Ilya Bryzgalov and the surging Philadelphia Flyers will try to extend their winning streak to five games when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs for tonight's clash at Air Canada Centre.
With four straight wins, the Flyers have posted their longest win streak of the season outside of a seven-game tear from Dec. 2-15.
Philadelphia's recent surge has had a great deal to do with the play of Bryzgalov between the pipes, as the Russian netminder finally seems to be delivering on the promise of the nine-year, $51 million deal he signed with the Flyers in the offseason.
After struggling over his first few months in Philadelphia, Bryzgalov appears to be settling into the No. 1 goaltender role. Since being pulled in the second period of a game against Pittsburgh on Feb. 18, the former Phoenix netminder has started eight straight and is 6-2-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in those outings.
Bryzgalov stopped all 28 shots sent his way in Philadelphia's 5-0 win over Florida on Thursday, giving him two shutouts in his last three trips to the crease and four this season.
"He seems pretty locked in right now," said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette. "He's preparing, he's going out there, he's executing, and then he gets ready for the next one."
With the Flyers also playing tomorrow in New Jersey, backup netminder Sergei Bobrovsky could start one of the two games this weekend. Bobrovsky hasn't started since losing on Feb. 12 in Detroit.
Philadelphia is currently fighting for playoff position in the East and Bryzgalov's improved play could help the Flyers down the stretch. With 83 points, the Flyers are four in back of Pittsburgh for the fourth seed in the East. Philly is also just two points ahead of sixth-seeded New Jersey, which plays today against the New York Islanders.
Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, Scott Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr and Eric Wellwood all scored in Thursday's blowout win for the Flyers, who have also won six of eight.
The Flyers are playing two straight and four of their next five on the road, where they boast a 21-11-2 record this season.
On the injury front, Flyers defensemen Pavel Kubina (upper body) and Kimmo Timonen (back) are questionable for tonight. Forward Jakub Voracek is also day-to-day with head and mouth issues.
Toronto's fading playoff chances took another hit Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, as the Leafs blew a two-goal lead in losing a 3-2 regulation decision to the Penguins. It was Toronto's eighth loss in nine games and dropped the Leafs to 2-11-1 in their last 14 contests. The Maple Leafs are also 1-2 since firing Ron Wilson and hiring Randy Carlyle as his replacement.
As a result of the slide, the Maple Leafs are currently seeded 12th in the conference and have fallen five points out of the last playoff spot in the East.
Phil Kessel and Carl Gunnarsson lit the lamp for the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, while Jonas Gustavsson stopped 31-of-33 shots in the losing effort.
"I thought that we were better from a defensive standpoint in the critical areas tonight," Carlyle said. "I thought that our work ethic was stronger but we ran out of bodies."
Prior to Wednesday's game, the Leafs announced that forward Joffrey Lupul will miss three-to-four weeks with a separated shoulder. That will not help Toronto's playoff chances, as Lupul had 25 goals and a team-high 42 assists through 66 games this season.
In addition to Lupul's absence, Toronto forwards Colby Armstrong (broken nose) and Mike Brown (lower body) and defenseman Cody Franson (face laceration) are questionable for tonight,
Toronto is 16-13-5 at home compared to a 14-17-2 mark on the road. After tonight's home tilt, the Leafs will head out on a five-game swing.
The Flyers are 2-0 against Toronto this season and have won three straight, seven of eight and nine of the last 11 meetings in this series. Philly has also won three in a row at Toronto's Air Canada Centre.