Simon Gagne makes his return to Philadelphia tonight... As a visitor. How will Flyer fans react to their former left wing? (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
WHEN: 7 PM EDT
MEDIA: Versus (cable), 620 WDAE (Radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Broad Street Hockey
If there is any city Tampa Bay fans think of as a rival, a city which we've done battle with several times before in several different sports, it's Philadelphia.
World Series, NFC Championship game, NHL Eastern Conference championship, and other playoff games in the NFL and NHL... Always standing in the way, always the big-time opponent.
So we're well aware of Philly for one reason or another... And we're well aware of the reputation of the town.... Fiercely loyal to their colors (no matter which sport) and fiercely critical of athletes and opposing clubs (or guests at events).
So it really begs the question: Will LW Simon Gagne return to Philadelphia tonight and receive an ovation that he deserves from a franchise that he was loyal to for so long? Or will he be booed mercilessly by a fan base that is renowned for such antics?
Evidence points to the former, but reputation of the City of Brotherly Love makes one suspect the latter.
There was one authority I thought to consult about the situation tonight. I decided to touch base with cross-team fan (and Raw Charge regular) Katchis about what to expect tonight. It's been made public knowledge that the Flyers organization plans a video montage of Gagne tonight... But really, what will Philly be doing for Simon's homecoming?
Don't expect hostility toward Simon pregame... But if he lights the lamp... well, anything goes. It's Philly after all.
Speaking of last night's game, I have to wonder if Mike Vernace sits tonight and Matt Smaby makes his season debut on defense. Mike did not impress... He's seeing very limited ice time as is (10:30 on average, almost 11 minutes last night). ( [Note by John Fontana, 10/14/10 1:38 PM EDT ] Smaby is indeed in tonight, but it's Dana Tyrell who will be scratched) Former bolt Matt Walker will be out for Philadelphia.
The Bolts power play is ranked 2nd int he league (thank you early season oddness) with a 36.4 conversion rate (they are 4 for 11 in two games). They'll be pitted against the Flyers penalty kill unit that has stopped 15 of 17 short-handed situations so far this season. On the other hand, Philadelphia's power play unit is 1 for 13 so far this season (three games played), they'll be facing Tampa Bay's PK unit which has allowed one goal in 9 short-handed situations so far this season.