Like the annoyance of a fly buzzing around your head and food, the New Jersey Devils simply won't go away. Leading the regular season series (3 - 2 - 0), the Horned Rivals from Newark look to advance ahead in the Conference standings with a victory over our boys, in our barn, tonight at 7:00. We're currently tied at 85-points, but the Flyers are still one-less game-played than our division combatants, thus clutching the small advantage at 5th in the East.
Leading his pack in points and goals-scored, Ilya Kovalchuk has 12-points in his last 10-contests and continues to be one of this League's biggest threats on the attack.
Not far behind him is linemate Zach Parise, a 27yr old left wing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who sports the captain's 'C' on his red and black sweater.
Together Parise and Kovalchuk rain vulcanized rubber on the opposing net like they were taking turns aiming for the Range Picker at your local course's driving range.
Opposite their attack is the anchor in net -- and future Hall of Fame goaltender -- Marty Brodeur, who's gotten the nod to breach the wickets for New Jersey this evening.
This season New Jersey's tightened up their zone defense and currently rank 2nd in the League for shots allowed on their net (1,835). On top of allowing the second least amount of shots (next to St. Louis), Martin Brodeur seems to have re-found his groove from last year's disappointing season.
In his last four starts, Marty has only allowed one goal per game. In his last ten starts, Brodeur has a .910 save-percentage. That percentage may not seem like much, but it was a couple subpar performances that really dragged the curve downward.
Make no mistake, Marty's heating up and gaining steam. This 39yr old veteran is playing like a young buck, and proves that age is only a number.
Facing New Jersey's netminder from the other end of the pond is our very own Ilya Bryzgalov.
You wanna talk hot hands in goal? How 'bout #30 in orange and black? What seems to be a complete 180 in performance level, Bryz has stolen the spotlight this month of March, and has been named last week's #1 Star of the League. And for very good reason.
In Joe Bogle's article about Bryzgalov's recent accomplishment, he mentions how Ilya has been "fundamentally sound, cutting off angles, and so much better in breakaways and shootouts."
No words have been truer.
Incontestably calm, cool and collected between the pipes, Bryzgalov has made stopping the puck look as easy as slipping on a pair of sneakers. He's challenging the shooters one-on-one, eliminating the holes in his net that he's traditionally given up earlier on this season. Especially the hair-pulling five-hole which is every goalie's nightmare.
Likely to return to the active roster tonight is Jakub Voracek and expansive defenseman Kimmo Timonen. Voracek has missed the last three games after getting Kronwalled, and Timonen's been sidelined all of March --
Timonen will likely take the place of AHL call-up Brandon Manning, while Jody Shelley's spot will yield to Voracek (per The Checking Line).
Earlier today, NHL.com's Adam Kimelman reported that Eric Wellwood has been so effective for the Flyers that he's been promoted to the second line.
Wellwood's played the 5-on-5, the Power-Play and has excelled on the Penalty-Kill. He's become such auniversal tool that it'd be next to impossible to argue against giving this kid a permanent spot on the Flyers roster come next season.
You could canvass he's earned that starter's job now, and should be used in the upcoming Playoffs, but that's completely dependent on the forward skaters that may, or may not return from injury.
I'm lookin' at you, van Riemsdyk. Get healthy, brother.
One more unsurprisingly hot forward is Claude Giroux who has potted four pucks in his last five games-played, including a shootout goal in Saturday night's shutout win over Toronto. He had scored the team's one and only goal against New Jersey two nights ago.
Let's hope we're not saying something similar after tonight.
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(Photo by Yours Truly)