Flyers-Sabres Game 4: Homewreck.

Flyers-Sabres Game 4: Homewreck.

The Flyers will take the HSBC Arena ice tonight with a chance to send the Buffalo Sabres fans home for the last time this season. Win, and the Flyers will need just one more in Philadelphia to eliminate the Sabres and advance on home ice this Friday. Ya know what though... Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Winning the next two—and four straight in the series—is a tall order.

Coming off a pair of wins, the momentum is clearly in the Flyers' favor. However, each of the games in this series has been decided by a single goal, aside from the empty netter Kimmo Timonen added in the waning seconds of game 3. As much as we may like what we see, there's still plenty of hockey left in this series, with room for the pendulum to swing in either direction.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be pretty amped up for the things the Flyers are doing right.

I left out above that on their way to this narrowest of series leads, Peter Laviolette had to make a change in net. The concerns that Sergei Bobrovsky wasn't playoff-ready surfaced quickly in game 2, and Lavvy got out the hook. Bob may or may not be plenty able to backstop this team in the postseason, but it doesn't really matter at the moment, because Lavvy knew Brian Boucher likely was, and Boosh hasn't given him any reason to second guess the decision. So far, he has outdueled Ryan Miller, who allowed eight goals in his last two starts after posting a shutout in the opener.

One of the key questions coming into the series was whether the Flyers could snap their cold streak, and with it the hot streak of the Sabres. Prior to their meeting at the end of the season, they'd been able to beat Miller fairly efficiently. The opening game shutout gave us good reason to wonder whether they still could, but at the moment, the Flyers appear to have regained their ability to solve the American Hero. 

They'll need to continue to create traffic in front him, disrupt his crease chi, and if there's no traffic, shoot while skating rather than stationary. Going hard at the net has produced some great results whether carrying the puck or waiting for the pass.

Of course, the Sabres will probably be trying to do the same thing to Boucher. This is hockey, not advanced military engagement. Game strategies get to sounding cliché and obvious because in a lot of ways they are. Good coaches and teams just find a way to stop what they know is coming, to do what they kno—sorry, I'm lapsing into platitudes again. Anyway, the Sabres have a lot of speed, keeping the Flyers' defense relatively honest (although the blueliners haven't been to shy about joining the rush either). We're not nearly out of the woods yet.

It's also around this point in the series when we might expect things to get a little ugly, particularly if the Flyers get an early lead. Patrick Kaleta is probably more than a little pissed after Braydon Coburn picked him pretty hard to prevent him from hitting Kimmo Timonen. Kaleta missed the rest of game 3 but is expected to play tonight (and be an ass). The Buffalo crowd was pretty amped up on Monday, and with their own playoff lives on the line tonight, I assume we'll hear them plenty throughout. Hopefully the "Booo-shaaaay" just turns to boos by about the midway point.

So enjoy the swing game tonight. Win and the series is on a home-served platter this Friday. Lose and you're back even. Interestingly (or not), the Sabres have never won a series that they've trailed by a 2-1 count.

Sixers teased in preseason finale with Jahlil Okafor back, Nerlens Noel out

Sixers teased in preseason finale with Jahlil Okafor back, Nerlens Noel out


MIAMI — Jahlil Okafor called it a “tease.”

He was talking about his oh-so-brief 2016-2017 debut, but he could have also been summarizing the Sixers' constant state of taking one step forward and one (injured) leg back.

Okafor, a 6-11 center and the NBA’s third overall pick in the 2015 draft, played 7:32 minutes on Friday and produced four points, one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover. He had been held out in camp previously because of knee soreness.

His return was the good news for the Sixers.

But, before Friday’s 113-110 exhibition finale win over the Miami Heat even started (see Instant Replay), the Sixers announced that center/forward Nerlens Noel will have a “minor surgical procedure in the coming days,” (see story).

Sixers center Joel Embiid, who has missed the past two years because of foot surgeries, said he empathizes with Noel.

“It’s hard,” Embiid said. “Obviously we need Nerlens if we want to win. But that’s basketball. Things happen. You can’t control injuries.

“I feel bad for him because this is the beginning of the season. Everybody wants to play the beginning of the season. But I’m sure he is going to work hard to come back even stronger.”

On the positive side for the Sixers, there was the return of Okafor … even it felt like baby steps for him.

“I started to feel really good,” said Okafor, who had surgery on his right knee in March and experienced soreness on that same knee Sept. 30. “It was kind of like a tease to me because I really got going. I wanted to continue to play, but that’s why I have the medical staff to keep me disciplined.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said before the game that he would keep Okafor to just six to eight minutes, and he was true to his word.

Okafor, who made the only shot he attempted from the floor and was 2 for 4 on free throws, did not play in the second half.

“The scoring piece to my game, that’s like riding a bicycle,” Okafor said. “I know I can score the ball. It was good to get back out there with my teammates and hear them cheer for me on the side.”

Okafor said he tried to convince Brown to let him extend past the script of no more than eight minutes.

“He was like, ‘Have your lawyer call my lawyer,'" Okafor said. “We will talk about the season home opener (on Wednesday night against Oklahoma City), and hopefully I can increase my minutes.”

Okafor said he didn’t want to put a number on how many minutes he thought he could’ve played in his season debut except to say he knew he could play more.

Interestingly, Embiid, who had 18 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes, said he felt Okafor was a bit fatigued.

“I think he was a little bit tired,” Embiid said. “Obviously, he hasn’t played in a while. But just like me, he’s going to dig down. He is a proven scorer. He can do whatever he wants on the court.

“Once he gets back in shape, we as a team are going to be really good.”

Okafor was a minus-5 while he was on the court. But Brown said he was impressed by some of the less-hyped aspects of Okafor’s game.

“I thought he was really good defensively,” Brown said. “He sat in his stance and moved his feet. I thought he did a great job of fronting the post.”

Brown said the Noel injury was almost unfair.

“Clearly, it was a situation in the preseason where he would have played a lot,” Brown said. “The timing is unfortunate.”

Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's 4 TDs

Penn Athletics

Penn routs Yale, 42-7, behind Alek Torgersen's 4 TDs


NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Alek Torgersen threw four touchdown passes, three to Justin Watson, and Penn rolled to a 42-7 victory over Yale in the first night game in Yale Bowl history.

Torgersen completed 16 of 23 passes for 229 yards and rushed for 66 yards. Watson had 10 receptions for 166 yards with touchdowns covering 5, 41 and 35 yards.

Torgersen moved into a tie for second with 47 career TD passes and Watson moved into fourth in career receptions (161) and touchdowns (17) for the Quakers (4-2, 3-0 Ivy Leauge).

Tre Solomon rushed for 120 yards, seven shy of the career high he set a week earlier, on 15 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run, for Penn, which won its fourth straight. Cameron Countryman had a 10-yard touchdown reception and Karekin Brooks had a 13-yard run for his first career touchdown.

Penn, which led 35-0 at halftime, finished with 508 yards and held the Bulldogs (1-5, 1-2) to 229.