Flyers face depleted Predators in 'biggest game of the road trip'

NASHVILLE — When the Flyers play in Nashville’s home opener on Tuesday night, they will again face a team that will be missing some key players who are injured.

Based on the morning skate, Nashville will be without two of its best defensemen, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis (long-term injured list). Josi will be replaced by Samuel Girard, a quick but small defender who will be making his NHL debut. The 5-foot-10, 162-pound Girard was selected in the second round (47th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Nashville (0-2), which has a speedy group of forwards, will have its first Western Conference championship banner hoisted to the rafters in a pregame ceremony.

“It’s great to be home; the fans are always ready to go,” said Nashville coach Peter Laviolette, whose team opened the season with losses in Boston and Pittsburgh.

Laviolette, who directed the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010, said it was a “proud moment for the franchise” to get to the Finals last season, but when the ceremony is over Tuesday “we have to take care of what we have to do on the ice. Clearly there has to be a line of separation … and when the puck drops, we have to be ready to play.”

The Flyers (2-1) are finishing a season-opening, four-game road trip, and they will use the same lineup as the one that registered a 3-2 overtime win Saturday over injury-plagued Anaheim. The Ducks were missing six regulars and a backup goalie.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald said when an opponent is missing starters, like Nashville, you “try to play your own game. You don’t want to get in a mental trap of thinking it’s going to be an easier game because some of their best players aren’t playing,” he said. “We talked about that in Anaheim (because) we knew they were missing some guys, but you never want to let your guard down, especially against a team that has a few guys missing. There are hungrier guys in the lineup and their guys are going to work real hard, so you have to be careful of that. I think our mindset stays the same. We try to focus on our game and execute our game plan.”

“We’re 2-1. The results are OK, but the biggest game of the road trip is tonight. Bottom line,” coach Dave Hakstol said.

Laviolette has been impressed by the Flyers.

“They’re a quick team and they’ve played well to start the year,” he said. “Their youth has come in and done a good job, especially on the back end.”

Goalie matchup. Brian Elliott (2-0, 2.50 GAA, .914 save percentage) will make his third start in four games and will face the Predators’ Pekka Rinne (0-1, 3.16, .903).

“Elliott is a guy who can certainly handle the workload,” Hakstol said. “He’s battled real well in his first two starts, and he’s done an excellent job and gotten the results for the team.”

Hartnell returns

Former Flyers left winger Scott Hartnell will be playing his first home game in Nashville since an earlier stint with the Predators. He will be on the third line and first power-play unit.

Hartnell was a teenager when he first joined the Preds. Now he’s 35.

“I was one of those 18-year-olds trying to take an older guy’s spot, and now it’s totally a 180 and I’m that old guy,” he said with a smile. “There are a lot of great, young players in this dressing room — in the whole league, for that matter. You have to keep up with these young guys and play smart and play hard every night like I’ve kind of built my career on.”

Hartnell said he was a “fan” rooting for the Preds to beat Pittsburgh in last season’s Cup Finals.

“And not liking Pittsburgh at all from Flyers days” gave him even a greater rooting interest, he said.

In the summer, Hartnell got married near Columbus, and Kimmo Timonen, his teammate with the Flyers and during his earlier Nashville stint, traveled from Finland and was his best man.

“It was a big deal for me to have him stand up for me,” Hartnell said, calling Timonen his “best bud.”

Breakaways

Samuel Morin will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game and figures to be sent to the AHL’s Phantoms in a day or two……The Flyers are 4-0-1 in their last five games against Nashville…..Claude Giroux has six goals in 13 career games against the Preds. Giroux needs one goal to pass Jeff Carter for 15th on the club’s all-time list…..Sean Couturier leads the Flyers with a plus-5 rating…..Wayne Simmonds has half of the Flyers’ eight goals…..The Flyers have their home opener Saturday night against Washington…..Hakstol on the top line of new left winger Giroux, center Couturier, and right winger Jake Voracek: “I give those three guys a lot of credit. They’ve worked hard to build chemistry and become a good line … There’s expectations among themselves is to produce offensively; they’re doing that, and they’re also playing against the other teams’ top groups a lot of nights and they’re doing a good job there, too.”

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Source : http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/flyers/philadelphia-flyers-predators-dave-hakstol-peter-laviolette-20171010.html

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