Dinner Party at the Wach, With Our Invited Guests the Washington Capitals

Dinner Party at the Wach, With Our Invited Guests the Washington Capitals

And it's gonna be a party.

I'm about ready to head down to the Wachovia Center to see the Flyers play the Caps for the second time this season. The first time I was there, the Orange & Black won the closest 7-1 game in recent memory. The last time the two teams played overall, the Flyers came from behind to stun the Caps in DC, scoring three goals in rapid succession in the third period. Leading the season series 2-1, closing it out with a win tonight should set a great tone for continuing what the Flyers started in last season's playoffs.

The big news in Philly is the likely return of Danny Briere. With his history this year, no one knows what to expect regarding his durability and whether the groin injury is in the past or will linger for the remainder of the season. As they showed in their dismantling of Buffalo on Tuesday, the Flyers can be a great team regardless of Danny's presence or absence, but obviously they have more firepower with him on the ice. We just don't know how good they'll be yet, because we've hardly seen him play this year.

One thing we do know for sure is that the Caps will test him as often as possible tonight. They play the Flyers pretty tough, and there's no Swiss Miss jersey on game day.

Former Flyers enforcer Donald Brashear may not be in the lineup for the Caps though. He's listed as doutbful with a knee problem, but you gotta wonder how his jaw is feeling. After their bouts in the last Flyers-Caps game in Philly, Riley Cote may be just a little happy to see that Brash is out though. 

For tonight's game, we'll be watching to see if the Caps can rely on more than the duo of Ovie and Green, who both logged monster minutes the last time these two teams played, but failed to contribute late in a game that ended badly for the Caps. At the time, we wondered whether that loss was due to the Flyers' outstanding depth and Washington's seemingly shallow attack at both ends. Japer's Rink recently took a look at whether the Caps can get production from more than just their Top Four (Semin and Backstrom being the other two), which will be a major factor tonight. 

Another question JP asks is whether the Flyers, who lead the NHL in minor penalties, can stay out of the box and keep the Eastern Conference's best PP unit out of striking distance. Fortunately, the Flyers PP is outstanding at home, and Briere's return should improve that even further, putting pressure on Washington to keep it clean as well. Those will likely be the key factors tonight (and what else is new?)

If the Flyers stay out of the box, they can match up their top three lines against the Caps' for longer stretches, which heavily favors the Flyers. But every minor they commit takes a little more away from that edge and makes Ovechkin/Green on-ice minutes seem that much easier.

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

HOUSTON -- A person familiar with J.J. Watt's condition says he has re-injured his back and the Houston Texans expect him to be out until at least December, and possibly the entire season.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't confirmed the injury.

Watt missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He returned started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

It's unclear if the injury will require surgery.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, didn't practice on Monday, but coach Bill O'Brien said then he was just getting a day off.

NFL.com first reported the news (see full story).
 
Panthers: Team signs S Griffin, DT Love
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers have signed safety Michael Griffin and defensive tackle Kyle Love to one-year contracts.

To make room on the roster, the Panthers waived safety Marcus Ball and placed defensive end Ryan Delaire on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury.

A former first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot, 215-pound Griffin was named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010. He spent nine seasons with Tennessee before signing with Minnesota. However, he was waived by the Vikings on Sept. 7.

Griffin has played in 141 career regular season games with 133 starts, registering 607 tackles, seven sacks, 25 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Love played in 15 regular season games with two starts and registered 19 tackles, including three sacks last season for Carolina.

NFL: Three legislature seats filled for possible Vegas stadium vote
RENO, Nev. -- Three people whose votes could determine whether a nearly $2 billion stadium is built to lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas were appointed Tuesday to vacant seats in the Nevada Legislature.

The three northern Nevada residents, including a former Stanford football player, will join other state lawmakers for a special session the governor is expected to convene next month to consider raising hotel room taxes in the Las Vegas area to help finance a 65,000-seat, domed stadium that could be home to the NFL team.

The current informal proposal on the table would tax only hotel guests in Las Vegas and Clark County, with no direct impact on Washoe County, Reno or Sparks. But critics fear that in the event of revenue shortfalls, the burden could fall to all Clark County taxpayers or, potentially, taxpayers statewide

"I am a fan and support football as a sport," said ex-Stanford linebacker Dominic Brunetti, a Republican commercial real estate broker.

"And as a business, I respect the NFL," he said. "But only if it is fair to those communities and families it influences and impacts through oftentimes very, very complicated deal structures."

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”