Grind your coffee beans early and prepare the coffee maker. We have #FlyersAfterDark tonight. Yes, that's right - Flyers hockey is back.
The Flyers open the 2018-19 season tonight against the Golden Knights in Las Vegas. A few loose pucks before another joyous NHL campaign commences:
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• Vegas dominated in its home building in its inaugural season in 2017-18. The Golden Knights were 29-10-2 at T-Mobile Arena in the regular season and lost just three home games in the postseason, two of which came in against the Capitals the Stanley Cup Final.
The Flyers did hand Vegas one of its 10 regulation losses in its own barn with a 4-1 victory Feb. 11 in a contest that saw the Knights outshoot the Flyers, 39-18. Luck was on the Flyers' side in Las Vegas last season. Let's see if the Flyers make it 2-0 at T-Mobile Arena.
• A lot has been made the past few years about the Flyers' drafting and developing under Ron Hextall. Tonight is a perfect example of why Hextall reaps high praise. Six of the 20 players suiting up tonight have been drafted by Hextall.
In fact, 13 of the 20 players, including James van Riemsdyk, in the opening-night lineup are draft picks. Eight of the 13 have been drafted since 2013, when the Flyers began to place a higher priority on the NHL draft. Hextall took over in 2014.
What's even more impressive is that the Flyers have two middle-round draft picks - Mikhail Vorobyev (fourth round, 2015) and Oskar Lindblom (fifth round, 2014) - in their middle six this season and it's not because of a lack of depth, they're actually good players.
• van Riemsdyk re-debuts for the Flyers tonight after signing back with the team this summer. The No. 2 overall pick in 2007, JVR is a more polished player in his second go-around.
During the preseason, van Riemsdyk scored one goal and had three assists in four games. He was with Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek for most of training camp but will begin the season playing left wing on a line with Vorobyev and Wayne Simmonds.
I really like the idea of having Vorobyev center two power forwards who can flat-out score. Vorobyev's vision and playmaking ability wow me every time he's on the ice, and with these two on his wings, he has the potential to put up points in bunches.
• This is the Flyers' third straight year beginning the season out West. A good omen for tonight: They've opened the past two seasons with wins - in Los Angeles (2016-17) and San Jose (2017-18).
• The Knights have two major additions Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny, which gives them a formidable top-six. Vegas returns its top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith but now ices the second unit of Pacioretty, Stastny and Erik Haula.
When: 10 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk -Mikhail Vorobyev-Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera-Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Andrew MacDonald-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas