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
Division.

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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College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

Villanova headlined Philly college basketball action today with a 78-68 win over Providence, led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins (see full recap). The win is dampened with the news that Phil Booth is increasingly unlikely to return this season as he still deals with knee discomfort (see story).

Here's a snapshot from the rest of area hoops today.

Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The way it played this week, No. 21 Purdue is acting like a team that is determined to be in the race for the Big Ten championship all the way to the end of the regular season.

Caleb Swanigan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Purdue built an 18-point halftime lead and coasted to a 77-52 victory over Penn State on Saturday, four days after shooting 60.4 percent in a 91-68 victory against Illinois.

Against Penn State, the Boilermakers (16-4, 5-2) got 13 points from freshman guard Carsen Edwards and 10 each from Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards.

"I would just say we were coming out ready to play," said Vince Edwards, who added seven rebounds and three assists. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten. Our focus is to take care of business."

Josh Reaves led Penn State (11-9, 3-4) with 12 points. The Nittany Lions made only 20 of 64 field goal attempts (31.3 percent) and were outrebounded 39-30. Purdue shot 56.6 percent (30 of 53) (see full recap).

Drexel drops road game at CAA-leading UNC Wilmington
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Devontae Cacok scored 12 points and set a Colonial Athletic Association record with 24 rebounds, helping UNC Wilmington stay perfect in conference with an 87-74 win over Drexel on Saturday.

Cacok, whose previous career-high rebounding was 16, broke the school record (21) and conference record (22) late in the second half as the Seahawks cruised to their ninth straight home win, tying the best mark in program history.

UNC Wilmington (19-2, 8-0) led 53-51 with 15:01 left before four players combined to rattle off 12 straight points. Cacok capped the run with one of his 11 offensive rebounds and a dunk to give the Seahawks a 65-51 lead with 11:23 remaining.

UNC Wilmington is off to its best start ever and has won 24 of its last 26 conference games, including 12 straight. Chris Flemmings led the Seahawks with 17 points.

Sammy Mojica had 15 points and Rodney Williams added 14 for Drexel (7-13, 1-6), which has lost seven of eight (see full recap).

Delaware swept in season series with Towson
NEWARK, Del. -- Mike Morsell and Arnaud William Adala Moto pulled down a dozen boards as Towson won its fourth straight and a season sweep of Delaware with a 75-58 win on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers are fresh off a win over Hofstra that saw them erase a 16-point first-half deficit, and momentum carried over when they built a 17-point lead at halftime.

Alex Thomas and John Davis added 13 and 12 points, respectively, but Towson saw its streak of three-straight games shooting better than 50 percent end. The Tigers hit 26 of 55 shots from the floor (47.3 percent), including 6 of 15 from deep.

Delaware snapped a six-game losing streak Thursday with a win over Northeastern. Ryan Daly scored 21 points for Delaware and became the first freshman in school history to post six 20-plus efforts in a season. He reached double-digits for the 12th time in 13 games (see full recap).