In his last eight games, Steve Downie has no points and 10 penalty minutes. (USA Today Images)
What happened to Steve Downie?
Downie on Sunday was held out of the Flyers’ lineup as a healthy scratch. Enforcer Jay Rosehill, who averages 4:31 of ice time when he plays, took his spot.
The Flyers' losing streak at Madison Square Garden was extended to seven games with a 4-1 loss to the Rangers. It was only the team's second loss in its last seven road games.
Why did coach Craig Berube take Downie out of the lineup?
“His intensity level isn’t high enough on a shift-to-shift basis,” Berube said before Sunday’s game (see story). “He has to play on the edge, but without being undisciplined.”
Since returning from an upper-body injury Dec. 28, Downie hasn’t been the same player he was before the injury, when he was part of a third line that carried the Flyers' offense for about a month.
When the 26-year-old exited the lineup, Vinny Lecavalier returned from his back injury and replaced Downie on the third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read. Downie never got his spot back until Read went out with a concussion.
In his last eight games, Downie has zero points and 10 penalty minutes. On Saturday, he took two penalties -- a slash and an unsportsmanlike late in the game. He played only 10:18, but was on the ice on a power play in the third period with the Flyers down two goals.
Healthy scratches generally spark players, and Downie is an important player for the Flyers. He’ll likely be inserted back into the lineup Tuesday night in Buffalo.
It’s just a matter of how he’ll handle the benching.
Here are a few other storylines to keep an eye on this week:
PK streak ended
Entering Sunday night, the Flyers’ penalty kill was 22 for 22 in its last seven games.
The streak ended at 26 for 26 when the Rangers scored on a second-period power play. The Flyers finished 4 for 5 on the penalty kill against a red-hot Rangers power play. New York has six PP goals in its last five games.
In the beginning of the season when nothing was working well, the Flyers’ PK was atrocious and ranked 23rd. It’s now the sixth-best unit in the league.
With three games this week, the Flyers face two poor offensive teams (the Sabres and Predators) and an underachieving division rival with a ton of talent (the Islanders).
The Flyers have a good chance of restarting the streak this week. Because if there's anything we know about Flyers hockey, it's that they take penalties.
Who's in net?
Ray Emery had been excellent in his previous two starts entering Sunday.
On Sunday night, he was left out to dry, allowing three goals in the first period, the same amount he had allowed in his previous two starts. Berube stuck with him, and Emery kept the Flyers in the game, although no one else showed up.
With Steve Mason coming off his worst game as a Flyer -- allowing five goals Saturday -- Emery had a shot to earn more playing time with a strong effort Sunday.
While he wasn't to blame for the loss, he did give up four goals. "Razor" was signed to be part of a tandem, and so far it's been Mason's job.
After Emery’s showing Sunday, expect Mason to start at least two of the three games this week.
Three of the Flyers’ top five point getters are on a second line that's been super productive in the last few weeks.
The line of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell has produced 33 combined points in its last 11 games. Schenn had the Flyers' lone goal vs. the Rangers.
Six points are up for grabs this week and all six are easily attainable. Keep an eye on the second line and how many points it gets this week.
Players to watch
Buffalo: Not much going on with the Sabres. They have only 71 goals, but they still have Ryan Miller, who will play in his second Olympics next month in Sochi. Miller is 11-18-1 with a 2.64 goals against average and .927 save percentage playing behind no defense this year.
Nashville: Easy to go with Shea Weber here, but let’s highlight 19-year-old rookie Seth Jones. He’s the best defenseman in his draft class and should have gone No. 1 last June. Jones plays over 21 minutes per night and has 17 points. In Nashville’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers on Nov. 30, he played 30:46.
New York: John Tavares. The 23-year-old has 18 points in his last eight games and is third in the league in scoring with 56 points -- behind only Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane. Just watch him, because he’s going to be dominating the league for the next decade.