Flyers Notes: Boucher sees first NHL action of season

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Flyers Notes: Boucher sees first NHL action of season

TORONTO -- Brian Boucher would have liked very much to have started Tuesday night against the Jets as the Flyers' six-game road trip continues at The Peg.
 
“Absolutely,” Boucher said. “I played a bit down in Adirondack. So it’s been good. Any time you get to play with game sharpness, it certainly helps. It’s been a good thing for me.”
 
The plan changed, however, in the second period of Monday’s 5-2 loss to the Leafs when Boucher relieved Ilya Bryzgalov.
 
“You prepare for every game, but obviously that’s not what you envision,” Boucher said. “They kind of came at us in the second in the early going and capitalized. Unfortunately, that was the game.”
 
He gave a lone goal to ... fellow American James van Riemsdyk, on a nifty backhand move in the third period.
 
“It felt a little bit better than usual to get a goal like that in a game like that,” JVR said of the goal.
 
“The key part is to get a win. The team played well from top to bottom. I don't think I had one of my better games like I wanted to have.”
 
Van Riemsdyk said Boucher knows most of his moves. And Boucher?
 
“I thought I had a good read on it,” he said. “Maybe I moved a little too quick. I felt he was going five-hole and I pushed across a little too quick.
 
“I don’t know if he shanked it or meant to go back. But I was surprised. I felt he’d go five-hole and I had the five-hole covered.”
 
Boucher appeared in six games (2-4-0) with the Phantoms, posting a 2.71 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.
 
He was called up on Sunday when Michael Leighton went on injured reserve with an injury to the ring finger on his stick hand.
 
His last regular season appearance in a Flyers jersey was April 9, 2011 in a 7-4 win over the Islanders. He entered the game in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky in the final game of the season and got a win.
 
That season, Boucher went 18-10-4 with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage.
 
If he plays in The Peg, he knows the arena.
 
“I played in Winnipeg last year [with Carolina], one regular-season game and one preseason,” Boucher said. “It’s a tough place to play in. The crowd gets into it. Last year, they were pretty good at home. It would be a good challenge.”
 
Boucher said that coach Peter Laviolette has not told him whether he would play.
 
Shots
The Flyers' 46 shots on Monday were the most they’ve had since a 55-shot game at Winnipeg last Feb. 21 in a 5-4 overtime victory. The Flyers were 5-5-1 in games last season when they had 40 shots or more, and only two of the five wins came in regulation.

Also, the 22 shots on goal in the second period were the most in a period for the Flyers since they had 24 in the third period of a 6-4 loss against New Jersey on Feb. 4, 2012.

Loose pucks
Sean Couturier missed the game with the flu. His absence resulted in some line changes. Max Talbot moved between Tye McGinn and Mike Knuble, while Brayden Schenn centered Matt Read and Jakub Voracek. ... The Flyers mixed up their D-pairs in the first period, but only for a few shifts. Luke Schenn with Nick Grossmann; Grossmann and Bruno Gervais and Braydon Coburn with Kurtis Foster. ... Fans sit next to player benches in Toronto at each end. Bryzgalov had an ongoing conversation with an elderly man sitting next to him from the time he left the game in the second period to the period’s end. He even smiled for a few photos. ... Every skater on the Flyers' roster had at least one shot on goal. Every skater was also credited with at least one hit. ... The Flyers scored seven goals in one game on the road in Florida, but have just eight overall in their six road losses.

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers (15-10-3) vs. Oilers (14-10-4)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The hottest team in the NHL will meet the hottest young star on Thursday night when the Flyers host the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

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

1. McDavid and Co.
The Flyers are going for their seventh consecutive victory, which would tie their longest winning streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when they also won seven in a row.

In order to do so, they’ll have to slow down transcendent talent Connor McDavid and the prolific but streaky Oilers.

McDavid, a generational player, has thus far lived up to all the hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In just his second NHL season — and first with a healthy start after an injured-shortened rookie year (45 games) — the 19-year-old leads all of hockey in points with 36, while no other player has yet to eclipse 30.

His 25 assists also rank atop the NHL, while his 11 goals are among the top 22 and his plus-8 rating is tied for ninth best between all centers.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said Wednesday. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice.”

And he has help.

Linemates Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 11 assists) and Milan Lucic (eight goals, 12 assists) can do damage, as can Jordan Eberle (eight goals, 13 assists).

2. Defense wins games
The Flyers are playing better and cleaner in front of their goaltender — who has been great (see below) — and the results are showing.

The orange and black have gone five straight games of allowing two or fewer goals.

Why were they so up and down before this run? Well, they had surrendered two or fewer goals in just five of their previous 23 games.

“That’s unbelievable for us,” Wayne Simmonds said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.
 
“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”

3. Mase the man
A confident Steve Mason is a dangerous Steve Mason.

Right now, Mason has the net and is gaining steam by the game.

Over his past five outings, the 28-year-old is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

Just as impressive, since Nov. 12, Mason is 8-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey,” Mason said Tuesday. “This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever [head coach Dave Hakstol] calls my name, be ready."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: You always have to watch Simmonds, but especially now with the winger coming off back-to-back two-goal games. Simmonds leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and is second in man-advantage points (13) to only teammate Claude Giroux (14).

Oilers: With all the attention zeroed in on McDavid, we’ll go with the 21-year-old Draisaitl, who has seven goals in his last nine games and 14 points in his past 12. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014 is an intelligent playmaker capable of hurting you.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-4-0 with just a 3.49 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in 13 career games against Edmonton.

• Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth start of the season. He’s 1-1-1 on the year with 84 saves on 91 shots faced, but is 0-4-1 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.57 goals-against average and .865 save percentage.

• The Flyers are fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.11), while Edmonton is seventh (2.93).

• The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games (5-7-3).

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Flyers skate update: Wayne Simmonds, power play key to beating Oilers

Todd McLellan saw a lot of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov as a junior player in the Western Hockey League whenever the Brandon Wheat Kings would turn up in Edmonton.

“I watched him play in junior and had a chance to see that Brandon team play in Edmonton twice last year,” said the Edmonton Oilers coach.

“Obviously, a smooth, confident [player] with great vision. He has patience with the puck. Those are his offensive assets. 

“But he also positions himself well, defensively. He accepts that responsibility. For a young d-man, he is ahead of a lot of others because he can play on both sides of the puck.”

Provorov rattled Jaromir Jagr Tuesday when Florida was here (see story). Tonight he gets his first NHL taste of Connor McDavid.

McLellan said the Oilers' biggest challenge against the Flyers will be stopping the NHL’s second-ranked power play. Edmonton has the 11th best penalty kill.

His concern is Wayne Simmonds (8 power play goals) and Claude Giroux (14 power play points). 

“That power play is deadly and it really hasn’t changed — it’s just clicking,” McLellan said. “It has a couple trigger points. Obviously, Simmonds has the most goals in the league  and Giroux has the most points. But there’s other pieces to that power play, which are exceptional. 

“Our penalty kill has been taking it on the chin and I had to ask our guys today, 'Is it the penalty kill or the penalties?' In my opinion, it’s as much the penalties as the penalty kill. We have to stay out of the box.  

“This is a confident Flyers team. They feel very good in the offensive zone and make things happen. Their goaltender [Steve Mason] has been making saves for them that keeps them confident going the other way. It’s a team on the rise.”

The Streak
The Flyers are looking to make it seven straight wins tonight against the Oilers. The last time they won seven in arrow was Dec. 2-15 in 2011. They did not have a morning skate.

On Mason
Tuesday’s win against Florida was Steve Mason’s 88th as a Flyer, moving him past Pelle Lindbergh into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history. 

Debut
Defenseman Dillon Simpson will make his Oilers debut tonight in Philadelphia. He is the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. 

The oddity? Last year, Keegan Lowe made his Oilers' debut here in Philadelphia. He is the son of Kevin Lowe, longtime coach and front office executive for the Oilers. 

Colors
The Oilers wear three colors during their morning skate. Their defensemen dress in orange; their third and fourth lines dress in white and their top six skaters dress in blue. Now that’s an NHL hierarchy.