When the Boston Bruins host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, it will be the classic case of teams going in opposite directions.
Boston (20-11-2) has won three straight and six of its last seven, while the Flyers have dropped five in a row.
Philly (13-15-7) does have one thing in its favor. It is well-rested since it hasn’t played in five nights, and the Bruins are playing on back-to-back nights.
Then again, the B’s didn’t have to work up much of a sweat in a 5-1 home win Wednesday over Montreal.
The Flyers have had five players come off the COVID list since last week, but second-pair defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is still on it. The Flyers are also missing some key players who are injured, including Sean Couturier, Ryan Ellis, and Derick Brassard.
The Flyers had their Tuesday matchup against Carolina postponed for COVID-related reasons, so this will be their first game since Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose. They desperately need a win because they are nine points behind Boston, which holds the last wild-card spot in the East. The Bruins have two games in hand.
Can Morgan Frost get going? The 22-year-old center has just one goal in his last 12 games.
“There’s more there,” interim coach Mike Yeo the other day about Frost. “I believe in him, maybe even more than he does.”
Another storyline: How will the Flyers coming off the COVID protocol list perform in their return to the lineup? The returnees: Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, and Justin Braun.
Boston will be trying to maintain a torrid scoring pace. Led by left winger Brad Marchand, the Bruins have averaged 5.2 goals per game in their last six wins. Containing the Bruins’ top two projected lines will be critical for Philly. Marchand has been on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Craig Smith, while Erik Haula has been centering Taylor Hall and Flyers-killer David Pastrnak on the second unit.
Interesting hat choice for Brad Marchand after scoring the three goals pic.twitter.com/Svu3R2Qlpg
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) January 13, 2022
Flyers’ projected lineup
Line 1: Giroux centering Joel Farabee and Cam Atkinson.
Line 2: Kevin Hayes centering James van Riemsdyk and Konecny,
Line 3: Scott Laughton centering Jackson Cates and Oskar Lindblom.
Line 4: Morgan Frost centering Max Willman and Zack MacEwen.
Defense: Provorov and Sanheim; Cam York and Braun; Keith Yandle and Nick Seeler.
Goalie: Carter Hart.
The Flyers (26th, 2.57 goals per game) are near the bottom of the league in goals scored per game, and lag far behind the Bruins (13th, 3.12). Defensively, the Bruins are sixth in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.55), while the Flyers are 23rd (3.31).
Atkinson, who leads the Flyers with 14 goals, has a four-game points streak, collecting two goals and four assists in that span.
Marchand, who had his fifth career hat trick in Boston’s easy win Wednesday, has eight goals over his last four games.
Projected goalie matchup
Hart (10-7-4) has a 2.92 GAA and .912 save percentage, and he will be trying to rebound from Thursday’s 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Tuukka Rask, who signed a one-year, $1 million deal on Tuesday, will make his season debut for Boston. In his career against the Flyers, Rask has a 19-4-2 record and and a .927 save percentage.
How to watch
ESPN at 7 p.m.
Money line (FanDuel)
Bruins 5, Flyers 2.