After dropping a disappointing shootout loss to the Devils on Thursday, the Flyers get a rebound game with what has to date been one of the worst teams in the NHL. Maybe the worst. The Columbus Blue Jackets (2-10-1) opened the season with eight straight losses and have won just twice to date. After trading the eighth overall pick and Jakub Voracek to the Flyers for Jeff Carter and signing free agent defenseman James Wisniewski in the off-season, the team was expected to improve on its 81-point offering from last season. Instead, they're bailing water over the side to keep some glimmer of hope alive.
Carter played in only five games before suffering a broken foot, during which time he tallied three assists but no goals. Meanwhile, although the focus tonight will be on the player directly traded for him as he faces his old team tonight, the better story so far has been Sean Couturier. Cooter was selected with the high draft pick Columbus sent over along with Jake Voracek, and he's been impressive in a variety of game scenarios. Through 13 games, the 18-year-old has one goal more than Voracek despite playing over a minute and a half less per game, with more time in checking and penalty killing roles.
We're still waiting to see a little more from Voracek, who hasn't fully settled in just yet. Will tonight's matchup with the club that shipped him off be a boost? Here's what he had to say about facing the BJs, plus notes on Andreas Nodl, James van Riemsdyk, and the Blue Jackets' struggles.
The Flyers on the whole aren't entirely comfortable in their new skin. No one expected they would immediately gel, not with all the changes. But they've shown some spots of brilliance and certainly an ability to put the puck in the net. They have yet to solidify their lines after the top unit of Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr, in part due to injuries, which continue to mount.
Andreas Nodl has reportedly joined the skating wounded, and he's out for tonight. Eric Wellwood was called up yesterday, joining Zac Rinaldo and Harry Z as recent AHL refugees.
Unfortunately, James van Riemsdyk is also said to still be slowed by an injury, with Tim Panaccio reporting that he was out tonight about 90 minutes before gametime, only to find out that JVR actually will suit up. Frank Seravalli yesterday quoted a Flyers source saying that JVR's scratching against the Devils was a healthy one, and that Peter Laviolette had lit into him for a lackluster performance in Buffalo. The coach, GM, and player have since denied that, instead citing an unspecified injury.
It's been an interesting first 13 games between the Flyers and the local hockey scribes, to say the least.
Back to the BJ's for a minute. Another former Flyer currently leads the team in goals (5) and points (10), a fella by the name of Vinny Prospal. The talented Rick Nash has four goals and shares the points lead with Prospal. Another familiar face, RJ Umberger, has a goal and four assists. Wisniewski leads the team in ice time, logging just over 28 minutes a game. The Blue Jackets are damn near the bottom in goals per game (24th), goals against (29th), power play efficiency (29th), and penalty killing (28th).
The goalies tonight are Ilya Bryzgalov and Steve Mason.
Are the Blue Jackets the dangerous team that's been backed into an early season corner, or a Western Conference weakling that will be picked on from now through May?
Photo by Christopher Szagola-US PRESSWIRE