Flyers-Sens Kick Off a Bryz-less Weekend Plus: Giroux vs. Hartnell for NHL13 Cover

Flyers-Sens Kick Off a Bryz-less Weekend Plus: Giroux vs. Hartnell for NHL13 Cover

The Flyers open the front end of back-to-back games this weekend this afternoon, hosting the Ottawa Senators at 1PM before heading to Pittsburgh for a possible first-round preview tomorrow. The Senators currently hold the seventh seed, having fallen off the Northeast-setting pace of the Bruins, who appear locked into the 2-slot. Ottawa can still be caught from below though, with Washington and Buffalo each only 2 points behind them and battling for the final spots in the East. Unlike the recent games against Tampa, Montreal, and Toronto, today's opponent has something huge to play for. 
The Flyers can hit the 100-point mark with a win, but they'll have to do it without Ilya Bryzgalov, who will also likely miss tomorrow's game. 

No Bryz Kid This WeekendThe Flyers say Ilya Bryzgalov is doubtful for this weekend, but he did put in a practice yesterday and could return for Tuesday night's game against the Rangers. With little to play for outside of momentum and a shot at home ice, I'm pretty sure no one in any Flyers circle is interested in rushing Bryz back. It would be nice to get a win against the Rangers though, and keep him sharp for what's bound to be a tough opening round. 
Sergei Bobrovsky was solid in the 7-1 win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday, but he wasn't tested much. The Flyers have been effective in sealing off opposing shots, a fine goalie-independent trend heading into the playoffs. But, they did also allow some dangerous chances on turnovers and found their way behind the defense a few times. Jason Bac-a-chihuahua will likely be the backup again today.  
Kimmo Ready?Homer also said Kimmo should be good to go after getting some rest. Comes a time in every player's career where he'll need a break here and there to mend, and we're there for Kimmo. Fortunately, that's all for now. 
Offense Is Alive and WellTrue it was only the Maple Leafs, but the Flyers were downright menacing in their attack on Thursday. Danny Briere's goalless drought is over, and the combination of the attention he's drawing and his slick puckhandling/passing meant great things for his linemates. 
It also allowed the top line to log fewer minutes. Scott Hartnell took a shot in the lower body and winced hard in pain, so we're not sure if that factored into his paltry playing time. But, his linemates also saw little of the ice as the game wore on, so it's probably nothing to worry about. 
I Kinda Hate the SenatorsMaybe it dates back to the epic line brawl in 2004, but there seems to be a fair amount of bad blood between these teams despite no real reason for rivalry. Let's take a break and watch those, shall we?

Their games almost always get chippy, so today's should be interesting. Will the Sens be conservative in their quest to stay out of the box (the Flyers are 5/15 in power plays in the season series), while the Flyers try to stay healthy and not take the bait of a lesser team?
Those things may be planned for, but plans have a way of disintegrating after a few facewashes and slashes. 
G vs. HartsEA Sports is pitting teammates against each other in their voting for cover of NHL 13. For the Flyers, that means Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell... Hartnell has a pretty funny twitter campaign going for fans creating covers (mostly #hartnelldown's), but he has some stiff competition with G in his bracket. Who you voting for?
We'll be at the Union and Sixers tonight, so you guys can be in charge of the recap. Cool?

La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

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La Salle pummeled by VCU, 90-52, snapping 5-game streak

RICHMOND, Va. -- Justin Tillman had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead five VCU players in double figures in a 90-52 victory over La Salle on Sunday.

VCU held La Salle to 15 made field goals and forced 16 turnovers.

VCU went on a 19-0 first-half run -- with 11 points from JeQuan Lewis -- for a 38-14 lead and the Rams led 42-16 at halftime after shooting 51.5 percent. Lewis made 5 of 6 shots and had 13 of his 15 points in the first half.

Samir Doughty added 15 points for VCU (15-5, 5-2 Atlantic 10). Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Jordan Burgess scored 10. Tillman was 7 of 10 from the field as the Rams shot 56.5 percent.

Jordan Price and Saul Phiri each scored 11 points for La Salle (11-6, 5-2) and Pookie Powell added 10. It was a season-high for the freshman Phiri but the Explorers were just 15-of-53 shooting (28.3 percent).

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

The Sixers without Joel Embiid: Still just the Sixers

Well, if anyone hoped the Sixers' performance at game's end against Portland on Friday night -- with Joel Embiid riding the bench, ruled out for the game's remainder with a left knee contusion -- would carry over to an entirely Embiid-less game again Saturdaynight... I guess you're not alone, 'coz I sorta did. Perhaps it shouldn't have been particularly surprising to see that the Sixers were still the same team last night in Atlanta they were the previous Saturday against the Wizards: good enough to hang against an above-average East team, but not nearly good enough to actually win. 

At least they kept this one closer longer. Normally, against the Hawks, once the single-digit lead in the first half balloons into the double-digit lead in the third quarter, it never deflates back, but this time we cut it down to seven a couple times -- just never hitting that one big shot that would've really made things interesting, ultimately losing 110-93. It doesn't help that Nik Stauskas is in the midst of one of his most refrigerated runs as a Sixer, going just 7-30 (3-16 from deep) over Philly's last five games, or that Dario Saric is similarly bricking shots near and wide, a remarkable 2 for 22 over his last couple contests. 

This, sadly, is a primary reason why the Sixers' playoff hopes, while fun to dream about, are still unlikely to be more than a flicker. Over the next few weeks, the Sixers have a trio of back-to-backs coming up, with the back-end games coming against Milwaukee, Sacramento and San Antonio -- none of which Philly, 2-12 without their star center, are probable to win sans JoJo. Even if they can take care of business with Embiid on the court, it'll be tough to make up the ground that the Sons of Sam need to while they have to drop one every three or four games as Joel sits. 

That's fine, though. This season's been super-fun, but we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves: Let's ensure Embiid's health, maybe get Ben Simmons out there too, secure a nice draft pick or two (though the plummeting Kings could be of significant help with that themselves), and focus on making next year even more of a thing. The future remains impossibly bright, even if the present is going to have to be borderline-unwatchable once or twice a week.