Flyers-Thrashers: Presidents, Starters, and Captains edition

Flyers-Thrashers: Presidents, Starters, and Captains edition

A home game against the Atlanta Thrashers
coming off of a solid road win at Pittsburgh with another road game
tomorrow in Jersey could be plenty challenging for the Flyers, who have
struggled against Atlanta recently. After the Thrashers won both of the
previous meetings between these teams in March, the three games don't
look quite as enticing as they did heading into the final full month of
the regular season. A clunker of a third period resulted in a big
Atlanta comeback and OT win in the first of the March matchups, which
was followed by a shootout loss in Atlanta five days later. Although
both games ended with a sympathy point, the Flyers lacked the ability to
finish off an inferior opponent, albeit one that was fighting for its
playoff chances.

Tonight, the Thrashers trail the playoffs by 11 points and at least
three teams—a rather large hill to climb with only six games remaining.
They either need to play with a win-out mentality tonight, or they'll be
golfing before they know it. Will the Flyers match that intensity if
the Thrashers can conjure it? 

A few more notes after the jump. Richie, Bob, Briere, and the President's Trophy... 

•Atlanta has had a March not unlike the Flyers' own, trading wins for
losses and a fair amount of OT games. They're coming off a loss at
Montreal, but they haven't lost back-to-back games since the first and
third of the month.

•Chris Mason will be in net for Atlanta, facing presumed playoff
starter Sergei Bobrovsky, who is coming off of his third victory over
the Penguins this season and an impressive 37-save performance on Long
Island. Another confidence booster at home tonight wouldn't hurt. 

•Glad to see the Briere line had a great game last time out,
reminding the Flyers' potential playoff opponents that they'll have
three (3) bona fide scoring lines to counter over a seven (7) game
series. Last time the Thrashers were in town, Ville Leino netted a hat
trick (pictured above, though it should be noted that Mason was only in
goal for the third, and of course Atlanta did still win that one). 

•I just returned from some time out of town, where I was able to
mostly ignore the latest white noise over the Mike Richards
captaincy/strained media relations. I guess, like the goaltending
situation, we have little chance of hearing the end of this until the
Flyers hoist a Cup, but I'm not even holding out much hope for after
that either. My opinion? Nothing to see here.  

•Vancouver can lock up the President's Trophy with a win tonight and a
Flyers loss. This would be the least effective motivational tool in
Peter Laviolette's arsenal tonight. 

•It's Bill Barber's turn to be honored at home tonight, with his number banner from the Spectrum handed to him before the game. 

•It's time to put this lousy Smarch weather behind us, ending a
dreary month with consecutive wins and looking ahead to what could be a
pretty amazing spring in Philly.

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."