In their first road game of the 2021-22 season, the Flyers (2-1-1) get to play the 5-0 Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid, who Sean Couturier believes may be the best player in the NHL.
And McDavid does not stand alone as the Oilers’ only elite player. The Oilers have the league’s top one-two punch in McDavid (six goals, seven assists) and Leon Draisaitl (four goals, seven assists), as well as a number of other highly regarded players.
» READ MORE: Flyers' Canadian contingent excited to go 'home'
Flyers forward Zack MacEwen is familiar with the Oilers from last season with the Vancouver Canucks.
“That Canadian division last year, obviously, there were a lot of games against the same teams; we saw them a lot,” MacEwen said. “They’re just dangerous players. They can kind of score from anywhere. You know, you kind of always have to be on your toes against them.”
The Flyers have already faced an elite set of forwards this season when they played the Boston Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrňák. When preparing for the Bruins, coach Alain Vigneault said it’s impossible to shut down players of that caliber completely. The key is to limit their chances. With that game plan, the Flyers emerged victorious against Boston, and they planned to take a similar approach Wednesday night.
“You want to play with the puck,” Flyers winger Travis Konecny said. “You don’t want them to have it in their hands. And, I mean, I think everyone knows what their top unit or their top couple of guys are capable of doing.
“So, you know, as long as we have the puck and keep them playing defense, it’s not what a top guy would like to do. You don’t like to defend. So you just try to play as smart as you can. And when they do have the puck, just play smart and maybe limit his [McDavid’s] opportunities.”
Filling in for Ellis
With Ryan Ellis still day to day with an undisclosed injury, the Flyers needed a new point person for their second power-play unit Wednesday. Earlier in the week, Travis Sanheim filled in, but at practice Tuesday, Rasmus Ristolainen got all the reps.
Ristolainen ran a power-play unit when he was with the Buffalo Sabres He said since it’s a “natural position” for him, it didn’t take long to get the hang of it again despite not practicing on the power play since early in training camp.
Vigneault said Sanheim and Ristolainen bring different qualities to the unit. While Sanheim is a left-handed shooter and is more of a skater, Ristolainen is a right-handed shooter with a lot of power behind it.
Since the Flyers did not hold a morning skate Wednesday, it remained to be seen who would get the nod. .
MacEwen said it felt a bit “strange” to be back in western Canada after he waited so long to be able to leave it. Now that he has his U.S. work visa and has joined his new team, he is happy to be on the road with them and getting to know them. ... With Ellis out, Nick Seeler will play. Ristolainen said he loves how physical Seeler is and that he’s willing to drop the gloves. “We love to have him around,” Ristolainen said. ... Carter Hart was scheduled to start in goal. Vigneault said the Edmonton native was clearly excited to be home.