The Flyers (26-22-6) will kick off their three-game tour of California when they take on the Anaheim Ducks (39-11-5) on Thursday.
Puck drop is set for 10 p.m. (CSN) at Honda Center.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:
1. Unfriendly confines
It’s a good thing the Flyers ended their four-game losing streak with a 5-0 dismantling of the depleted Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday because three very good Pacific Division teams – the Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks – are now preparing to host the Orange and Black over the next five days.
“We definitely needed something to build off of,” Flyers goalie Steve Mason said Wednesday (see story). “We’re going into three tough buildings to play in with hockey teams that are playing extremely well this season. So we’re going to have to bring our best.”
Mason wasn’t kidding when he said the Flyers will be visiting three tough arenas. That especially applies to Anaheim. Although they’ve dropped two straight at home, the Ducks are 21-2-2 at Honda Center and have fallen to just one Eastern Conference opponent – the New Jersey Devils – this season.
The Flyers enter this matchup having lost four of their last five games against Anaheim, including a 3-2 defeat earlier this season. Kyle Palmieri scored twice in the third period of that contest to erase a two-goal deficit and rally the Ducks to a victory on Oct. 28 at Wells Fargo Center.
But the Flyers did win on their last trip to Anaheim. Jaromir Jagr potted two goals and Claude Giroux scored in overtime to give the Flyers a 4-3 win over the Ducks on Dec. 2, 2011. Scott Hartnell had the other marker for the Flyers, while Teemu Selanne, Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon registered Anaheim’s goals.
2. Dynamic duos
The Flyers would be wise to keep an eye on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
The Ducks’ top two scorers, who rank third and fifth in the NHL in points respectively, have proven over the past few years that they can light up the scoreboard on any given night.
Anaheim has hit a bit of an offensive wall since a 9-1 drubbing of the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 15, averaging just 2.3 goals per game in splitting its last six games. But that doesn’t mean Getzlaf (61 points) and Perry (58 points) should be taken lightly.
Luckily, the Flyers have two top-line players of their own that have been hot lately. Giroux and Hartnell were flat-out dominant against Detroit, each posting three-point performances.
Giroux has three goals and three assists in his past four games and has a team-high 50 points this season. As for Hartnell, the gritty forward has registered at least one point in 16 of his last 21 contests and has played some of his best hockey in recent memory.
3. Rinaldo’s return?
Don’t be surprised if Zac Rinaldo returns to the Flyers’ lineup against the Ducks. Rinaldo, who has been sidelined since Jan. 8 with a left high ankle sprain, practiced in full with the team on Wednesday and said he is “good to go.”
Chris VandeVelde was waived by the Flyers on Wednesday, indicating Rinaldo has indeed returned to form after initially being expected to miss up to six weeks.
“Six weeks definitely wasn’t for me, so I cut it in half,” he said (see story).
If for some reason Rinaldo is unable to suit up, Jay Rosehill will replace him on the fourth line.
The Flyers went 3-5-2 without Rinaldo and sorely missed his energy and physical play. Expect No. 36 to make his presence felt early if he gives it a go on Thursday.
Kimmo Timonen left Tuesday’s blowout of the Red Wings in the second period after blocking a shot but isn’t expected to miss any time, according to Flyers head coach Craig Berube.
Timonen was given a maintenance day on Wednesday and later traveled with the Flyers to California.
For the Ducks, defensemen Sheldon Souray and Luca Sbisa are on injured reserve with right wrist ailments. Goalie Viktor Fasth (lower body) is also out.
5. This and that
- Sean Couturier needs one more goal to become the eighth Flyer with at least 10 this season.
- Anaheim has five players who are plus-20 or better this season. The Flyers don’t have a single player above plus-7.
- The Flyers have lost three of their last four games on the road.
- The Ducks haven't lost to an Eastern Conference team at home since March 25, 2012, versus the Boston Bruins.
- Getzlaf has five goals and nine assists in 12 January games.