When the Flyers host high-tempo Edmonton on Thursday night and try to extend their winning streak to seven games, they will spend some of their focus on trying to contain Connor McDavid.
Good luck with that.
McDavid, perhaps the league's fastest player, leads the NHL with 36 points.
With defensive whiz Sean Couturier out of the lineup because of a knee injury, center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare figures to spend lots of time matched against McDavid.
"He's one of the best in the world," Bellemare said after Wednesday's practice in Voorhees. "It's tough to not to be excited when you get to play against a player who plays like this. He competes every second he's on the ice, and you can't even tell he's competing."
He meant that McDavid skates effortlessly.
"That whole line," Bellemare said, "is pretty impressive."
McDavid, whose 11 goals have all been scored in even-strength situations, centers beefy wingers Milan Lucic (eight goals, 20 points) and Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 22 points).
The Flyers (15-10-3) beat Florida, 3-2, in overtime Tuesday even though they were outplayed and outshot by a 44-25 margin.
"We have to be better with the puck," said coach Dave Hakstol, whose team was bailed out by goalie Steve Mason. "We didn't do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night."
Bellemare called the 19-year-old McDavid "a kid who is freaky fast. Everybody knows how fast he is, and still he had two breakaways" as Edmonton (14-10-4) dropped a 4-3 overtime decision Tuesday in Buffalo. "With that team and that line on the ice, you cannot turn over the puck in the neutral zone because he's gone. You cannot give him time and space. The less time you give him, the better chance you have to kind of frustrate him."
Defenseman Ivan Provorov, 19, who did a nice job helping shut down the physical Jaromir Jagr on Tuesday, will get his first chance to go up against the explosive McDavid.
"He's just as fast with the puck as he is without it," Provorov said.
Captain Claude Giroux said the blossoming Provorov, whom he compared to Chris Pronger by the way he reads plays, is a smart player who "likes to learn. He likes to get better every day, and he's a pretty disciplined kid."
Provorov and Andrew MacDonald will be paired together and are expected to spend lots of time against McDavid's line.
"That's quite a challenge, but we'll definitely watch some video today and maybe pick up on some of his tendencies," MacDonald said. "I think collectively, as a five-man group, there's got to be really good gaps all over the ice."
Rugged defenseman Radko Gudas, who missed three games because of the flu, will return to the Flyers' lineup Thursday.
"Can't wait to get back in," Gudas said. "It was tough not being in there."
Based on Wednesday's practice, Michael Del Zotto will be a healthy scratch to make room for Gudas.
Del Zotto had three hits and four blocked shots while playing 22 minutes, 3 seconds Tuesday. In six games since returning from a benching, he has two goals, two assists and a minus-1 rating.
"It's really difficult," Hakstol said of deciding which defenseman comes out of the lineup. "We've been in that situation really since Day 1 coming out of training camp and our group continues to stay together and work hard."
As part of their 50th anniversary season, the Flyers will honor some of their top goalies in franchise history (as voted by the fans) on Thursday: Bernie Parent, Ron Hextall, Pete Peeters, and Brian Boucher. The fiancee of the late Pelle Lindbergh, Kerstin Pietsch-Somnell, is traveling to the game from Sweden. . . . The Flyers activated center Boyd Gordon.