The Flyers are far removed from their 5-2-0 start to the season. They have gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 games and are coming off a 4-1 loss to Washington. Philadelphia has won two of its last five games since going 10 straight without a win.
That being said, expectations were low coming into this season. The departure of Claude Giroux and a mismanaged offseason has left the Flyers with 23 points in 27 games, good for seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 26th in the NHL standings.
New bench boss John Tortorella has changed the team’s overall philosophy but has not been getting results as of late.
But Vegas has struggled against Philadelphia in the past, going 3-5-0 for a .375 points percentage, the second-lowest against any opponent. The Golden Knights lost both meetings last season and have dropped three of the last four.
Philadelphia has faced a lot of injuries, including long-term injuries to key players. The most notable is Sean Couturier, and Ryan Ellis may never play again; Cam Atkinson has yet to play a game this season, and other players like Travis Konecny, James van Riemsdyk, Bobby Brink and Wade Allison have been sidelined as well (though van Riemsdyk returned Wednesday against the Capitals).
Kevin Hayes leads the team in scoring with 28 points in 27 games, while Konecny has 23 in 21; no other player has more than 20 points this season, and Philadelphia has just three players with 15-plus points (Joel Farabee has five goals and 10 assists in 27 games).
Goaltending has not been the problem for Philadelphia this season. In fact, Carter Hart was the main reason why Philadelphia found early success, and he has covered up mistakes all year.
Hart is 8-8-4 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 20 starts, while backup Felix Sandstrom is 1-5-1 with 3.40 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in eight games.
There’s only so much a goalie can do, however, especially without offense.
The Flyers are the lowest-scoring team in the league, averaging just 2.41 goals per game; by contrast, Vegas is 12th with 3.32. Special teams are an issue as well, especially the power play, which ranks 29th with a 16.7 percent conversion rate.
Since Nov. 1, the Golden Knights’ power play has clicked at an impressive 25 percent, though the penalty kill’s performance has declined to 71.2 percent, good for 26th overall.
The Golden Knights have scored first in 18 games this season, which is tied for first in the NHL; Vegas is also tied for first in wins when scoring first with 15. Vegas has given up the first goal in six of its eight losses this season, including each of the last five. The Golden Knights will want to light the lamp first tonight to avoid falling into the same trap.
Philadelphia has scored first in just seven out of 27 games.
The Golden Knights will be without Alex Pietrangelo, who is out indefinitely due to an illness in the family. He has been designated a non-roster player for the time being, and Brett Howden was placed on long-term injured reserve in order to accommodate adding additional players to the mix. Pietrangelo leaves a major hole on the blue line, bu Vegas will have to fill it by committee.
Jack Eichel remains day-to-day; he has missed the last two games.
The Golden Knights have been stellar on the road and mediocre at home this season. In fact, the Golden Knights are 12-2-1 away from T-Mobile Arena but just 7-6-0 in their own barn. Vegas has gone 2-5-0 in its last seven home contests and has lost three straight. That’s something the Golden Knights will look to rectify in tonight’s matchup.
Paul Cotter — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Reilly Smith — William Karlsson — Jonathan Marchessault
Jonas Rondbjerg — Nicolas Roy — Phil Kessel
William Carrier — Jake Leschyshyn — Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez — Zach Whitecloud
Brayden McNabb — Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague — Daniil Miromanov
Noah Cates — Kevin Hayes — Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton — Lukas Sedlak — Joel Farabee
James van Riemsdyk — Morgan Frost — Owen Tippett
Nicolas Delauriers — Patrick Brown — Zach MacEwan
Ivan Provorov — Rasmus Ristolainen
Travis Sanheim — Justin Braun
Nick Seeler — Tony DeAngelo