While a game against the worst team in the Western Conference may not seem like a game to circle on your calendar, Thursday night’s Philadelphia Flyers-Edmonton Oilers game certainly has some intriguing storylines for sure.Before the puck drops at 7:00, here are “3 Things” to know for Flyers-Oilers.
1. Gostisbehere vs McDavid
Far and away the most noteworthy game within the game for Thursday is going to be that of Flyers rookie Shayne Gostisbehere versus Oilers freshman Connor McDavid.
We all know what Gostisbehere brings to the table: blazing speed, an A+ hockey IQ, a howitzer shot, and quality defense. While his amazing 15-game point streak has gone by the wayside, Gostisbehere is still in the conversation for the Calder Trophy for sure.
But while Gostisbehere is looked at in Philadelphia as a building block, Connor McDavid is looked at in Edmonton as the franchise savior, the next coming of Wayne Gretzky.
A lot of pressure? Sure. But McDavid is more than living up to the billing. Although he’s only played in 28 games due to a collarbone injury suffered against the Flyers earlier this season, McDavid has 31 points and has the 3rd-best points-per-game mark in the NHL. He dazzles on every night, and is a true game-breaker.
The battle between Gostisbehere and McDavid should be epic, as both rookies fight for the coveted Calder.
2. Injury Report
The Flyers and Oilers are both coming into this game walking wounded.
For the Flyers, Jake Voracek will miss the next two weeks with a lower-body injury. He was also seen in a walking boot, which would seem to muddy his chances of playing soon.
In his absence, ex-Oiler Sam Gagner has done an admirable job holding down the fort. He’ll look for a big game versus his old club.
Forward Jordan Weal is nearing a comeback for the Flyers as well, although with the forwards jelling right now, Weal could be left on the outside looking in when he returns.
As for the Oilers, they’re missing top-line center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, power forward Benoit Pouliot, and defensemen Oscar Klefbom and Eric Gryba. Edmonton filled the holes with an active trade deadline, acquiring former Flyer prospect Patrick Maroon, grinder Adam Cracknell, and defenseman Adam Pardy.
Both teams will have to make do with what they have on Thursday night.
3. Flyers Entering Crunch Time
There’s no way to sugarcoat this: the Flyers need to win a lot of hockey games in the month of March if they want to make the playoffs. They stand only 3 points out of the playoffs with 3 games still to be played against their main competition, the hated Pittsburgh Penguins.
While a playoff run is doable, the Flyers are facing long odds. Injuries to Voracek and Michael Del Zotto are devastating; one more might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Complicating matters is how the Flyers have the toughest schedule in the Metropolitan Division in terms of opponent’s winning percentage from this point on. This means that the Flyers will have to be on their A-game night in and night out.
If the Flyers can win the games that they have a good chance to win, such as Thursday night, they can go on a streak. Because with games against the Lightning, Panthers, Red Wings, Blackhawks, and Capitals approaching, the Flyers need all of the “easy” points that they can get.
The playoffs for the Flyers start now.