”