Playing their third game in four nights, John Tortorella’s Philadelphia Flyers (5-5-1) will host Todd McLellan’s Los Angeles Kings (6-2-2) at the Wells Fargo Center. Game time is 7:00 pm ET.
The game will be televised on NBCSP with Jim Jackson and Brian Boucher on the call. The radio broadcast, with Tim Saunders and Todd Fedoruk on the call, is on 97.5 The Fanatic with an online simulcast on Flyers Radio 24/7.
This is the first of two meetings this season between the teams, and the lone game in Philadelphia. The teams will rematch in Los Angeles on November 11.
Here are five things to watch in Saturday’s game.
1. Overcoming the fatigue factor
Saturday’s game is the first “fatigue factor” game for the Flyers this season: one rested club against a team that is playing multiple games in a short span. The Kings have been in Philadelphia since Friday. The Flyers are playing the second game of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights.
McLellan’s club is undefeated on the road so far (5-0-0), so the Flyers have their work cut out for them heading into Saturday’s game. Winning games where there’s a fatigue factor disadvantage requires playing smart and setting your team up to succeed.
One key element is already in place. In the win in Buffalo, Tortorella did not have to shorten the bench. Even without Sean Couturier in the lineup, the Flyers were able to distribute the ice time judiciously so that no one was overtaxed.
Secondly, it would be ideal if the Flyers, as they did on Friday, could play from ahead against the Kings. The Flyers’ have been having strong first periods for the most part this season. Getting off to a lead and forcing the Kings to burn the energy candle at both ends to chase the game can provide a big boost when it’s time to head into the third period.
Finally, although the Flyers’ penalty kill has generally been strong this season, Philly cannot afford to spend too much time playing shorthanded. Even if penalties are killed, it taxes the personnel and it takes non-PKers out of the flow of the game. Playing with discipline and avoiding careless penalties is a big element in being ready to go the distance in a fatigue factor game.
2. Goaltending decision
The Flyers, as is typical heading into the latter game of a B2B, will not hold a morning skate on Saturday. With Carter Hart officially day-to-day while dealing with a mid-body injury sustained on Wednesday and backup option Felix Sandström having had to leave an AHL conditioning assignment start on Friday with an upper-body injury, the Flyers have two possibilities in net for Saturday’s game.
One is Samuel Ersson. Typically, current-day NHL teams try to avoid having the same goaltender play on back-to-back nights, much less three times in four nights. Ersson played the final 50 minutes of Wednesday’s game and then started Friday’s game.
However, Ersson saw very few pucks on Wednesday. He faced just nine shots in his 50 minutes of action. Friday’s rematch with the Sabers started out much the same way. Ersson only saw four shots in the first period. He got busier the rest of the way but still only faced a total of 22 shots.
Ersson, who was asked several times last season in the American Hockey League to play every minute of three games in three nights, is capable of going again in a 3-in-4. That decision will be up to Tortorella and goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh. But Ersson is coming off a strong bounceback game in Buffalo, and lacks nothing by way of mental toughness. As such, it would not be a shock if Ersson is called upon to start again on Saturday.
The other option is veteran Cal Petersen. There would be a good storyline if the 29-year-old goalie gets the nod: a former Kings goalie, once considered the heir apparent to LA legend Jonathan Quick, going up against his old team.
Petersen had rough seasons in both 2021-22 and 2022-23. Last season, he was waived and spent 40 games in the American Hockey League with the Ontario Reign. Acquired by the Flyers this past offseason in the three-team trade that sent Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Petersen was sent, before the season, to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
So far in 2023-24, Petersen has been up-and-down for the Phantoms, while splitting time with former Army and ECHL goalie Parker Gahagen. In his four starts, Petersen is 1-3-0 with a 3.76 GAA and .884 save percentage.
What the numbers do not reflect: The Phantoms have been prone to very slow starts in each of his losses, and Petersen himself tended to settle in as the games went along. He played quite well overall in his one win.
3. Flyers power play vs. Kings PK
All five of the Flyers’ goals in Buffalo on Friday were scored at 5-on-5. On the power play, the Flyers were 0-for-2, although they had a couple of looks at the net. For the season, the Flyers are 4-for-37 (10.8 percent, ranked 28th leaguewide). Philly has yielded one shorthanded goal.
The Kings have been solid thus far on the penalty kill. LA enters the game 29-for-35 (82.9 percent) on the PK, ranking 11th leaguewide. Blake Lizotte scored LA’s lone shorthanded goal to date.
4. Flyers PK vs. Kings power play
The Flyers had a hiccup on the penalty kill in going 0-for-3 in the home games against Anaheim and Carolina. The team got back on the horse in preventing the Sabers from scoring on the power play in either end of the home-and-home set.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Flyers rank 15th in the NHL at 79.3 percent on the penalty kill (23-for-29). Philly has scored four shorthanded goals — two apiece for Travis Konecny and Sean Walker — and had at least four other prime chances to score while killing penalties.
The Kings rank in the middle of the pack on the power play so far this season. The team has gone 8-for-44 to date (18.2 percent, ranked 16th) on the man advantage. LA has yielded two shorthanded goals to date.
5. Behind enemy lines: LA Kings
The Kings enter this game coming off a 3-2 win in Ottawa on Thursday to stay unbeaten on the road. Phillip Danault, Carl Grundström and Anze Kopitar scored for Los Angeles, while Adrian Kempe chipped in two assists. Veteran goaltender Cam Talbot made 24 saves to earn the win.
For the season, Kevin Fiala has racked up 11 assists among his team-leading 12 points. He’s followed on the team scoring leaderboard by Kempe (3g, 8a), the seemingly ageless two-way stalwart Kopitar (5g, 5a), Trevor Moore (5g, 4a). Danault (3g, 4a), and young center Quinton Byfield (2g, 5a).
On the blueline, longtime star defenseman Drew Doughty has averaged 26:15 of ice time per game while posting four goals and six points. Both Doughty and Mikey Anderson (1g, 6a, 19:56 TOI) are a traditional plus-six to date.
In net, Talbot is 5-2-1 overall with a 2.41 GAA and .915 save percentage. Backup goalie Pheonix Copley has made three starts, going 1-0-1 with a 4.98 GAA and .788 save percentage. Talbot had made seven starts and one relief appearance.