Flyers-Devils: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Devils: 5 things you need to know
January 7, 2014, 1:15 pm
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Last stop: New Jersey. The Flyers (21-17-4) will wrap up their six-game road trip when they battle the Devils (17-18-8) on Tuesday night.

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN/TCN) at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Here are five things you need to know for the game:

1. Building confidence
When the Flyers began their West Coast swing, they had lost five consecutive games away from Wells Fargo Center.

But they put their road struggles behind them to post a 4-1-0 record while out West and have climbed to second place in the Metropolitan Division.

“There are a lot of teams around us,” Jakub Voracek said Monday (see story). “Jersey, the Rangers are right there. We have to make sure and focus on every game. When you look at the standings and schedule, every game is a huge game for us. We have to make sure to leave everything out there every game.”

The Metro is a very weak division. Four points separate the second-place Flyers from the seventh-place Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers’ matchup with New Jersey will begin an important stretch. Eleven of the Flyers’ next 12 games will be against Eastern Conference opponents.

Tuesday will also mark the third of four meetings between the Flyers and Devils this season. If you’re looking for a high-scoring affair, this might not be the game to watch. The two clubs have combined for just four goals in the two previous meetings, both of which have been shutouts.

2. A fine line
The Flyers have been a streaky group this season. At one point, it was the third line of Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Steve Downie carrying the offense. Fast forward a month and the top line of Claude Giroux, Voracek and Michael Raffl were filling up the scoresheets.

A week into 2014, it’s the trio of Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds doing the heavy lifting for the orange and black.

Schenn has come alive as of late after a slow start to the season. He’s collected three goals and three assists in his last six games and has been playing with a lot more confidence with Hartnell and Simmonds on his wings.

Hartnell enters Tuesday riding a seven-game point streak. During that span, he’s posted three goals and five assists and has been a nightmare for opponents to deal with in front of the net.

But perhaps the hottest Flyer right now is Simmonds. The Wayne Train is coming through full steam ahead as the forward has scored eight goals in his past eight games and has six multi-point performances in his past 11 contests.  

3. Catching up with No. 68
When Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the NHL this past summer, the Devils knew they had a big hole to fill on offense.

Enter Jaromir Jagr. New Jersey didn’t expect Jagr to step in and be a point-per-game player when they agreed to a one-year deal with the former MVP, but he’s certainly proved he can still play at a high level.

In 43 games this season, Jagr is leading the Devils in assists (21), points (34) and plus-minus (plus-11) and is tied with Michael Ryder for the team-lead in goals with 13 this season. Not bad for a 41-year-old.

Jagr has been lights out in his career against the Flyers, registering 41 goals and 108 points in 88 games. He’ll look to get back on track when he takes on his former club as he has been held to just one point in his last six contests overall.

The Czech forward, who will represent his country in the Olympics in Sochi, is also approaching a major milestone. At 694 goals, he will pass Hall of Famer Mark Messier with his next marker for seventh all-time in NHL history.

4. Injuries
All signs point to Michael Raffl returning to the Flyers’ lineup against New Jersey. Raffl, who suffered a concussion against the Colorado Avalanche on Jan. 2, took full practice with the team on Monday and has not had any concussion symptoms since last Thursday.

Matt Read, who went down with an upper-body injury against the Calgary Flames, did not skate on Monday. He’s listed as day to day and his status for Tuesday’s game is uncertain.

Erik Gustafsson rejoined teammates for the first time for a full practice on Monday. He’s been sidelined since Dec. 21, when he suffered a left knee sprain against the Columbus Blue Jackets. General manager Paul Holmgren said over the weekend Gustafsson might need another seven days of rehab. He could be cleared to play at some point this weekend.

For the Devils, Patrik Elias has missed two consecutive games with an upper-body injury. Elias is second on New Jersey in scoring with 25 points in 33 games. His status for Tuesday night is questionable.

Defensemen Adam Larsson (lower body) and Peter Harrold (broken foot) and forward Damien Brunner (sprained right knee) are all on injured reserve and will not suit up against the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The Devils are the NHL’s least-penalized team, averaging 7.9 penalty minutes per game. On the other end of the ice, the Flyers are the NHL’s most-penalized team (16.2 PIMS per game).

• The Flyers have been perfect while shorthanded over the past four games, killing off all 12 penalties they’ve taken.

• Four of New Jersey’s last five games have been decided by one goal, all of which were 2-1 contests.

• All four goals scored in the season series between the Flyers and Devils have come at even strength.

• Martin Brodeur has recorded shutouts in three of his last five starts against the Flyers. He’s 4-1-0 with a .966 save percentage in those games.