Lunch Break: Flyers' late-game heroics
The Flyers (24-19-4) return home on Thursday night to take on the Nashville Predators (20-21-7) for the second and final time this season.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.
Here are five things you need to know for the game:
1. Hartnell to play
Scott Hartnell’s status for Thursday was in question after the forward blocked a shot that hit him just above the ankle in the second period of the Flyers’ 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
General manager Paul Holmgren said Hartnell was examined after Tuesday’s game and again on Wednesday. Hartnell was listed as day to day with a lower-body injury after the checkups.
But Hartnell was on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate and will play against his former club on Thursday night.
That’s a good thing for the Flyers. Hartnell has turned his season around ever since he was demoted from the top line and placed with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. In his past 12 games, Hartnell has 13 points (five goals).
“He is playing with a lot of energy right now and he is doing a great job around the net being physical,” Craig Berube said Wednesday (see story). “And on the power play, obviously, he has a presence in the slot. He scored a goal [Tuesday]. I think his game has been pretty consistent for a while now.”
2. Watch out for Weber
The Flyers caught a huge break when they didn’t have to deal with All-Star defenseman Shea Weber the last time they faced Nashville. Weber missed the Predators' 3-2 loss to the Flyers on Nov. 30 with an eye injury.
This time around, the Flyers will have the difficult task of trying to shut down a healthy and red-hot Weber. The Predators' captain has 17 points in his last 17 games and leads NHL defensemen with 11 goals this season.
“He’s a great player,” Matt Read said Wednesday (see story). "Great defensively, great offensively. Last game we played against them, he was a big absence for them. But we’ve got to take advantage of home ice and play a better game than we did in Nashville and come away with two points again."
Weber can do it all for Nashville. He ranks second on the team in scoring with 30 points, but he's also a major presence in the defensive zone.
Weber, who was recently named to his second straight Winter Olympics for Team Canada, eats up a ton of minutes, averaging 26:44 per game. That’s good for the fourth-most ice time in the league.
3. Special teams battle
The Flyers have surrendered just one power-play goal in their last nine games and have killed off 30 of their 31 shorthanded situations (96.8 percent) during that span.
There’s no doubt the Flyers need to be more disciplined -- they are the NHL’s most-penalized team -- but they seem almost comfortable with a man down as of late.
That’s not something Berube will want his club to get used to. Eventually, racking up penalties will come back to haunt the Flyers.
Even though the Predators have struggled and dropped five straight on the road, the Flyers should be wary of putting Nashville on the man advantage.
The Predators went 2 for 4 on the power play in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Entering that game, Nashville scored just once in its previous 13 PP opportunities.
Zac Rinaldo (high ankle sprain) remains sidelined for the Flyers.
Nashville will continue to be without starting goaltender Pekke Rinne (hip). Rinne has missed most of the season, leading Predators general manager David Poille to go out and find an adequate replacement.
The Predators acquired Devan Dubnyk from the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks. With Dubnyk in the mix, either Carter Hutton or Marek Mazanec will likely be sent down to the minors.
All three netminders were on the ice this morning for Nashville’s morning skate, but it’s unclear who will start against the Flyers.
5. This and that
• The Flyers are one of just two teams in the NHL to have seven players record at least 10 goals this season. The Winnipeg Jets are the other.
• The Predators are 17-2-4 when scoring first this season.
• The Flyers have gone 6 for 25 (24 percent) on the man advantage over their past six games.
• Nashville has dropped six of its last eight games. Five of those losses came by one goal.
• The Flyers are 3-4-1 against the Central Division this season.