By Harry Allison
The Flyers finally play a home game tonight, and their opponent is a dreaded Metro foe.
After splitting a four-game road trip to begin the season, the Flyers get to play in front of their home fans when red-hot Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come to town.
The Flyers (2-2-0) are coming off a crushing 6-5 loss on Tuesday night in Nashville, in which they allowed the tying and winning power-play goals in the final 1:17 of regulation.
The Capitals (3-1-1) handed the New Jersey Devils their first loss of the season last night with a 5-2 win in Newark. Ovechkin, who started the season with seven goals in his first two games, picked up his ninth goal of season. The 32-year-old Russian leads the NHL with nine goals and only two of them have come on the power play.
Ovechkin has spent most of his first five games playing on a top line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and rookie right winger Jakub Vrana, but he rekindled some of his old magic with Nicklas Backstrom, taking a cross-ice feed from Backstrom for a power-play goal, then setting up Backstrom for his first assist of the season.
“When we feel it on the ice, it’s a good feeling,” Ovechkin said of his chemistry with Backstrom. “Trotzy (Coach Barry Trotz) sees it and puts us together to give us some jump.”
Backstrom (2-8-10) finished with one goal and three assists, moving him into a three-way tie with Ovechkin (9-1-10) and Kuznetsov (0-10-10) for the team lead with 10 points. Backstrom, who does not wear a helmet during warmups, took a puck to the head before Friday night’s game.
“I just don’t like warmups,” Backstrom joked when asked why he left the ice. “I decided to rest. Maybe (getting hit) was a wakeup call, who knows?”
The Capitals lost defenseman Matt Niskanen to an upper-body injury and he will be re-evaluated Saturday to determine his availability.
Niskanen was playing on a top pairing with Dmitry Orlov and averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time. If he cannot play, look for Taylor Chorney to replace him.
The Flyers’ new top line of Sean Couturier between Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek has produced seven even-strength points in four games and 12 points overall.
“I think they can do a lot to help my game, and I can do a lot to help their game,” Couturier told the Delco Times. “So far, we have been completing each other very well and we hope to keep going.”
The Flyers, who rank sixth in the conference with 3.25 goals per game, have also allowed 3.25 goals per game, which ties them for 10th in the conference.
They are still looking for more offense from their four rookies. Center Nolan Patrick (one goal, one assist) has two of the three points by a rookie crop that includes forward Taylor Leier (one assist). Defensemen Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim are looking for their first points.
“You can say I was a ‘defensive guy,’” said Couturier, who has a goal and two assists. “But I see myself as more of a 200-foot guy. I think they can do a lot to help my game, and I can do a lot to help their game. So far, we have been completing each other very well and we hope to keep going.”
The Flyers are expected to turn to goaltender Brian Elliott (2-1-0, 3,67 GAA) between the pipes, and Philipp Grubauer (0-0-1, 3.80) is expected to make his second start for the Capitals.