Flyers look to ride momentum from Nashville
After narrowly escaping Nashville with two points to open their six-game road trip, the Flyers get a second crack at going over .500 this season on Monday evening.
The Flyers (12-12-2) will continue their cross-country tour with a rare contest against the slumping Minnesota Wild (15-8-5), who have lost four in a row.
Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center. Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
1. Unfamiliar foe
Hockey fans don’t get to see these two clubs square off very often. Since Minnesota’s inception into the NHL in 2000, the Flyers have faced the Wild only 13 times.
The Orange and Black hold a sizable lead in the all-time series, having won eight games and tying one more (yes, you may recall ties used to happen and were in fact a thing).
The last time these two teams met, the Flyers came away with a 5-1 win on Jan. 17, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center. That game saw five different goal scorers for the Flyers -- Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier. Jaromir Jagr and Matt Read recorded two assists apiece.
It’s been even longer since the Flyers last visited St. Paul, Minn. The last contest held between the Flyers and Wild held at “The X” was on Nov. 24, 2010. The Flyers won that game as well, 6-1. None of the Flyers’ six goal scorers in that victory remain with the team (Ville Leino, Daniel Briere, Andreas Nodl, Jeff Carter, James van Riemsdyk and Jody Shelley).
The only players on the Flyers’ current roster that dressed in that game in 2010 are Hartnell, Timonen, Coburn, Claude Giroux and Andrej Meszaros. Quite the turnaround for just three years.
2. Power struggle
Fresh off a 9-4-2 November, the Flyers have climbed their way back into the playoff picture in a weak Metropolitan Division. Entering Monday, the Flyers were just two points out of the third automatic playoff spot in the Metro with a game in hand on the New York Rangers.
There’s still plenty of work to do and that starts with the man advantage. After registering at least one power-play goal in eight consecutive games, the Flyers have been held scoreless in their last two while on the PP (0 for 7).
The Wild could stretch the Flyers’ power-play drought to three games. Minnesota has killed eight of nine penalties over its past five games.
Sure, the man advantage has been an area of weakness for the Flyers, but their PK units have been outstanding. The Flyers have not surrendered a single goal in their last 11 shorthanded situations.
That’s bad news for the Wild, who have gone 0 for 9 on the PP over their last five games.
3. In the crease
If Steve Mason and Josh Harding are between the pipes on Monday, goals could be at a premium. Mason and Harding are two of the NHL’s hottest netminders.
It’s no secret Mason has been the Flyers’ most valuable player this season. He’s consistently given his team a chance to win and has gone 6-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average since Nov. 9. There's no wrong answer for the Flyers, as Ray Emery has historically stifled the Wild (see story).
For the Wild, Harding has been a big reason why his club has been competitive in a very good Western Conference. In 15 of his 18 starts, Harding has allowed two or fewer goals and his 1.52 goals-against average is tied for the league lead.
Vinny Lecavalier will miss the game with back spasms (see story).
Wild forward Mikael Granlund was placed on injured reserve earlier this week and will not play against the Flyers. Granlund took several hard hits over the last two weeks and Minnesota is being cautious not to rush him back.
Fellow forward Zenon Konopka is listed as day to day after sustaining a facial injury in the Wild’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. He missed Saturday’s rematch against the Avs, but could return on Monday.
5. This and that
• In the 13 games between these two teams, the Flyers have outscored the Wild by a 38-20 margin.
• Wild forward Zach Parise has 18 goals and 18 assists in 40 career games against the Flyers. All of those points came when he was a member of the New Jersey Devils.
• Giroux’s marker in the first period of the Flyers’ 3-2 win over Nashville was the team’s third consecutive unassisted goal. Andrej Meszaros and Steve Downie ended that streak when they picked up helpers on Couturier’s game-tying goal in the third.
• The Wild have 35 points yet rank seventh in the West. If they were an Eastern Conference team they would be tied for third place with the Detroit Red Wings, who also have 35 points.
• Flyers center Sean Couturier has scored a goal in back-to-back games.