After a very disappointing 2020-21 season and an offseason filled with roster changes, the Flyers begin their 82-game regular season on Friday night against the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here’s three storylines for the opener along with the projected lineups.

Back to a sold-out Wells Fargo Center

The last time that the Flyers were able to play in front of fans in a normal capacity Wells Fargo Center — March 10, 2021 —, the team had one of the best home seasons in recent franchise history. The 2019-20 Flyers had the NHL’s best home record (25-6-4).

Last season, the team slipped to 12-12-4 at home (13-11-4 away). 

After practice on Thursday, captain Claude Giroux discussed (among other topics) the importance of restoring a home-ice edge and keeping the crowd energized.

“Opening night is always special, but it’s a little more special when it’s also the season opener,” said Giroux. 

The Flyers open the season with a four-game homestand.

Some shake ups for opening night

In the Flyers’ preseason finale in Washington last Friday, the Flyers had both new top-pairing defenseman Ryan Ellis (lower-body) and second-pairing defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (upper-body) sustain injuries that put both on day-to-day status.  

The good news is Ellis practiced in full on Thursday with the team at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees. He will make his Flyers debut in the opener against the Capitals, playing right defense alongside Ivan Provorov.

The bad news is that Ristolainen, who has skated in sessions with Flyers skills coach Angelo Ricci in recent days, did not practice with the team on Thursday. He has been ruled out of the opener. His status for Monday’s game against the Seattle Kraken will be determined over the weekend.  

With Ristolainen out for at least one game, the Flyers recalled veteran defenseman Nick Seeler from the AHL squad, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Seeler beat out fellow veteran Adam Clendening in training camp for the Flyers’ season-opening seventh defenseman role. Seeler brings some physicality and shot-blocking prowess.

Friday night, Seeler will be paired with Keith Yandle (who will play in his 923rd consecutive NHL regular season game). It remains to be seen which one will play the left side and which defenseman will be on the right. The two rotated sides during practice on Thursday. Vigneault indicated that he and assistant coach Mike Yeo would make that determination on game day.

On Vancouver’s side of things

The Canucks come to Philadelphia with an 0-0-1 record, losing to the Edmonton Oilers, 3-2, in a shootout in Edmonton on Wednesday. Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, Vancouver rallied for goals by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and, with 2:49 left on the clock, by Quinn Hughes to force overtime. Thatcher Demko stopped 32 of 34 shots over the 65 minutes of play.  The shootout went five rounds, before Edmonton prevailed (2-1), Bo Horvat, in round four, had the only successful attempt for the Canucks. His tally prolonged the skills competition, before the Oilers’ Kyle Turris scored in the top of round five and Tanner Pearson wristed a shot wide of the net.

The Canucks are a speedy team that can burn an opponent in transition if the other team does not take care of the puck. Brock Boeser missed the opener against Edmonton but is expected to get into the lineup during their season-opening road trip. The trip continues on Saturday in Detroit, Tuesday in Buffalo, next Thursday in Chicago, and finally wraps up in Seattle on October 23.

Projected lineups

Flyers:

Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
86 Joel Farabee – 19 Derick Brassard – 89 Cam Atkinson
23 Oskar Lindblom – 21 Scott Laughton – 25 James van Riemsdyk
71 Max Willman – 42 Nate Thompson -62 Nicolas Aube-Kubel

9 Ivan Provorov – 94 Ryan Ellis
6 Travis Sanheim – 61 Justin Braun
3 Keith Yandle – 24 Nick Seeler

79 Carter Hart
[35 Martin Jones]

Canucks:

Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – Conor Garland
Matthew Highmore – Jason Dickinson – Nils Höglander
J.T. Miller – Elias Pettersson – Vasily Podkolzin
Justin Dowling – Juho Lammikko – Alex Chiasson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes – Tucker Poolman
Jack Rathbone – Kyle Burroughs

Thatcher Demko
[Jaroslav Halak]