Berube: Flyers will test their mettle out West

uspresswire-flyers-sean-couturier.jpg

Berube: Flyers will test their mettle out West

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Anaheim Ducks occupy first place in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. The San Jose Sharks are in second. The L.A. Kings currently sit in third.

And over the next week, the Flyers will face each team -- as the visiting squad.

“It’s a big road trip,” coach Craig Berube said. “It really is. I think we’re going to see what we’re all about here.”

It’s been said plenty of times this season: Certain games, or stretches of games, can act as measuring sticks and show what kind of team the Flyers really are.

How they fare against three of the NHL’s best teams will go a long way in demonstrating their true identity.

“It’s going to be a tough trip, with the time change, the tough buildings, teams that have been playing well -- not just at home but on the road, as well,” Steve Mason said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us to see where we stack up against some of the best teams in the Western Conference.”

The trip kicks off Thursday night in Anaheim, against a surging Ducks team that has lost just twice in regulation at the Honda Center this season. The Ducks are the best team in the NHL at the moment, with an intimidating 39-11-5 record.

And it won’t get much easier from there. The Sharks are 7-3 in their last 10, and while the Kings have taken a dip in the standings recently, they’re 16-7-3 at home this season.

“It’ll be hard hockey,” Berube said. “You got to really grind it out against these teams, and you’ve got to give it your best, because they’re big and talented. It’ll be tough games.”

Of course, there are benefits to being on the road. Historically, the Flyers have used their time away from the Wells Fargo Center to regroup and focus on the basics. On their most-recent Western road trip, the Flyers went 5-1. On a three-game Canadian tour in December, they went 2-0-1.

Though the Flyers dominated Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the games that had preceded the victory were some of their worst of the season on home ice. It's not unreasonable to believe getting out of Philadelphia will help them continue to dig their way out of their slump.

“It’s not a bad thing, going on the road,” Wayne Simmonds said. “All the guys are together all the time, so I think it helps build up the team a little more. We’re with each other, having meals together, probably playing a lot of practical jokes on each other. Just keeps it light."

After their California swing, the Flyers will return home to play two games before the fast approaching Olympic break. They'd like nothing more than to return home having proved they can hang with the league's top talent.

“Anytime you play against a hot team, a team that’s good on the road, good at home, you’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go,” Claude Giroux said.

“If you don’t bring your A-game, that’s when you’re going to get in trouble.”

Best of NHL: Capitals edge Oilers for 13th straight home win

Best of NHL: Capitals edge Oilers for 13th straight home win

WASHINGTON -- Justin Williams and Tom Wilson scored as the Washington Capitals beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Friday night to tie the franchise record with their 13th consecutive home victory.

Williams' game-winner in the third period was his 19th of the season. Washington's streak of home games with five-plus goals ended at 11, but Braden Holtby made 30 saves to pad the team's lead atop the NHL.

Evgeny Kuznetsov didn't have a point but was arguably the Capitals' best player against Edmonton. They have now outscored opponents 64-20 during their home winning streak.

Leon Draisaitl scored his team-leading 23rd goal of the season for Edmonton, which got 24 saves from goaltender Cam Talbot (see full recap).

Hurricanes’ Lack posts ninth career shutout
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Eddie Lack stopped 34 shots for his ninth career shutout to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.

Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Viktor Stalberg scored, and Phillip DiGiuseppe had two assists to help Carolina snap a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and move out of last place in the Eastern Conference.

Lack (2-3-1) was making just his sixth start of the season due to concussion issues.

Craig Anderson finished with 41 saves for Ottawa, which snapped a three-game road winning streak. The Senators squandered a chance to move into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson moved past Kyle Turris into sole possession of second place on the franchise's consecutive games played list with 308 (see full recap).

Johnson leads Flames past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Chad Johnson made 36 saves during his first start in five games to lead the Calgary Flames past the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Friday night for their third consecutive victory.

Troy Brouwer, Mikael Backlund, Deryk Engelland and Sam Bennett had the goals for the Flames, who scored three straight in less than five minutes midway through the first period.

Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo stopped 24 shots in his first start in three games.

The Panthers, coming off the first five-game road sweep in franchise history, have lost two in a row.

Calgary stretched its lead to 3-1 when Engelland swept in a loose puck in the crease with 6:09 left in the first (see full recap).

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” Sidney Crosby said. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it's going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet said of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”