NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 28th (All times Eastern)
Philadelphia Flyers (17-16-4) at Edmonton Oilers (13-24-3), 10 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers will face a former teammate on Saturday, as they visit Ilya Bryzgalov and the Edmonton Oilers for a highly- anticipated battle at Rexall Place.
Bryzgalov's tumultuous tenure with the Flyers came to an abrupt end last summer, as Philadelphia banished the controversial goaltender with a massive buyout. The outspoken netminder will get a chance to prove the Flyers made the wrong decision by letting him go, as he expects to get the start for the Oilers on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Russian backstop joined the Flyers in the summer of 2011, signing an 8-year, $51 million deal. However, perceptions of inconsistent play along with off-ice and locker-room behavior issues contributed to the buyout -- one which saved the Flyers an estimated $6 million on the salary cap for the remaining six years of the deal.
Bryzgalov was signed by Edmonton to a one-year deal in early November and has gone 2-4-0 with a 2.80 goals against average and .915 save percentage this season. Bryzgalov, who also played for Anaheim and Phoenix before signing his massive deal with the Flyers, is 3-0-0 with a 1.86 GAA and .927 save percentage over four career games (three starts) against Philadelphia.
"It's just another game of hockey," said Bryzgalov on Friday of facing the Flyers.
The Flyers enter this emotional clash against their former goaltender with wins in three of their last four games, but Philly also has lost its last five tilts on the road, where the club is just 6-9-4 this season.
"On the road we tend to not fall asleep but not push the issue enough at certain times. And we end up letting our guard down a bit," Flyers coach Craig Berube recently told his team's website.
Philadelphia hopes to solve its recent road issues during an upcoming six-game swing, which begins tonight in Edmonton before taking the Flyers to Vancouver, Calgary. Colorado, Phoenix and finally New Jersey.
The Flyers won their ninth straight home game in their last trip to the ice, as Wayne Simmonds tallied twice and Steve Mason stopped 26 shots to help Philly enter the Christmas break with Monday's 4-1 triumph over the Minnesota Wild.
Claude Giroux and Luke Schenn also scored with Jakub Voracek chipping in a pair of assists for the Flyers. Voracek extended his point streak to eight games, while Giroux reached the scoresheet for a seventh straight outing.
The Flyers expect to have Steve Downie back on Saturday, as the forward is ready to return from an upper-body injury that caused him to miss the last two games. Downie has three goals and 16 assists this season and has 12 points (2 goals, 10 assists) in 20 games since he was traded by Colorado on Oct. 31.
The Oilers, meanwhile, hope Bryzgalov can follow up Devan Dubnyk's 27-save shutout on Friday night that lifted his club to a 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames. It was Dubnyk's second shutout of the season and eighth of his career.
Ryan Smyth scored both goals -- one an empty-netter -- for the Oilers, who have won their past two after dropping six straight games. Boyd Gordon assisted on both tallies as Edmonton recorded just its third winning streak of the season.
"You have to give (the Flames) credit, they are a hard-working team, but by no means are we going to lay down and be pushed over," Smyth said. "We're a team that's going to fight and claw and try and get ourselves bumping up in the standings, one game at a time and we did it tonight."
Philadelphia beat a visiting Oilers club by a 4-2 score on Nov. 9. Giroux tallied the game-winner to help the Flyers beat Edmonton for the second time in three meetings, while Mason stopped 24-of-26 shots for the win to improve to 6-4-0 with a 3.86 GAA in 11 career starts in this matchup.
The Oilers, however, are 7-2-0 with a tie in the last 10 overall meetings against the Flyers. Philadelphia also is winless over its last four trips to Edmonton, going 0-3 with a tie since last winning at Rexall Place on March 19, 2001.
12/28 10:31:10 ET