Back in Action: Flyers Visit Southeast-Leading Lightning

Back in Action: Flyers Visit Southeast-Leading Lightning

It's been a hell of a season so far for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who've seen a restructured organization show fast and favorable results so far. The Lightning currently lead their division, outpacing the Washington Capitals by four points and second only to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference. Not a bad matchup to get the post-ASG session started up. 

As hot as the Flyers were going into the break, the Lightning were on their game too, winning five straight (albeit with three shootouts and not quite the opponents the Flyers were facing). Their sites are clearly set on the Flyers and first place, with a two-point swing on the line tonight. 

The Flyers looked a lot better going into the All-Star break than they did the Christmas break, so hopefully the same will be true coming out. Their first game back from that little vacation was a beatdown at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, which may come up in the locker room before tonight's game. Too bad we don't have some 24/7 cams in there... 

In two previous contests against Tampa Bay this season, the Flyers have lost both, including that 8-7 pseudo All-Star Game in mid-November. Considering the Flyers have only lost 12 times in regulation, ya gotta think they'll be motivated to get one back here. Also, while the Flyers were a good club early on, they were still finding their way, especially in the first TB loss, which was just four games into the season. 

One highlight for the Flyers in those two losses was the production from Nikolay Zherdev, who already has three goals against the Lightning this season. With JVR out of the lineup the two games before the break, Zherdev was skating with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux, and the line looked amazing together. We're guessing he'll be alongside those guys again tonight, as a flu-ridden Jody Shelley will get a night off in favor of Dan Carcillo. God I love the firepower on this team. The Lightning have some as well, including one of the league's best in Steven Stamkos, but they're also giving up quite a few (22nd in the league), and their goal differential is even at zero. Only two teams with negative differentials are currently within the playoff bubble, and Tampa Bay's '0' jumps out of the column when looked at with the other division leaders. 

Bob gets the start in net for the Flyers, and game time is 7:30. 

The little All-Star Pageant was nice and all, but we're beyond ready to have some real hockey back in our lives. 

AP Photo

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”