Flyers Try to Keep the Momentum Alive in Sunshine State Battle of the Shorthanded (Plus: The Return of Briere!)

Flyers Try to Keep the Momentum Alive in Sunshine State Battle of the Shorthanded (Plus: The Return of Briere!)

Wins such as the one the Flyers scored over the New York
Rangers on Thursday night can sometimes serve as the turning point for an
entire season. Granted we are only through four games of this year’s slate, but
the fellas in Orange & Black were beginning to gain an identity for being
soft after the first three, all losses. They were anything but that while
pummeling the Rags into submission, finishing their rivals off with a series of
potentially defining penalty kills in the third period.

The opening week of the schedule did not come without its
costs however. Scott Hartnell and Andrej Meszaros were both lost to injury for
a month or more, joining Zac Rindaldo on the ever-growing list of injured. Now
the shorthanded Flyers must embark on a four-game road trip amid hopes they can
not only survive these misfortunes, but continue to excel in the process.

In what could be a bit of a break, they arrive in the state
of Florida to find their first opponent in a similarly compromised state. The
Panthers are banged up as well, and should be missing several key players on
Saturday night including two members of their top line in Kris Versteeg and Stephen
Weiss. All of the absences have helped the 2011-12 Southeast Division Champions
get out to a 1-3 start.

Offense has been the Panthers’ downfall thus far, as they
rank 27th in the NHL in goals scored per game (1.75). They do have one of the
most exciting rookies in the league in their employ however in Jonathan
Huberdeau. The third-overall pick in the ’11 draft, Huberdeau exploded for two
goals and an assist in his NHL debut versus the Ottawa Senators last Saturday.
However, the 19 year old has been held in check since, with zero points in the
last three games and just five shots on goal.

Last season, Philadelphia was 2-1-1 against Florida thanks
in part to contributions from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was 2-1 with a
shutout and four goals allowed in three head-to-heads. The Panthers had the
last laugh though, taking the series finale by a final of 2-1 on March 20. The
Flyers managed to put 36 shots on Scott Clemmensen, but were unable to solve
the backup netminder. This time, Jose Theordore will be in the crease.

With so many bodies stuck in the trainer’s room for both
sides, it’s hard to predict who really has the advantage. The Flyers could
surely use a win tonight in their bid to climb back to .500, as they face Tampa
Bay on Sunday in the second half of a Sunshine State back-to-back, so running
into a shorthanded opponent tonight certainly shouldn’t hurt their outlook.

***

Right as we were going to post, PhiladelphiaFlyers.com
reporter Anthony SanFilippo revealed Danny Briere will make his first appearance
of the season
in Orange & Black tonight! Briere had been out with a wrist
injury he suffered while playing overseas. It goes without saying this could
provide a huge boost.

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Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds, Flyers not giving up hope with 21 games left

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds, Flyers not giving up hope with 21 games left

PITTSBURGH – Wayne Simmonds remained defiant.

Yes, the Flyers have lost seven of their last nine games. Yes, they are five points out of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
But it's not over in terms of the playoffs.

"We played a great game, but unfortunately, it didn't go our way," Simmonds said after the 4-2 loss to the Penguins in the Stadium Series outdoor game at Heinz Field (see game recap).

"It wasn't good enough. I don't know what to say, guys. We have 21 games left and a never-say-die attitude. We're gonna keep pushing, no matter what. We've got to be desperate every game and play it as if it’s our last."

The Flyers had their chances and their moments. When Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal in 34 games early in the third period, it was a 3-2 game and momentum had been building in the Flyers' favor.

Then a key moment. A lost faceoff and the puck goes back to the point where Chad Ruhwedel fires so quickly that goalie Michal Neuvirth couldn't track the puck.

That was it. Game over.

"We brought it back [to 3-2]," Simmonds said. "We just had to get the tying goal and it slipped away. … We've got to score."

Still, there is time to regroup again with 21 games left.

"We have to have a short memory," Simmonds said. "Whether it's a good game or bad game, you move on."

They’re moving on but they're not gaining traction.

Weal back in lineup
Jordan Weal (concussion symptoms) re-entered the lineup in place on Roman Lyubimov. Weal missed two games after suffering the injury Feb. 16 in Edmonton.

Weal moved to left wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Simmonds.

“It’s a short sample, but it’s his body of work since he has been with us over the last couple weeks,” coach Dave Hakstol said of moving Weal there.

Before his injury, Weal played left wing on Sean Couturier’s line with Jakub Voracek. Brayden Schenn went back to center Saturday night between Nick Cousins and Voracek. It was another new line for Schenn.

If you’re wondering, Schenn has played left wing 33 times this season in 58 games.

Weal said he “felt good” and seemed excited to play in an NHL outdoor game.

Midway into the game, Michael Raffl went back to the top line and Weal moved to a line with Couturier and Dale Weise.

Weal played 15:43.

Power-play position
Shayne Gostisbehere played the point this game with the first unit and not the half wall. He also scored a goal there.

Coach Dave Hakstol has been rotating him from the point to the half-wall depending upon the personnel on the ice.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment no matter where I am," Gostisbehere said. "It's just nice to be on the power play. Whatever position they put me in out there, up top or on the wing, it's something I have to be ready for. I think I'm comfortable in both spots."

Outdoors
General manager Ron Hextall liked the outdoor game concept.

"It’s unique," Hextall said. "When they first started, I don’t love change. I was a little skeptical, I guess. I think they’re terrific. I really do.

"It’s good for the game. People watch an outdoor game and will pick that game because it’s an outdoor game. There is something about them. They’re neat."

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).