Tim Panaccio breaks down the Talbot-Downie trade
The first month of the NHL season is over, and it wasn’t a good one for the orange and black.
The Flyers will look to put their 3-8-0 October record behind them when they host the Washington Capitals (5-7-0) for the first of five games this season between the two Metropolitan Division clubs.
With puck drop set for 7 p.m. (CSN), here are five things you need to know for Flyers-Capitals:
1. Downie’s back
Here’s a familiar face. Steve Downie, who was acquired by the Flyers from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Max Talbot on Thursday (see story), will play his first game with the orange and black since 2008 on Friday night.
The Flyers selected Downie with the 29th pick in the 2005 NHL draft and the 26-year-old appeared in 38 regular-season games with the team before being shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the trade that brought Matt Carle to Philadelphia. In his time with the Flyers, Downie had six goals and six assists in 38 regular-season games.
You may remember Downie for his undisciplined play during his first tour of duty with the Flyers, but the forward has settled down over the past few seasons. Despite accumulating 696 penalty minutes in 285 career NHL games, Downie has shown the ability to contribute offensively when needed.
In fact, Downie has played with top-line caliber players on each team for which he has appeared in the NHL. Downie spent time on Mike Richards’ line with the Flyers, played with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in Tampa and skated briefly with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly with the Avalanche.
So where does Downie fit with the Flyers? Head coach Craig Berube could place Downie on the first line with Claude Giroux and Vinny Lecavalier, but Downie could play on any of the Flyers’ top three lines. Downie will bring a ton of energy to the lineup -- that sometimes can get him into trouble -- and won’t shy away from throwing his body around. Odds are you will notice No. 9 against the Caps once or twice.
2. What about the PK?
In dealing Talbot to the Avs, the Flyers lost one of their best penalty killers. The 29-year-old averaged the most shorthanded ice time on the team among forwards this season at 3:35 a game.
“He’s done a good job for us,” general manager Paul Holmgren said Thursday. “Max was a great player for the Flyers in the time he was here. It’s a tough call. Right now, other players are going to fill that hole.”
Matt Read, Adam Hall, Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux have all seen ice time this season while a man down and will likely remain Berube’s top candidates to kill penalties.
So which other players are capable of filling that role? Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and maybe even Downie can step in and eat up some shorthanded minutes if needed.
Keep in mind, assistant coach Ian Laperriere has been working with Zac Rinaldo on improving the gritty forward’s defensive game. Don’t be surprised if Rinaldo sees some PK time in the near future.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who has scored 10 of the team’s 32 goals this season, will not be in the lineup for Washington on Friday (see story). This is a huge break for the Flyers.
Ovechkin, who didn’t make the trip to Philly because of an upper-body injury, has been absolutely brilliant dating back to last season. After a slow start to last year’s lockout-shortened campaign, Ovechkin caught fire, registering 32 goals and 24 assists on the way to his third Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP). On top of that, Ovechkin has already posted 15 points this season.
The Flyers should be thankful the Russian sniper is out of the lineup. In 29 regular-season games against the orange and black, Ovie has collected 24 goals and 39 points.
With Ovechkin sidelined, the Flyers should keep a closer eye on playmaker Nicklas Backstrom. The centerman has nine goals and 23 assists in 21 career regular-season games against the Flyers.
The Flyers also need to contain the Capitals' line of Mikhail Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. The trio has combined for five goals and five assists over Washington’s last three games.
4. Welcome back
The Flyers and Capitals are in the same division again for the first time since sharing the Patrick Division from 1979-93 and the Atlantic from 1993-98.
Last season, the Flyers went 2-1-0 against the Caps and won both contests held at the Wells Fargo Center. Claude Giroux led the Flyers offensively, scoring two goals and assisting three more in the three games.
5. This and that
• Although he hasn’t played a game for the Flyers this season, Downie is tied with Lecavalier for the team lead in points with seven.
• The Capitals, who will close out a five-game road trip, are 0-4-0 this season when Ovechkin doesn't register a marker.
• Read has scored a goal in each of the Flyers’ last three games. Lecavalier has four goals in his last two contests.
• The Flyers have killed off 13 consecutive penalties.
• Washington will also be without defensemen John Erskine (upper body) and Jack Hillen (lower body).