The Canadiens and Flyers have a history of animosity going back to the days of the Broadstreet Bullies in the 1970s.
The flame of angst continued to flicker through playoff appearances in the 80s and 90s, but went a little quiet over recent years. Well, that quiet is no more with the teams clashing twice over the last three seasons in the playoffs, and the Habs getting spanked on each occasion.
This year's version of the rivalry started after the two teams' first matchup of the season, a 3-0 shutout win by the Habs on November 16. After the game, a visibly upset Mike Richards went into a rant about how P.K. Subban needs to show more respect to veterans and that he shouldn't be so cocky. Richards' speech might have sparked a lot of discussion off the ice but nothing manifested on the ice in the rematch a week later, where the Flyers went to work on a 3-2 comeback win.
Tonight is the third meeting of the season between the teams with both seemingly headed in different directions.
The Flyers are soaring high on a three-game winning streak, having a 20-7-5 record for 45 points in the standings. They currently sit atop both Eastern Conference and league standings.
The Habs, on the other hand, have had a tough time of things over the last 12 games with a 6-6 record. Their current two-game skid coincided with a two-game absence from the lineup by Scott Gomez and Subban
Gomez will be making his return to the lineup from injury tonight, and will have reinforcements on his wings in the form of Max Paciorettyand perennial linemate Brian Gionta.
Subban, on the other hand, will be playing his third game since serving a three-game stretch in the press box. As much as P.K.'s confidence was evident in the early parts of the season, since returning to the ice he has looked more like a tentative rookie. With Andrei Markov out for the season and Jaroslav Spacek returning tonight from an "upper body" injury, the Habs will need Subban to quickly return to prime form.
It looks like Michael Cammalleri will be reunited with top center Tomas Plekanec and Travis Moen will be playing on the other wing. Andrei Kostitsyn practiced on the fourth line yesterday, so you would have to assume that Coach Martin has seen something he didn't like for AK46.
Look for Kostitsyn to move up to the first line at some point during the match, especially if the Habs are down by a goal.
The Flyers are coming off of three straight wins and are 5-1 in their last six games. Their only loss was a 5-4 shootout loss where they still picked up a point in the standings.
Philly will be playing their second game in 48 hours tonight and the Canadiens would be well advised to take the play to them early. Considering that the Flyers are coming off a hard-fought emotional battle against the division rival Penguins, scoring the first goal could go a long way towards victory for the Habs.
In a very difficult month, the Habs are facing yet another huge test this week playing the Flyers tonight and Bruins tomorrow. Both are teams that the Habs are in direct competition in the standings, and they also play a physical brand that the Habs don't tell to do as well against.
As I have said before, if the Canadiens truly hope to contend this season they have to be able to beat teams that play a physical brand of hockey.
Carey Price will be making his 28th start of the season and there is no word yet on who the Flyers will be countering with. With Brian Boucher playing the last three games and being in a back-to-back situation, you'd have to think it might be Sergei Bobrovsky in the net.
The Canadiens have not yet lost more than two games in a row this season, and they hope to ensure that trends doesn't change tonight.
Game time is 7:30 pm and the puck should drop around 7:38 pm. This one should be a barn-burner!
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