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.