NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, October 2nd (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0-0) at Philadelphia Flyers (0-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Philadelphia Flyers will open their 2013-14 schedule on home ice when they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs for Wednesday's clash at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers begin this season with returning to the postseason on their minds after the club had a string of five straight trips to the playoffs halted last spring. Philadelphia missed out on the postseason tournament by a margin of six points, finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference during the lockout- shortened campaign.
Philadelphia is once again led on offense by captain Claude Giroux, who had a team-high 48 points in 48 games despite only scoring 13 goals. Winger Jakub Voracek led the team with a career-high 22 goals in 2013 and will be expected to build off that total over the course of a full season.
Giroux and Voracek missed time during the preseason due to injuries, but Philly's top two offensive players are both ready to go for the season opener.
The Flyers also enter 2013-14 without goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov or forward Danny Briere, as the team used compliance buyouts to wipe out the contracts of both players last summer. With the controversial Bryzgalov gone, the Flyers will use the tandem of Ray Emery and Steve Mason in net this season.
Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette has tabbed Mason to get the start in Wednesday's opener, but there isn't a clear-cut No. 1 between the two netminders at this stage of the season.
The biggest addition for the Flyers since last season was the signing of Vincent Lecavalier to take the No. 2 centerman spot behind Giroux. Lecavalier, 33, was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the offseason before inking a five-year, $22.5 million contract to join Philadelphia.
Lecavalier had 10 goals and 22 assists in 39 games for the Lightning last season and will try to get his Flyers career off to a good start on Wednesday. The 33-year-old has registered 52 points on 22 goals and 30 assists in 50 career games against the Maple Leafs.
More recently, the Flyers signed big defenseman Hal Gill to a one-year deal after his successful professional try-out with the club in September. The 6- foot-7 Gill will be entering his 16th NHL season and offers depth and physicality at the back end.
While the Flyers aim for a win in their home and season opener, Toronto will shoot for victories on consecutive nights after earning a 4-3 regulation decision Tuesday in Montreal. Tyler Bozak scored the go-ahead goal while short-handed late in the second period to help the Leafs earn a win over their rivals in the first game of the 2013-14 season.
Mason Raymond tallied the eventual game-winner in the third period, while former Flyer James van Riemsdyk and Dion Phaneuf also notched goals for the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel, signed to a lucrative eight-year contract extension earlier on Tuesday, recorded an assist on van Riemsdyk's power-play marker.
"Tonight our special teams were the difference in the game," said Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. "The short-handed goal turned everything in our favor."
James Reimer made 34 saves to help Toronto fight back from a 2-1 deficit after the opening 20 minutes. Jonathan Bernier could get the start on Wednesday after coming over from Los Angeles in an offseason trade. Bernier, who never has played a game in Philadelphia, was 9-3-1 with a 1.87 goals against average while spelling star goaltender Jonathan Quick in L.A. last season.
Toronto took two of three meetings against the Flyers last season, but Philly has won six of eight and 10 of the past 13 tilts in this series. The Leafs have also dropped seven of nine and eight of their last 11 games in the City of Brotherly Love.
10/02 10:47:24 ET