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January 10, 2013 | 7:04pm ET
Season Preview: Philadelphia
By Patrick Kearns, TheFourthPeriod.com

The Philadelphia Flyers have been consistently one of the better teams in the league over the past few years. The one thing that has always separated them from a consistently elite team has been their goaltending woes.

They acquired Ilya Bryzgalov to fix that longstanding issue. Unfortunately, like many of the previous Flyers netminders, Bryzgalov had an awful season. He struggled on a nightly basis, and it was strongly highlighted in the playoffs when the New Jersey Devils absolutely trounced the Flyers.

They still have a strong combination of skill and grit, however, to compete in the Atlantic Division, with full lines of complete players.

Forwards

Claude Giroux established himself as one of the top players in the league last year. He finished just outside the top three in Hart Trophy voting, which was widely considered a snub by fans and experts alike. He does not carry the offensive load along, however. The Flyers unloaded both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, which saw the additions of young forwards Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Along with second-year player Matt Read, the future is bright offensively for the Flyers. On the veteran side, fan-favorite Scott Hartnell and playoff stud Danny Briere are expected to continue to perform at their career averages, which would put the Flyers in good shape offensively.

Defense

With Chris Pronger's career all but over, the Flyers looked outside the organization on the off-season in an effort to replace the future Hall of Fame defenseman. They signed Shea Weber to an offer sheet, but Nashville matched it, and they were serious contenders for Ryan Suter. They ended up acquiring Luke Schenn from Toronto. Schenn joins a cast of veteran defenders including Andrej Meszaros on the blueline. He will be expected to make an immediate impact and be one of the top defenders on team. Veteran guys like Kimmo Timonen and Meszaros will need to play consistent hockey as well if the team wants to be successful.

Goalies

When Bryzgalov signed that enormous contract, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren came under a lot of scrutiny. Well, after one season, the contract is looking even worse. To give Bryzgalov the benefit of the doubt, it takes some time to adjust to playing in a huge hockey town like Philly. He will not get a pass this season, though, if he continues to perform at a substandard level.

Projected Outcome

The Flyers have the all-around talent to be a playoff team. But it will fall solely on their goaltending to see how far this club can actually go. Bryzgalov has performed at a high level before, and the Flyers are hoping he begins to live up to his contact. They should make the playoffs easily, but more likely than not they will finish the regular-season at about the fifth seed.

3 Players to Watch
 
Claude Giroux
The former TFP coverboy is so supremely talented that he makes players around him better. He has some of the top hands in the league, and possesses excellent on-ice vision. He needs another Hart Trophy-like season to push the Flyers to the next level.
Sean Couturier
The rookie showed last season why the Flyers took him in the Top 10 of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft after trading Jeff Carter to Columbus. His impressive play at both ends of the ice earned him ice time ahead of other rookies on the team, and by the end of the season he was being counted on for crucial minutes. He needs to add a little more offense to his game.
Luke Schenn
Schenn joins his brother Brayden this season sporting the Orange and Black. He is considered somewhat of an underachiever at this point in his career, as he was expected to be the No. 1 guy in Toronto. The Flyers need to hope a change of scenery will bring out the best in Luke.

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