Flyers-Blues: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Blues: 5 things you need to know
March 22, 2014, 7:00 am
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The Flyers (37-25-7) will aim to win their fifth straight game when they host the St. Louis Blues (47-15-7) Saturday afternoon.

Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Wayne’s world
All eyes have been on Claude Giroux over the past few months -- and rightfully so -- but Wayne Simmonds reminded everyone Thursday night why he’s been a key to success for the Flyers all season long.

Simmonds beat Stars goalie Tim Thomas twice in the Flyers’ 4-2 win over Dallas and moved into a tie for second place in the NHL in power-play goals with 13 after a first-period tap-in marker. Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin is the only player in the league with more goals (20) than Simmonds on the man advantage this season.

The 25-year-old has become a much more complete player since joining the Orange and Black in 2011. He’s been focusing on puck possession and is showing more patience when entering the offensive zone.

Earlier in his career, Simmonds would be more inclined to dump the puck and grind it out of the corners before heading to the front of the net. Now, he’s built up the confidence to gain the zone and either shoot or pass before getting to the middle of the ice.

Simmonds’ growth has paid dividends for the Flyers. He’s become a legitimate threat on the power play and the league is starting to take notice. It’s also worth noting that Simmonds has already set a career high in points with 52, which ranks second on the team, through 69 games this season.

2. Reinforcing the line
Andrew MacDonald has now played seven games with the Flyers since being acquired from the New York Islanders and he’s already done everything that was expected of him.

MacDonald has brought stability to the Flyers’ back end. He has blocked shots, run smooth breakouts and -- most importantly -- has developed chemistry with Luke Schenn.

Schenn has struggled to find consistency this season but has looked much more relaxed and confident since MacDonald came on board.

“We complement each other well,” Schenn said Friday (see story). “He’s helped me out there. He’s a steady player to play with. We knew what type of player he was: steady and consistent.”

MacDonald has just one assist since leaving Long Island, but the Flyers have gone 5-1-1 with him in the lineup. The MacDonald-Schenn pairing has also given the Flyers a more versatile look on the blue line and allows them to use their three pairings in multiple situations. So far, so good.

3. Welcome back
Saturday will mark the first of two meetings between these two clubs this season. Thanks to the NHL lockout that shortened last season to 48 games, the Flyers and Blues haven’t faced off since Oct. 22, 2011.

In that game, Carlo Colaiacovo had a goal and an assist to help St. Louis come away with a 4-2 victory at the Wells Fargo Center. Danny Briere and Matt Carle registered the Flyers’ two markers.

The Blues entered the weekend at the top of the NHL standings with 101 points. They are built around an outstanding defensive corps and balanced offense.

St. Louis got even scarier when they acquired netminder Ryan Miller and gritty forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres just prior to the deadline.

The Flyers will need to play better than they did Thursday if they want to shut down the Blues. They are a hardworking group that has an active forecheck and won’t shy away from contact.

4. Injuries
The Flyers are a healthy bunch.

For St. Louis, Magnus Paajarvi is listed as questionable for Saturday’s matinee with an upper-body injury.

The Blues will be without Jordan Leopold (high right ankle sprain) and Vladmir Tarasenko (right hand).
 
5. This and that
• The Flyers are 23-0-2 when they score four or more goals this season.

• Miller has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his nine games with the Blues (seven wins).

• With one more marker, Mark Streit will become the Flyers’ ninth player to reach double digits in goals this season.

• T.J. Oshie, who leads St. Louis with 54 points, has a goal and three assists in his last three games.

• Giroux has at least one point in five consecutive games and has collected five goals and 10 assists since the Olympic break.