Flyers Extras: Danny's Return, Goalies, New Lines, Trade Deadline, and the Cap

Flyers Extras: Danny's Return, Goalies, New Lines, Trade Deadline, and the Cap

It's a busy week for the Flyers, who play in Washington Tuesday, host LA on Wednesday, then host the thug-life Canadiens on Friday night.

There are plenty of interesting news briefs surrounding the team right now, as you may have seen.

  • For starters, Danny Briere is likely to return this Friday against the Habs. He's been practicing and is almost at full speed, but the question remains as to whether he'll re-injure his abdominal strain like he did the last time he came off the IR. As the NHL nears the trade deadline, the Flyers need to know what Danny's status will be before game time, because they'll need to create about $2.5 million of cap room. And no, Darroll Powe doesn't make quite that much ($520k all season).
  • Tim Panaccio reports that Jeff Carter is the latest Flyer to catch a bug, but he's unlikely to miss any game time. Good news, considering the Caps are up next. Could be a fire fight.
    Also, John Stevens is juggling his lines. The Richards line will stay intact, but Scottie Upshall, who has been playing with a lot of energy lately (even for him), will move up to take Joffrey Lupul's spot on the second line. Lupul will skate with Claude Giroux and Powe. Either way, that's a hell of a set of second and third lines.
  • Niitty starts Tuesday, Marty on Wednesday.
  • Other than Sunday's Flyers Wives Fight for Lives Carnival, the week didn't end so well for the Flyers. A poor decision by Marty Biron resulted in a Sidney Crosby goal that broke a tie late in Saturday's game. But after the loss, Mike Richards took the blame, citing two giveaways that resulted in goals. Fans won't likely hold him too accountable though, considering he'd scored a goal—his NHL-best seventh shorthanded—and added two assists. Just a game before, he had two goals and three assists, and he has three shorties in his last three games. Fittingly, the NHL named him the week's first star
  • Speaking of Marty's gaffe... after the Pens game, the speculation regarding the Flyers goalie situation heated up again. It's unlikely there will be any change in the goaltending personnel, but it's always interesting to look at what's out there. You may remember David Foley from The Kids in the Hall his great fan reports here at the Level, and now we're happy to see he's started a blog. David F. takes a good look at some of the goalies that might be available if the Flyers are buyers at the trade deadline. We're not fans of the Khabibulin rumor; he's old, and he's just shown why that's a factor, landing on the IR. Plus, he makes too much money for the cash-strapped Flyers to take on. Ditto the Kari Lehtonen rumor. Head-to-head, Niitty has owned him, but of course Kari's awful team has to be taken intro consideration. Still, he's not worth JVR, who isn't under contract or accounted for in the current cap numbers. Someone else would have to go if the Flyers picked up any of these goalies, most likely Biron. That's a huge price to pay for a modest upgrade at best. The one guy we like is Nik Backstrom, but his "availability" is speculative only. Can Homer pull off another rights-acquisition trade? With Minnesota hovering in the 8/9 spots out west, it's a long shot at this point, but pending UFA Backstrom would look great here next season, if not sooner.
  • Bob Ford reports that it will likely be a pretty quiet trade deadline for the Flyers, at least in terms of big name moves. With the cap situation, he's probably right.
  • Don't look for any head coaches to volunteer to start their teams' seasons in Europe any time soon. The Rangers were the fourth club to fire their head coach this season. Oddly, the four teams were the same ones who started '08-'09 in Europe. Axing Tom Renney after the Rangers fell like a rock from the top of the Atlantic Division standings wasn't much of a surprise, and neither is Glen Sather's choice to replace himJohn Tortorella, former head coach of the Lightning and no big fan of the Flyers. This oughtta be good.
  • Finally, it appears Dancing Shawn might have some competition for jumbotron dance party glory up in Beantown.

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers (28-25-7) at Penguins (37-14-8)
8 p.m. on NBC, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

It’s time for some outdoor fun.

The anticipated Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game has arrived, as the two rivals clash Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Let’s get you ready for it all with five things to know.

1. Eye on the ice
The one caveat of playing ice hockey outdoors is, of course, the weather.

The forecast is calling for rain showers from morning until noon with temperatures in the low-to-mid 50s. The precipitation is expected to taper off and temperatures are expected to dip into the high-30s for puck drop.

The ice can still be playable with some rain. Both teams are expected to have their morning skates indoors. No matter what, the game ice will certainly be a bit different than playing in a concealed arena.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Michael Del Zotto said this week (see story). “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors.

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

Ultimately, players are ready for anything weather-wise -- with the wind being just as big of a concern as the ice (see story).

2. Two directions
The Flyers and Penguins are in contrasting spots.

Pittsburgh is built for another Cup run.

The Flyers are not yet. Instead, they are fighting simply for their postseason lives.

The orange and black have lost seven of their last 10 games. Since the 10-game winning streak, they are 9-15-4 with the NHL’s second-fewest points at 22.

When the Flyers won 10 straight, they had a plus-14 goal differential over that span. In the 28 games since, they have scored an NHL-low 48 markers and own a minus-36 goal differential.

So, like last season, the Flyers have a mighty mountain to climb for a playoff berth (see story). They are now five points back of the Islanders, who currently hold the second wild-card spot with 68 points. The Flyers, at 63 points, also trail the Bruins (68) and Panthers (66), while the Sabres (62) and Lighting (62) are right there in the mix.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Penguins are third in the NHL with 82 points and first with 3.47 goals per game, spearheaded by Sidney Crosby’s league-best 33 scores.

3. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Brayden Schenn is on a three-game goal streak and ranks No. 1 in hockey with 14 man-advantage tallies. Since Jan. 8, he is tied with Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers’ lead in goals at eight. He also owns eight goals and eight assists in 23 career games against Pittsburgh.

Penguins: Right winger Patric Hornqvist, who plays alongside Crosby, was super active in the first meeting with the Flyers, recording two assists, five shots on goal, three hits and three blocked shots. The 30-year-old has 17 goals, 18 assists and a plus-19 rating, while the Penguins are 12-3-0 when he scores a goal.

4. This and that
• Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth is making his sixth straight start and ninth in the last 10 games. He is 2-2-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in seven lifetime matchups with Pittsburgh.

• Penguins goalie Matt Murray is 5-1-2 in his last eight games with a .940 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average. In two career games (one start) against the Flyers, the 22-year-old is 1-0-0 and has stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.

• Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings with the Flyers. This is Game 2 of the four-game regular-season series between the teams. The Penguins won the first matchup, 5-4, on Oct. 29 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Penguins defensemen Justin Schultz (upper body) and Kris Letang (upper body) will be game-time decisions. Schultz is a team-best plus-31 on the season, while Letang is a two-time All-Star.

• Jakub Voracek has 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 29 career games against Pittsburgh.

5. The rivalry
Relive some great moments from the Flyers-Penguins rivalry with these terrific pieces from CSN’s Orange Line.

Danny Briere recalls brawl in Pittsburgh

The origin of Philly’s hatred for Crosby

Reliving Flyers’ five-overtime playoff win

Mario Lemieux returns to form in first game back

Top Flyers-Penguins moments

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

PITTSBURGH -- At this point, the Flyers are sick of talking about Saturday night's Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins at Heinz Field.

They just want to get it on and get it over with. Too much buildup.

“Yeah, kind of,” Simmonds said Friday. “For us, this is an extremely important game. We’ve got to get all the points we can possibly get going down the stretch if we want to make the playoffs.

“Obviously, it’s going to be an exciting time. A lot of guys have families here. But we have to stay focused on the goal.”

To say the Flyers need points right now is a huge understatement. They are five points behind the New York Islanders for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot.

That’s the farthest they have been behind since occupying the wild card on Dec. 4. When the Flyers won their 10th consecutive game Dec. 14, they were 14 points ahead of the Islanders.

That’s a 19-point swing in the standings since then.

“So, we just have to find a way to get two points and get some wins in a row here,” Jakub Voracek said. “Every game against Pittsburgh is special. Playing an outdoor game -- I don't know how many people are going to be here -- but it's going to be a great experience.

“For us, every game is a huge game. So, if you play Pittsburgh or Colorado, it doesn't matter. You have to get two points.”

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Friday night he believes his team can still make a playoff run and salvage a wild card.

The thing is, when the Flyers made their second-half push last season, it actually began in mid-February -- earlier than now.

A couple players got hot, as did Michal Neuvirth and then Steve Mason, and you could see momentum building in the team over weeks.

That hasn’t been the case here. It’s almost March and the Flyers are floundering, no one is scoring and they are losing games despite playing pretty good hockey with no answer on how to turn things around without a major scoring increase across the board.

“It's a different season,” Voracek said of the comparison. “Different teams. You could use it as an advantage. … We have to play our hockey. The last two games, we went 1-1, but we played pretty good. We have to be ready [Saturday].”

Hextall said what happens this weekend and Tuesday against Colorado will have a trickle-down effect on what he does Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline (see story).

“We’ve played well enough at times this year that we can mount a run,” Hextall said. “I have no doubt in my mind. We’ve been playing pretty good the last eight, nine games. Except for the Edmonton game.

“But we haven’t gotten results. We need to get results. It’s not about moral victories or playing good against Washington. That’s fine and dandy, but not good enough. We have to win games.”

It starts tonight.