Flyers-Avalanche: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Avalanche: 5 things you need to know
January 2, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Two more stops on the West Coast trip for the Flyers (20-16-4).

The Flyers, who have won four straight and three in a row on the road, open their 2014 schedule in Denver against the Avalanche (24-11-4).

Puck drop is set for 9 p.m. (CSN).

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Streit shooting
The Flyers are finally receiving some bang for their buck from Mark Streit.

Streit has goals in back-to-back games -- he did it twice in December. The last time he scored on back-to-back nights? Feb. 9 and 11 of 2012 while he was with the Islanders.

In the final month of 2013, Streit registered nine points. He had nine points combined in the first two months of the season. He has 12 shots in his last five games and 61 on the season, and is a plus-9 in his last seven games.

After signing a four-year, $21 million contract with the Flyers in the offseason Streit struggled in the first two months. He made boneheaded mistakes, costly turnovers, missed assignments, and wasn’t producing offensively.

The Flyers signed Streit to provide some offense on the blue line, help move the puck quicker -- an area the team still struggles with, especially getting out of their own zone -- and be a special teams player. He’s just now finally living up to the bill.

It’s been huge, too, for the orange and black, as they’ve won four straight for the first time this season and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

2. Schenn of the hour
Brayden Schenn is heating up, too, and has been a major player in the Flyers’ last two wins.

On Monday, Schenn scored the game-tying goal with 44 seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime and eventually a shootout. The Flyers beat Vancouver, 4-3. On Tuesday, he had a goal and two assists in the Flyers’ 4-1 win over the Flames in Calgary.

His goal against the Canucks snapped a 16-game goalless drought, and he now has two goals in his last two games. It shouldn’t come to a surprise, either, as Schenn’s been a better player on the road in his career. This year is no different.

Fifteen of his 24 points this season have come away from the Wells Fargo Center, and 37 of his 70 career points have also been on the road.

The Flyers have three more road games before returning to Philly -- tonight vs. Colorado, Saturday at Phoenix, and next Tuesday in New Jersey. They return home next Wednesday against the Canadiens.

So far, so good on the crucial six-game road trip (3-0), but the Flyers need Schenn to stay hot and show more consistency than he has this year.

3. Nasty Nate
Some have thrown the name Sidney Crosby around when talking about who Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon reminds them of. But let’s not get carried away. Crosby is the best player in the world, and arguably the best player ever.

MacKinnon’s potential is through the roof, and in a couple of years we could be talking about a top-seven player in the NHL. Right now, he’s just a very dangerous rookie.

The 18-year-old has 10 goals and 14 assists in 39 games for the Avalanche. Drafted with the No. 1 pick in last June’s NHL draft, MacKinnon has played center (his natural position) and right wing this year. 

With P.A. Parenteau out, MacKinnon will play on Colorado’s second line with Paul Stastny and captain Gabriel Landeskog.

While the Flyers get the Avs at a good time -- Colorado is 1-1-3 in its last five games -- MacKinnon has been lighting up the score sheet.

Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, MacKinnon has goals in back-to-back games, four points in his last four games, and goals in three of those four games.

4. Downie/Talbot
On Halloween, the Flyers shipped Max Talbot to Colorado for Steve Downie.

That trade played a huge part in the Flyers’ turnaround, as they’re 17-8-3 since.

Downie found a home on the third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read for a while. The line was, at one time, the team’s top trio for a few weeks. Then he suffered an upper-body injury on Dec. 19 and missed the following two games.

He returned when the Flyers began their West Coast swing in Edmonton, but he found himself playing on the fourth line with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo. Vinny Lecavalier, who returned the night Downie’s injury was announced, took his spot on the third line.

For the Flyers, Downie gives Craig Berube a coach’s best friend. Sure, he takes some stupid penalties at times, but he’s a legitimate top-six forward capable of gelling with fourth liners. Any coach will take that.

Meanwhile, the Avs are 14-10-4 since trading for Talbot.

Flyers won that trade, big time. 

5. This and that
• The Flyers have lost five straight in Denver, and are 2-7-0-4 in 13 games in Colorado.

• Patrick Roy’s Avalanche went 5-5-4 in December. Colorado lost one game in October and five in November. It lost nine total games in December, but got points in four of those.

• Wayne Simmonds’ last five games of December: Nine points.

• Both Flyers goalies have struggled vs. the Avs. Steve Mason is 4-6-2 with a 3.27 goals against average and .891 save percentage in 12 career games. Ray Emery is 3-1-0 with a 3.53 goals against average and .872 save percentage in six career games.

• A win tonight would put the Flyers legitimately over .500 (21-20) for the first time since April 7, 2012 -- the last game of the 2011-12 season. They finished the season 47-35 in the real world; 47-26-9 in the NHL.