The 2020-21 NHL season has been filled with challenges. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the league’s outdoor games this weekend have also faced hiccups. In this case, it’s the weather that’s causing the chaos. Too much sunshine!
The Outdoor Rink Awaits
The Philadelphia Flyers arrived in Stateline, Nevada on Friday. They’re now set to take on the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, with the broadcast on NBCSN.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 20, 2021
The Flyers were expecting to practice Saturday morning on the outdoor rink on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. But as they do these days, plans changed. The icemakers were doing their best to preserve the ice quality for Saturday afternoon’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. So, the Flyers and Bruins moved their practices to a nearby rink.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 20, 2021
“Obviously, we would have liked to have an opportunity to take in a couple of the drills on that sheet of ice,” coach Alain Vigneault said after practice on Saturday. “But you know in this league, you’ve got to learn to adapt to everything that’s thrown at you. And not make excuses, and get the job done.”
If Vigneault and his players can keep up that flexible attitude, it should serve the team well. As it turned out, the Avalanche and Golden Knights got through just one period on Saturday. Direct sunshine was wreaking havoc on the playing surface, so the league decided to postpone the remaining 40 minutes until 9 p.m. local time.
Through this uncertainty, the Flyers’ mindset may be helped by everything they’ve been through over the past couple of weeks. They’ve just come out of a week off the ice and four game postponements, with eight players landing on the league’s Covid-19 protocol list.
Defenseman Travis Sanheim was the first to appear on the list. He re-joined the team in time for Thursday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. But six regulars remain sidelined and did not make the trip to Nevada — defenseman Justin Braun and forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton, and Oskar Lindblom.
Filling in those gaps, forwards Andy Andreoff, David Kase, and Maksim Sushko all made their season debuts with the Flyers. Also, defenseman-turned-forward Sam Morin played his second game of the year. It was the NHL debut for Sushko, the 22-year-old from Belarus who was drafted in the fourth round in 2017.
Vigneault said Saturday that he intends to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen on Sunday. Mark Friedman will come back into the lineup for the first time in eight games. He’ll play wing, in place of Kase.
Carter Hart is expected to get the start in net for what should be his first NHL outdoor game. He did suit up for Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship at snowy New Era Field in Buffalo, in front of a crowd of 44,592 fans, Team USA won 4-3 in a shootout.
USA bested Canada today in a snowy outdoor game World Junior hockey tourney in #Buffalo. 📷 for the @cdnpress #iihf #worldjuniors #outdoorgame #wjc #canada #usa #snow #hockey #netcam https://t.co/oiDFVEuWjp pic.twitter.com/rRNBeXOrHB
— Mark Blinch (@mblinch) December 30, 2017
Amidst all the challenges, it’s easy to forget that an important two points are on the line.
Beating The Bruins?
For all the challenges of their season, the Flyers are 8-3-3 through 14 games. But they’re 0-2-2 in their four games against Boston, the club that leads the MassMutual East Division with 22 points.
The Bruins have landed in Lake Tahoe riding their first two-game losing streak of the season. Over the last week, they’ve lost 4-2 to the New York Islanders and 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils.
That’s part of the reason why the divisional standings have tightened up. The Flyers have games in hand on the four teams behind them. But heading into Saturday night’s game action, just four points separate the Flyers in second place from the Rangers in sixth.
That action will wrap up with the Avalanche and Golden Knights under the lights next to Lake Tahoe.
With Sunday’s new start time of 4:30 p.m. local time, the Flyers-Bruins game should be a twilight affair. The sun will set at 5:44 p.m., which should be sometime in the second period.
White he waits, Gritty is enjoying his snow day.
Peace, love, & powder. pic.twitter.com/tXoW6lJV2Z
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) February 20, 2021
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