Flyers at Capitals
8 p.m. on NBCSN
Fresh off a seven-goal outburst against one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers (17-19-7) will hit the road for a divisional clash with the Washington Capitals (23-11-8) at the Verizon Center.
Let's take a closer look at Flyers-Caps:
1. Another defenseman down
Already without the services of Nicklas Grossmann (shoulder), the Flyers' defensive corps took another significant hit in Monday's 7-3 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Braydon Coburn, who blocked a shot attempt from Nikita Kucherov early in the first period, is expected to miss at least four weeks with a suspected left foot fracture. You may recall the same injury cost Coburn 12 games earlier this season after he blocked a shot in the opener against the Boston Bruins. Chalk it up to some unfortunate luck.
Coburn's season, much like many of the Flyers', has been mired by inconsistent play. He's been uncharacteristically weak when handling the puck, which has led to numerous glaring turnovers. The veteran blueliner has also had difficulty clearing lanes in the slot, usually an area of strength in his game.
It should be interesting to see how the Flyers perform with Coburn sidelined. They've gone 6-4-2 without him in the lineup this season, and a string of wins over the next few weeks could potentially damage his trade value. He's unquestionably a solid second-pairing defenseman, but moving the 29-year-old would clear a good chunk of a cap space — something the Flyers desperately need — and provide an opportunity for young prospects to compete for the vacant spot. Let's not forget, Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto are on one-year deals, too.
In the meantime, Carlo Colaiacovo will step in to fill Coburn's void. Many fans have wanted Colaiacovo reinserted to the lineup anyway, but don't be surprised if he shows some signs of rust in his first game back. Remember: He hasn't played since Nov. 19 against the New York Rangers.
2. In the crease
It was somewhat startling to see head coach Craig Berube give recent call-up Rob Zepp the start against Tampa Bay over backup Ray Emery.
Then again, Emery hasn't exactly been dependable in net as of late. The team was in need of a spark, which Zepp ultimately provided.
Berube rewarded Zepp with another start Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Maybe the Flyers' coaching staff is losing faith in Emery. Maybe it was just a gut decision. No matter, Emery holds no resentment for the decision.
“You always want to be in there and want to contribute,” Emery said (see story). “I want the team to do well. I can’t control when I play. ... I try to use it as motivation to get better and contribute when I get in there.”
Emery has had the same positive attitude since rejoining the orange and black. He has struggled to find a rhythm, but has a well-respected voice in the locker room. With that said, it remains imperative for Emery to elevate his game with Mason out.
3. Catch the Caps?
It's going to be mighty tough to catch the Caps for the third and final automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.
The Flyers enter Wednesday 13 points back of Washington and have played one more game than their divisional foe.
It doesn't help that the Caps are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They've picked up at least a point in 17 of their last 18 games and have allowed just 36 non-shootout goals during that stretch. Oh yeah, and they are riding a six-game home winning streak. Like we said, one of the hottest clubs in the league.
4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: The one thing that has been consistent for the Flyers' defense this season has been Mark Streit's offensive production. The 37-year-old has five goals and 26 assists in 43 games after tallying a marker and two helpers against the Lightning. Streit, who is on pace for 60 points, has the tendency to cough the puck up now and again, but he's never been relied on to shut down the opposition's top lines. He's paid to provide some extra offense, and that's exactly what he's done.
Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom is like a man possessed when he faces the Flyers. The 27-year-old has 12 goals and 29 assists in 27 career games against the orange and black. It shouldn't come as a surprise, however. The veteran centerman displays outstanding patience when handling the puck and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He enters Wednesday leading the Caps with 42 points in as many games. Why hasn't this guy ever been an All-Star? Arguably the biggest offensive snub from this year's festivities.
5. This and that
• The Flyers have won their last four meetings with Washington.
• The Capitals have gone 13-1-4 in their last 18 games.
• Zepp had 21 saves on 24 shots Monday, but stopped the last 12 he faced.
• Braden Holtby is 0-1-2 with a 4.74 goals-against average in his last four starts against the Flyers.
• Claude Giroux has 12 goals and nine assists in his last 15 games against the Caps.