VANCOUVER -- 22 years ago...
As Vancouver Sun columnist Cam Cole wrote: “Ronald Reagan was not yet succeeded by George H.W. Bush as the United States’ president. The SkyDome was about to open. The Tiananaman Square massacre hadn’t happened. It was the year ‘Seinfeld’ debuted, and the year the earthquake stopped the Bay Area World Series for 10 days.”
Those are just a few of the things that had yet to happen the last time the Flyers lost a game in Vancouver: Jan. 17, 1989. Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk was a full 5 months away from being born. Both teams have since had visits to the Stanley Cup Finals (Vancouver in 1994, the Flyers in 1997 and 2010) but have not won.
The puck drops at 10 o’clock Eastern Time tonight at Rogers Arena, where the Flyers are 10-0-4 in Vancouver since 1989.
The last time the Flyers lost in Vancouver, Ron Hextall was still in the beginning stages of his prosperous career with the Flyers. And tonight, after exactly 8 days off, the Flyers will start their post-holiday schedule with a different face in goal.
Peter Laviolette will turn to Brian Boucher tonight against the Canucks, who had an unfortunate personal holiday break, after what was the Flyers’ team-worst performance on Dec. 20, a 5-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, with Sergei Bobrovsky in net.
Boucher had one impacted wisdom teeth pulled on the left side of his face on Dec. 21, causing him to miss the Flyers’ free skills competition for fans. A week later, and still not able to really digest all of his favorite foods, Boucher will be ready for pucks to bounce off his mask against the Canucks, one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
“The Canucks are playing pretty good right now, and so are we,” defenseman Andrej Meszaros said after the Flyers’ morning skate on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us, our first day after the Christmas break. We need to keep it going. We have to be ready.”
The Canucks snapped their holiday hangover with a 3-2 win over Edmonton on Sunday night. The Flyers were already in town and Laviolette was able to watch the game live.
“They have a really good team,” Laviolette said. “I look at it as one of the top teams in the West going against one of the top teams in the East. It’s the middle of the season. It should be a great hockey game.”
Laviolette said he wanted to make sure his team doesn’t have a slow start against the Canucks.
“Based on practice and the skate this morning, I feel like our heads are in it and we’re ready to play hockey. I watched the first period the other night of Vancouver and Edmonton and it was just a little bit slow coming out of the gate.
“I guess in the back of my mind, I hope we’re over our Holiday blue in the first period and are ready to go. Because these guys are past that, they have a game under their belt. I want to make sure we don’t fall into that in the first 20 minutes.”
The Flyers are the NHL’s best road team at 10-2-3 - and are 6-0-1 in their last 7 road contests - as they looked to continue their unbeaten streak in Canada’s Pacific Northwest.
SHELLEY BACK: Flyers forward Jody Shelley will be back in the lineup tonight against the Canucks after missing the last four games - two under suspension and the last two as a healthy scratch.
Shelley will likely replace Dan Carcillo, who was the last player off the ice for the Flyers after their morning skate.
Shelley has 1 goal and 2 assists for 3 points on the season, though he is not the Flyers’ leader in penalty minutes (73) as he trails Scott Hartnell by 7 minutes.
BOBROVSKY’S SPECIAL VISITOR: Rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky received a special visitor in North America before the holidays, as his girlfriend joined him from Russia in Ottawa during the break.
Bobrovsky had been living in a hotel room alone near the Flyers’ practice facility in Voorhees, N.J., for much of the season. His girlfriend was having visa problems leaving Russia. She reportedly made the trip to Vancouver, but will not see him in net tonight with Boucher starting.
RADIO MIX-UP: Just a reminder for Flyers fans listening on radio: with the Eagles playing "Tuesday Night Football," the Flyers' broadcast will begin on 1210 AM-WPHT and switch over to 610 AM-WIP to be joined in progress after the Eagles game concludes.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
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