Devils, Rangers on Tap for Flyers Matinee Weekend

Devils, Rangers on Tap for Flyers Matinee Weekend

The sporting world's gaze is trained on the final football game of the NFL season, which kicks off tomorrow night in Indianapolis, and, alas, includes little in the way of rooting interests for Philadelphia fans. But, in addition to some Sixers action (not the best start to the weekend last night), the Flyers have a pair of divisional games this weekend, with each holding some pretty exciting mid-afternoon potential.

First up is a tilt with the Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center, followed by a trip up to the Garden tomorrow. Let's get a quick look at the matchup with the Devils, who may or may not be for real in the Atlantic.

The Jerz come to town having won their last two, including a shootout W over the Rangers and a 5-3 picking of the Canadiens, both at home. Those wins followed a stretch of three losses, including the 4-1 defeat to the Flyers a week ago today.

They're in the middle of a pretty tough stretch of games, though haven't played on the road since January 14th. Tomorrow, they host the Penguins, then visit the Rangers. Pretty exciting time of year, with the Atlantic being a very competitive space and lots of divisional games on the schedule.

Through three matchups, the Flyers are 2-0-1 against the Devils this season. Wayne Simmonds has been heating up lately, and he's been an exorcist against Jersey, with two goals and two assists in three games, tied with Claude Giroux for the team lead. Scott Hartnell and Matt Read also have a pair of goals each against the Devils.

Sergei Bobrovsky will draw the start today, presumably followed by Ilya Bryzgalov against the Rags tomorrow.

The Devils will be without talented rookie blueliner Adam Larsson, who was leveled by Montreal's PK Subban on Thursday:

Katie Strang of ESPN says Adam Carter and Adam Henrique will also miss the game due to injury.

One stat that jumps off the page for the Devils? Their power play has surrendered 13 short-handed goals. Not that the Flyers should be eager to get the whistle-and-point, but if they do, maybe Cooter & Co. can make it 14. Also kinda interesting, NJD lead the league in short-handed goals scored as well, with 11. By comparison, the Flyers have scored and allowed four shorties apiece.

The Devils also sport the league's top PK percentage (89.6%).

Although no NHL team should be looked over in the classic "trap game" scenario, the Devils don't fit that mold anyway. They're a solid team with just two fewer wins than the Flyers. That's a bit inflated by their success in shootouts, but the Flyers have two big games this weekend, rather than an app and a main course.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Do you believe there is such a creature as the Jersey Devil?

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).