Weary Flyers Head to Montreal on Heels of Disappointing Collapse, but Canadiens Down a Key Player

Weary Flyers Head to Montreal on Heels of Disappointing Collapse, but Canadiens Down a Key Player

Thanks to their huge letdown on Friday, not only did the
Flyers miss out on a quality opportunity to make up ground in the standings, but
it puts added pressure on the club to come away with points in the second half
of a back-to-back. That’s no simple task considering they’re on the road and the
Montreal Canadiens are up next in the gauntlet.

The Bullies find themselves back in scramble mode after blowing
a 3-1 first-period lead in New Jersey last night, a roller coaster contest not
entirely unlike the ride their season is on. The Devils got the scoring started
40 seconds into the game, but Philadelphia responded with a three-goal outburst
in a two-and-a-half minute span. Then the lead slowly, painfully slipped away.

The ill-timed pulling of Ilya Bryzgalov from goal was the
last straw, resulting in a quick empty-netter and the final nail in their 5-3 defeat.
Now it’s on to Montreal, to take on an opponent who was idle no less.

The Canadiens are in the midst of a revival after finishing
with the fewest points in the Eastern Conference for 2011-'12. Building off of a
6-3-6 finish last year, Montreal has jumped out to an early 8-4-1 record, and
are sitting just one point behind Boston for first place in the Northeast

A big reason for their success has been in net, where Carey
Price appears to be back on track after his rough '11-'12, leading all NHL
goaltenders in wins with eight. Fortunately for the Flyers, it appears they’ve
caught a break there.

TSN’s Cassie Campbell reports Price is battling the flu, and
backup Peter Budaj will make the start. Budaj is 0-1-1 with a rough 4.32 GAA
and .866 SV%. The eight-year veteran made one start against the Flyers for
Montreal last season, surrendering four goals in a loss. Danny Briere paced his
mates with two power-play tallies, while Matt Read and Kimmo Timonen also lit
the lamp.

Other than the day-night situation in net, the Canadiens have
been a solid all-around team, despite the roster lacking a lot of star power.
Veterans center Tomas Plekanic (11) and defenseman Andrei Markov (10)) lead the
team in points, but they are getting sizeable contributions from rookie
forwards Alex Galchenkyuk (8) and Brendan Gallagher (6).

This game's outcome could hinge on special teams even more than usual, as no team in
the league has drawn more whistles on average than Montreal – both ways – while
the Flyers are ninth in total power play opportunities, seventh in times
short-handed. Both teams are middle of the road-ish in all conversion rates, so
we’ll see who’s on their game or gets the calls/bounces.

In other news, Timonen did not play the third period of last
night’s loss in New Jersey due to an unknown lower-body injury. No update yet
about his availability tonight, but currently he is described as day-to-day. With
Andrej Meszaros still a week or two away, the Flyers look very thin on the back
end if Kimmo can’t go. [Update: Erik Gustafsson was called up from Adirondack and is in the lineup, but not necessarily for Timonen.]

No confirmation just yet on who will be in goal for the Flyers, either. Bryz had ordinary numbers in two appearances versus Montreal last season (1-1, 3.02, .885), and while we wouldn't lay the blame on him for last night's disaster, it wasn't his best outing of the year. We'll see if Brian Boucher gets the cal for his first start this year. [Update: it's Boosh.]

Big two points on the line here, as Philadelphia is still
hovering around the basement. When the final horn sounds, they will have
completed exactly one-third of their schedule, so very soon these playoff races
are going to get serious.

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Eagles Inactives: Bennie Logan (groin) out vs. Vikings

Eagles Inactives: Bennie Logan (groin) out vs. Vikings

Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan (groin) is inactive for the team’s game against the Vikings at the Linc on Sunday afternoon.

Logan missed practice all week but was listed as questionable and was said to be a game-time decision. Beau Allen will start in his place, but the Eagles will likely use more Allen, Fletcher Cox, Destiny Vaeao and Vinny Curry at tackle.

While Logan is inactive, Ron Brooks (calf), Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Mychal Kendricks (ribs) are all active. The trio was listed as questionable coming into the weekend.

Joining Logan among the inactive players are: OL Dillon Gordon, OL Josh Andrews, OL Isaac Seumalo, CB C.J. Smith, S Terrence Brooks and WR Bryce Treggs.

Despite Tregg’s getting extended reps this week in practice, he’s still not playing.

For the Vikings, wideout Stefon Diggs (groin), who was listed as questionable, is active.

Vikings inactives: WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Jarius Wright, LB Kentrell Brothers, C Nick Easton, G Willie Beavers, DT Sharrif Floyd, TE MyCole Pruitt.

Union-Red Bulls 5 things: Aim to finish strong against streaking New York

Union-Red Bulls 5 things: Aim to finish strong against streaking New York

Union vs. New York Red Bulls
4 p.m. on TCN 

Having all but officially made the postseason for the first time since 2011, the Union, who are already locked into a first-round road match, could rest players Sunday in the season finale against the New York Red Bulls (15-9-9). But that doesn’t mean the Union (11-13-9) will be mailing it in.

Here are five things to know.

1. Playoff recovery
The Union had hope that last Sunday’s home match against mathematically eliminated Orlando City SC would work as a slump buster, breaking the club’s five-game winless run. 

Instead, with a 2-0 loss, it just extended the Union’s slump to six.

“We had a good meeting with the group, we talked a lot about accountability,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Everybody does have to look in the mirror.”

With their last win coming in late August, the Union seem fresh out of ideas. Passing up the ripe opportunity to gain confidence against Orlando City, the club must now host the best team in the Eastern Conference as a pre-playoff test.

“We shot ourselves in the foot in a big spot and we came up a little short,” said Curtin, whose club flubbed an outside chance to host a first-round game and will be on the road regardless of Sunday’s outcome. “It’s the past, though. We have to look forward to the challenge that Red Bulls will present. They are the perfect team to play in terms of a tuneup, to get up to speed with the tempo of a playoff game. It’ll be good for our guys, we’ll use that to get prepared.”

2. Refreshing the lineup
Because Sunday’s match comes just days before the Union’s midweek postseason game, Curtin could look to rest some starters against the Red Bulls, especially the injured ones.

“There are discussions,” he said. “You have to do what’s best. Maybe it’s a new face, a change or a tweak. We won’t change our formation, we won’t change the style that we play but maybe there’s a new body that comes out on the field and gives us a little bit of a lift.”

But Curtin’s team doesn’t just need a lift, it needs healthy bodies. C.J. Sapong suffered a concussion against Orlando City and will likely sit out Saturday. If he does, Charlie Davies could see a chunk of playing time. Davies has only played 81 minutes in eight games since being acquired by the Union in August.

Tranquillo Barnetta and Chris Pontius are also banged up with lower-body ailments.

“Charlie’s been a little bit sharper each day in training,” Curtin said. “It’s tough to forget that he as recently as a month and a half ago was beating cancer so, the sharpness and the fitness is starting to come back. He wants to start, he wants to play, like any striker does, but we have to be smart about what makes the most sense for the team to get a result this weekend.”

3. Mighty Red Bulls
With the Red Bulls already locked into a first-round playoff bye, claiming the top seed in the East, they could float into Sunday’s match like it’s an exhibition — resting starters and providing minimal effort. 

But while riding an unbeaten streak that dates back to early July, the Red Bulls aren’t likely to pull their foot off the gas just yet.

“It’s a challenging game for us,” Curtin said. “It’ll be a high tempo, playoff atmosphere. With Red Bull already securing their bye, I envision them playing their full-strength lineup because they don’t want to rest guys for two weeks, and then you could have some rust. We expect their best.”

Though the Red Bulls want to keep things moving Sunday, the Union also want to finish the season strong. Although the match doesn’t hold the importance it could have for either club, Curtin’s team, winless since late August, is grasping for anything it can to catapult itself into the postseason with momentum. 

“We want to finish the season the right way for our fans,” Curtin said. “We want to come out with some confidence after the game.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Union: With Sapong hobbled from a concussion, Sunday’s match could put Charlie Davies’ effort on display. The forward, who has been seldom used as he regains conditioning after beating cancer earlier in the year, was acquired by the Union for this exact scenario — providing quality attacking depth.

Red Bulls: Although the match is practically meaningless for the Red Bulls, it could mean something for Bradley Wright-Phillips. The 31-year striker could claim his second golden boot in three seasons. He currently leads MLS with 23 goals — one ahead of David Villa. He has a goal and an assist against the Union this season and 11 goals in his last nine games.

5. This and that
• The Union are 0-1-1 against the Red Bulls this season but did score a win in the U.S. Open Cup round of 16.

• The result of Sunday’s match will leave the Union with one of three postseason road opponents — New York City FC, Montreal Impact and D.C. United. The match will be played the following Wednesday or Thursday.

• With a win on Sunday, the Union would match a club-high in wins with 12 — a record set in 2013.