Flyers see Boston as good measuring stick game

James van Riemsdyk

Just a few games into their new season, the Flyers get to find out exactly how much progress they have made in Wednesday night’s national TV encounter with the Boston Bruins.

Although the Beantown crew hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in a decade, the competitive level remains extremely high. It almost goes without saying the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is the best in the NHL.

So the Flyers should get to see where things stand early at the Wells Fargo Center.

Coach Alain Vigneault announced at the morning skate he plans to have defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who missed the first two games with an upper-body injury, back in the lineup. In addition, forward Zack MacEwen, claimed off waivers from Vancouver last week, will make his Flyers debut on a fourth line with Nate Thompson and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

“Good to go,’’ Vigneault said. “We’re playing a good team. They’ve got one of the best lines in hockey, so we’re going to have to do the job against Bergeron. They’re a team which plays extremely well defensively so we’re going to have to work hard to generate the chances that we need to score. Our whole game will be tested and I think our group is excited about the challenge.’’

There really is no formula for completely stopping the Bergeron unit. Trying to keep the puck as long as you can is probably the best strategy.

“I don’t think you can really shut down players of that caliber, that skill set,’’ Vigneault said. “They’re just the best in the world. They’re going to get some chances. Hopefully we limit them to a low number. The best way to try to stop them from having the chances they’ve gotten in the past, you need to manage the puck well. If you do, you give yourself a chance. If you turn it over, you’re looking to get burned.’’

Added James van Riemsdyk: “You can’t give them anything too easy. They’re skilled players, they’re going to make things happen. You want to limit their opportunities by not giving them anything easy, make them come 200 feet (to generate offense).’’

The decision to start backup goaltender Martin Jones in this game caught some by surprise.

“It’s just the way the schedule is laid out,’’ Vigneault said. “We’re going out west next week (to play Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary) and it’s going to be our first back-to-back (Edmonton-Vancouver on Wednesday-Thursday). Both our goaltenders are going to be critical to our success this year. Jones played our last exhibition game (12 days ago in Washington) so it made sense to play him tonight. He’ll be ready for us on the road.’’

MacEwen didn’t arrive from Canada until Tuesday due to U.S. visa work paper issues so Vigneault has had only a couple chances to see him practice.

“I’ve been told he gets in hard on the forecheck,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s a physical player, plays a smart game. I don’t know much of him but he’s a young player our scouts thought highly of. He’s going to get an opportunity to show what he can do.’’

Ristolainen will be reunited with his preseason partner, Travis Sanheim. Ristolainen’s physical presence should help combat Boston’s above average sized forwards.

“I want him to do what he did during training camp,’’ the coach said. “He and Travis were a very consistent pair. . .high percentage with and without the puck. Go when they have the opportunity.’’

Aube-Kubel played against MacEwen in junior hockey so he’s familiar with his style. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, MacEwen is hard to miss.

“I talked to him yesterday and he’s a good guy,’’ Aube-Kubel said. “I played him in Quebec Junior Major. I remember him being big, tall, strong and good defensively. His game is kind of similar to mine.’’

As for the measuring stick aspect of the game, JVR said there is merit to finding out early in the season where things stand against the Eastern Conference’s big contenders.

“Boston’s been pretty consistent in making the playoffs,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “They’ve won the Stanley Cup (2011) since I’ve been in the league. It’s fun to play a team you know year in, year out is going to be there in the end.’’

 

About Wayne Fish 1501 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.