The Flyers will have to pull off a major upset if they want to snap their three-game losing streak.
Not only are they going to be extremely shorthanded, but they're also facing the hottest team in hockey.
The Flyers (13-14-6) begin a three-game homestand Thursday night when they host the Penguins (19-8-5).
Let's get into the essentials for the game:
- When: 7 p.m. ET
- Where: Wells Fargo Center
- Broadcast/live stream: Tonight's game will be exclusively shown across the nation on ESPN+ and Hulu, which are streaming services that require a separate subscription. It is one of four scheduled ESPN+/Hulu national exclusives for the Flyers this season and will not be aired on traditional television. NBC Sports Philadelphia, as the local broadcast partner, is not permitted to air these games. For more info on the NHL's new national broadcast deal, head here.
• Because of COVID protocols, the Flyers will be without Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim, Nick Seeler and Jackson Cates.
They also don't have Sean Couturier (upper body), Ryan Ellis (lower body) and Nate Thompson (shoulder).
Konecny and Sanheim were placed in the NHL's COVID protocol Wednesday. Giroux, Provorov, Seeler and Cates all missed the Flyers' 4-1 loss Tuesday to the Ducks in Anaheim, California. Carter Hart and Scott Laughton had to stay back home for the first three games of the Flyers' 1-2-1 West Coast road trip.
"I'm trying not to worry too much about stuff like that," James van Riemsdyk said Thursday of the league's decision to still play the game. "Obviously it's out of our control to a degree. You just have to hope that everyone making these decisions, that it's kind of relatively fair across the board for that sort of stuff. I don't want to waste too much energy thinking about stuff like that. Just trying to focus on the game tonight."
As a result of the Flyers' absences, the club called up defenseman Egor Zamula and forward Connor Bunnaman from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The Flyers' lineup will feature seven players with fewer than 100 games of NHL experience: Zamula, Bunnaman, Zack MacEwen, Patrick Brown, Morgan Frost, Max Willman and Cam York.
Three 21-year-olds will play for the Flyers: Zamula, York and Joel Farabee.
"There's not a lot of people out there that are going to feel sorry for us that we have people out of the lineup," Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said Thursday after his team's morning skate. "The bottom line is that two points are being awarded for this game tonight. I certainly know that our opponent's not going to feel sorry for us. It's been probably the best team in the league over the last little while.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a great challenge, it's a great opportunity. The bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity. We need guys to step up, we need guys to step up with strong individual games. Not play just to blend in, but play to make a difference, play to win a hockey game here tonight. Collectively as a team, we have to be real strong in our team game."
The Penguins are rolling. They've won nine straight, a stretch in which they've recorded eight regulation victories, 4.33 goals per game and a plus-21 goal differential.
Pittsburgh played Wednesday night at home, picking up a 5-3 decision over the Blues.
• The Flyers will get Derick Brassard back in the lineup.
The 34-year-old forward missed 15 of the Flyers' last 16 games because of a hip issue. Ideally, the Flyers would have liked to have gotten him in a practice before his return, but they don't have that luxury right now.
"The good news is it's not like he hasn't been skating," Yeo said. "[Player development coach] Kjell Samuelsson was doing a good job putting him through the paces back here. I know the skates were challenging for him.
"In a perfect world, would have had the opportunity to get him in there and compete and battle and get involved with the group. Number one, we don't have the bodies. Number two, we haven't had the practices. I think that we've had three practices since I've taken this position, three full practices just the way the schedule has been.
"Unfortunately, we're not living in a perfect world right now and he'll be in tonight. The good thing is he is a player that plays with his head a lot, too. I don't expect it to be a real difficult transition for him. I think he'll get in there quickly and find his game."
• Zamula is one of the Flyers' top defensive prospects.
He's a long, skilled, smooth-skating blueliner. The undrafted product got a taste of the NHL last season with two games.
In 25 games for the Phantoms this season, Zamula has 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) and a plus-1 rating.
"Even from his first training camp a few years ago, immediately just his presence and poise that he has out there, he seems to just really know how to play the game," van Riemsdyk said. "I think that's the biggest thing that jumps out about him. He's really tall, too, out there, so long reach and stuff like that. But he plays the game with a lot of poise and confidence. It'll be exciting for him to get a chance to get in there tonight."
Joel Farabee-Scott Laughton-Cam Atkinson
Derick Brassard-Morgan Frost-James van Riemsdyk
Connor Bunnaman-Kevin Hayes-Max Willman
Oskar Lindblom-Patrick Brown-Zack MacEwen
Cam York-Justin Braun
Egor Zamula-Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle-Kevin Connauton
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