Flyers-Hurricanes: What you need to know

slideshow-020813-flyers-mcginn-ap.jpg

Flyers-Hurricanes: What you need to know

Flyers vs. Hurricanes – 1 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

The Flyers’ four-game homestand will come to a close when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon in the second of three meetings between these two clubs this season.

Offensive struggles have plagued the Flyers in the early going. They have scored just 25 total goals and have two or fewer markers in nine of 11 contests this season.

Although the Flyers haven’t had success finding the back of the net, they have been dominant against the Hurricanes over the past few seasons and will look to continue that trend on Saturday.

Records
Flyers: 4-6-1 (Fifth in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference)

Hurricanes: 5-4-0 (Second in Southeast Division, eighth in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
The Flyers used three power-play tallies to take down the Hurricanes in a 5-3 victory last Saturday. Claude Giroux and Danny Briere each had a goal and an assist to help the orange and black end a three-game losing skid. Netminder Ilya Bryzgalov turned aside a season-high 39 shots.

The Flyers have gone 19-2-3 in their last 24 meetings against Carolina, including a 9-1-2 record at the Wells Fargo Center.

Previous games
Matt Read and Jakub Voracek each scored for the Flyers, but that wasn’t enough in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Florida’s Jonathon Huberdeau and Peter Mueller both beat Bryzgalov in the shootout, while Jose Theordore turned aside attempts from Read and Giroux to help the Panthers snap the Flyers’ three-game home winning streak.

Cam Ward made 45 saves and Jay Harrison scored in overtime to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Carolina, which has won five of its last seven games, also received goals from Chad LaRose and Alexander Semin in regulation.

Keep an eye on ...
Eric Staal has points in seven straight games, including a goal and an assist in last Saturday’s loss to the Flyers. The Hurricanes’ captain has seven goals, four assists and is a team-high plus-7 through nine games this season.

Eric’s younger brother, Jordan, who was acquired by the Hurricanes in a trade this past offseason from the Pittsburgh Penguins, is off to solid start in Carolina. He has one goal, eight assists and 25 shots on goal in nine games.

Giroux has taken an NHL-high 272 faceoffs so far this season and has won 55.9 percent of those draws. The Flyers’ captain is second on the team in scoring with seven points (three goals, four assists).

When scored on first, the Flyers are 0-4-1 this season. The New Jersey Devils and the Calgary Flames (both 0-1-2) are the only other teams that are winless after allowing the first goal.

Did you know?
The Flyers are just 3 for 34 (8.8 percent) on the power play in their seven losses, compared to 6 for 15 (40 percent) on the man-advantage in their four wins.

Read (four goals, four assists) is leading the Flyers in scoring this season with eight points. The only clubs with a lower team point leader than the Flyers are the Los Angeles Kings -- Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford, Simon Gagne, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Justin Williams each have five -- and the Nashville Predators -- Martin Erat and Colin Wilson each have seven.

Injuries
Flyers: Wayne Simmonds, who has missed the last three games with a concussion, took full practice on Friday and said he feels “ready to play.” Simmonds has two goals and three assists in eight games this season.

Scott Hartnell is still on the mend from a broken left foot. He had the cast removed on Thursday and could start skating next week, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) is expected to be out for at least another two weeks.

Hurricanes: Tuomo Ruutu had hip surgery before the NHL lockout ended and is expected to miss the entire regular season.

Up next
The Flyers will begin a season-long, six-game road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday at 7 p.m. They will return home on Feb. 21 for a 7 p.m. matchup with the Panthers.

Carolina will continue its six-game road trip with a 7 p.m. contest against the New York Islanders on Monday night.

Sound off
What do you think the Flyers need to do to turn things around on offense?

 

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

When the Flyers signed Yale goalie Alex Lyon last April, they knew they were getting a competitive guy who was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.
 
What they didn’t know, however, was likely how he could stand on his head and keep an undermanned squad in an exhibition game with just three NHL players on his side.
 
The Flyers lost 2-0 to the Devils on Monday night against a New Jersey lineup that was far superior and kept the puck in Lyon’s end two-thirds of the game.
 
Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers open their home preseason schedule against the Islanders with a legit lineup.
 
Lyon, who posted a 1.64 goals against average and .936 save percentage last season in college, was outstanding against the Devils with 28 saves on 29 shots (one empty netter).
 
“I had shaky legs until the middle of the first and then I felt I had settled in,” the 23-year-old said. “I guess I didn’t expect that.”
 
Exhibition games don’t mean much but this was a performance worth noting because Lyon showed he will challenge Anthony Stolarz for the starter’s job with the Phantoms this season. 

“Alex Lyon had a solid performance right from start to finish,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “Great demeanor and presence. Just a real steady performance all the way through.”
 
The kid seemed undaunted by the Devils' lineup in what was his first-ever start against an NHL club. Notice anything different from college?
 
“The biggest difference is six months ago, I was watching Travis Zajac on TV and now I am playing an exhibition game against him,” Lyon replied. “It was pretty cool going up against those guys.”
 
The Devils attacked him mostly with angled shots. So eager they were to test him, they put a shot on goal from their own blue line in the opening minutes of the game, which Lyon saved.
 
“Yeah, I think they were trying to throw some pucks and my rebound control wasn’t as good as it usually is,” Lyon said. “I think it’s because I was a little nervous. I was just trying to stop the puck to be honest, that is all I was thinking about.”
 
Lyon stopped two breakaway attempts from Beau Bennett, both coming in the opening two periods. The only goal from Nick Lappin came on a second rebound in the crease.
 
“They got their point shot through and I saw it clearly the whole way and didn’t react to it,” Lyon said. “I thought it was going to be tipped. There was a forest of sticks as Keith Allain (Yale coach) would say, in front of me.
 
“I was trying to get big in front of it and they took a couple of whacks and subsequently it bounced right to their guy.”
 
While exhibition games mean little to fans, it meant something to him.
 
“I told my roommate in Philly I was playing my first NHL game,” Lyon said. “Yeah, it’s preseason but going from college, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
 
Lyon won’t play Tuesday night against the Islanders.
 
On Provorov
Rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov, who logged a whopping 28:48 ice time during the loss in New Jersey, will play tonight against the Islanders.
 
The staff wants to get an idea of how he plays with heavy minutes in back-to-back games.
 
“I want to get him into two of the three (exhibitions), assuming he earned it,” Hakstol said. “He did a good job last night. His minutes got high but we wanted to get him into a good situation.
 
“He did a good job and the minutes didn’t seem to wear on him. It will be a challenge playing back-to-back. But that’s one for him and a few others where they have to meet the challenge.”
 
Provorov will be paired with Andrew MacDonald as Hakstol has one vet paired with one prospect in this game.
 
World Cup returnees
Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier both say they want to play games right now to keep themselves in game shape but Hakstol is biding time with them, insisting they get some rest off the ice.
 
“I feel like I’m in midseason form already,” Voracek quipped. “I don’t want to sit around. If I take more than 3-4 days off, I'll put on six pounds. ... I wouldn’t mind playing but obviously, we've got to get some rest. ”
 
Loose pucks
• Other defensive pairs: Nick Schultz and Travis Sanheim; Michael Del Zotto and Philippe Myers.  

• The lines: Jordan Weal will again center Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds; Andy Miele will handle Michael Raffl and Matt Read; Nick Cousins centers Scott Laughton and Dale Weise, which has been a line in camp; and Boyd Gordon will center Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov.

• Steve Mason will be in goal and Stolarz will back him up.

• Forward Travis Konecny will not play.