Flyers-Avalanche: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Avalanche: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Avalanche
9 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (14-16-6) will look to close out 2014 on a positive note when they battle the Colorado Avalanche (13-15-8) at the Pepsi Center on New Year's Eve.

Here are five things to get you ready for Wednesday's clash in Denver:

1. Same old song
Let's face it, the Flyers aren't going anywhere unless they fix their much-maligned special teams.

They've gone six consecutive games without a power-play goal. Six. The franchise hasn't had a longer drought on the man advantage since going seven straight games without a PP tally in November of 2002.

“Special teams make a lot of difference in games,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said (see story). “Our power play has to find a way, and it doesn’t matter if it is pretty or not. ... We just have to find a way.”

Then there's penalty killing, or lack thereof. The Flyers have not fared well in shorthanded situations on their trip. They've surrendered six power-play markers and have dropped to dead last in the NHL in PK effectiveness (74.0 percent).

Despite a 3-2-0 record in the first five games of their trip, the Flyers have somehow managed to lose two points in the standings since departing Philadelphia. The final three stops on their eight-game tour are all seemingly winnable matchups (Colorado, Carolina and New Jersey) and should result in six points. The key word there is should. If the Flyers don't clean up their special-teams play, it will be incredibly difficult to gain ground in the Metropolitan Division.

2. Ummm ... berger?
One of the few bright spots from Monday's loss in Arizona was the third-period surge led by R.J. Umberger. Yes, R.J. Umberger. If you needed to re-read that sentence or do a double take, I understand.

It's no secret the veteran forward has struggled in his first season back in a Flyers sweater, but he had his best outing in what seems like a lifetime against the Coyotes. He potted two goals in the third period and almost guided the Flyers to a comeback. Who could make that up?

It's a shame the Flyers waited until eight minutes were remaining in the game to show some fight, though. If they can rally back from a three-goal deficit in such a short time frame, imagine what they'd be capable of doing if they played a full 60 minutes.

3. Aving a tough time
With a star-filled lineup featuring players such as Jarome Iginla, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Danny Briere, it would be safe to assume the Avalanche would have no problem finding the back of the net.

Surprisingly, that hasn't been the case. Second-year bench boss Patrick Roy's biggest concern is the lack of scoring from his key forwards.

MacKinnon has scored just once in his last 18 games. Duchene has just one assist in his past seven. Briere has been held goalless in 11 straight contests. And Landeskog hasn't found twine since Nov. 29.

What is going on in Colorado? Well for starters, the Avs aren't getting pucks on net. They registered a season-low 16 shots in Monday's loss to the St. Louis Blues and are averaging just 26.2 shots per game in December.

Much like the Flyers, the Avs have been crippled by inconsistent play this season. After stringing together a three-game winning streak heading into the Christmas break, Colorado has dropped back-to-back contests. Sound familiar? That's because the Flyers have done the same exact thing. This game could be a barn burner.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Vinny Lecavalier was actually one of the Flyers' most productive forwards against Arizona. He had has feet moving the entire game and finished with a team-high six shots on goal. It was an encouraging performance for the veteran, who has just five goals and nine points in 22 games this season. He's looked much better since being placed with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde on the fourth line. With the way the trio has been forechecking, Lecavalier should continue to get quality chances.

Avalanche: As mentioned above, Colorado has no shortage of skilled forwards. So it's somewhat shocking to see Alex Tanguay, an aging veteran, leading the team in scoring with 24 points (12 goals). That's not to say Tanguay isn't gifted, quite the opposite. The 35-year-old has the ability to hold onto the puck for long periods of time and has terrific vision. And with many of his teammates mired in scoring slumps, Tanguay has found a way to consistently produce. He just needs some help.

5. This and that
• This will be the final meeting between these two clubs this season. Giroux and Jakub Voracek had three points apiece in a 4-3 win over Colorado on Nov. 8 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Flyers haven't won at the Pepsi Center since Dec. 27, 2002.

• The Avalanche have allowed 1,217 shots on goal this season, third-most in the NHL.

• The Flyers have gone 0 for 14 on the man advantage during their current trip.

• Colorado has four skaters who are minus-10 or worse this season.

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers-Canucks 5 things: Claude Giroux’s regression a cause for concern?

Flyers (27-24-7) at Canucks (26-27-6)
10 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 9:30

The Flyers’ three-game trip through Western Canada ends tonight in Vancouver against the Canucks, as the orange and black will look to salvage one win on this disastrous road trip.

Vancouver enters the game on the backend of a back-to-back. The Canucks beat Calgary, 2-1, in overtime Saturday at Rogers Arena. The Flyers beat Vancouver, 5-4, in a shootout on Jan. 12.

Let’s take a closer look at game No. 59 for the orange and black.

1. Captain concern
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since their 10-game winning streak, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 14, the Flyers’ season outlook has undergone a drastic shift toward a higher draft pick.

The Flyers are 8-14-4 in 26 games since the winning streak, and 2-5-1 in their last eight games. They’re 2-10-2 in their last 14 road games, and have lost their last eight games in Western Canada. They remain just two points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, but earning a playoff appearance appears to be just a wishful thought.

Not much is going well right now for the Flyers. Neither Michal Neuvirth or Steve Mason has taken grasp of the No. 1 job. Neuvirth has started six of the Flyers’ last seven games and seven of their last nine, but Mason is expected to get the starting nod tonight.

They can’t score. They’re averaging 1.46 goals in their last 13 games, scoring 19 goals over that span and they’ve been shut out three times. Claude Giroux’s regression continues, as he has just two goals in his past 23 games. Giroux is on pace for 59 points, which would be the fewest he’s had in an 82-game season since 2009-10. (He finished the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season with 48 points in 48 games.)

“For whatever the reason, in the last month, he’s just gone in the wrong direction,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Giroux on Saturday. “That’s not just [the] individual. That’s a team item, and we’ve gotta push that in the right direction.”

As the captain has gone, the Flyers have, too.

2. Weal bad luck
Just as when it appears Jordan Weal had finally turned a corner in the NHL — albeit it in a very small sample size — an injury strikes. Weal will miss tonight’s game with an upper-body injury. The Flyers said Saturday the forward will be reevaluated Monday.

Dale Weise draws back into the lineup against Vancouver, and will take Weal’s place on the Flyers’ second line alongside center Sean Couturier and right winger Jake Voracek. Weise checks back in after sitting the last two games and seven of the last 12 as a healthy scratch.

Weal impressed in two games and a period before suffering his injury Thursday in Edmonton. He’s averaged 11:50 of ice time, playing a career-high 15:31 Wednesday in Calgary, a game he had six shots on goal. Through three games, Weal has an 83.0 corsi for percentage, which is remarkably high but an extremely small sample. He was more confident along the boards and with the puck, hungrier than at any point last season with the Flyers.

It was only a matter of time before the 24-year-old was going to pick up his first career NHL point. Now, he’s sidelined at least one game. If it’s not a long-term injury, Weal’s play in the two-plus games should be enough to warrant inserting him back in when he’s healthy.

“He added something every game,” Hakstol said of Weal on Saturday. “Obviously, it was two games and a period, but he’s dynamic. He hadn’t been here [this season], but he had the puck quite a bit. He looked like a player that was confidently on the top of his game, and I didn’t think any of that was lost in the transition from Lehigh to our team.”

3. Mediocre matchup
The Canucks are not exactly a team oozing with confidence, either. With Saturday's OT win over the Flames, the Canucks are now 4-8-0 in their last 12 games. They are four points behind Calgary now for the West's second wild-card spot, and gave up a valuable point to the Flames on Saturday by blowing a 1-0 lead with six seconds left in regulation.

Vancouver sits in the bottom 10 in goals for (2.3, 28th), goals against (2.8, 20th), power play (14.9, 27th) and penalty kill (79.1, 24th). It's a team that doesn't score a ton of goals, but also doesn't give up many, either. It's the epitome of a below-average team from a talent perspective — sound familiar? — that can grind its way to competitiveness.

With how the Flyers have been playing over their last two months and how this current Canucks team competes, it's safe to say tonight's game will be one filled with little scoring, a much different tune than the first matchup.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: There is not a single Flyer worth watching right now. I suggest making one of those origami fortune teller games with a list of Flyers, play it and whoever you get, watch him.

Canucks: Vancouver’s leading scorer is no longer one of the Sedin twins. Instead, it’s 21-year-old Bo Horvat, who has 18 goals and 39 points in 58 games. Horvat, the ninth overall pick in 2013, made his first NHL All-Star Game this season. In the previous meeting with the Flyers, he picked up an assist.

5. This and that
• Mason started the Flyers’ last game against the Canucks on Jan. 12, but was pulled after allowing four goals on 24 shots through two periods. Mason is expected to start tonight.

• With Ryan Miller starting in Saturday, Jacob Markstrom (10-11-3, 2.63, .910) could start tonight for Vancouver. If he does start, he would be the sixth backup goalie the Flyers have faced in their last 14 games — remember, the Flyers have 19 goals in their last 13 games.

• The Flyers’ power play is five for its last 45 dating back 13 games.

• Friendly reminder: Shayne Gostisbehere’s goal drought is now at 31 games.

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

Best of NHL: Sabres snap Blues' 6-game winning streak

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Robin Lehner stopped 16 shots in the third period and 37 overall, and the Buffalo Sabres snapped the St. Louis Blues' six-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Saturday.

Evander Kane and minor-league callup Nicholas Baptiste each had a goal and an assist in Buffalo's third straight win, matching a season best accomplished three times. Ryan O'Reilly also scored for the Sabres (26-23-10), who have three more wins than losses for the first time since closing the 2011-12 season 39-32-11.

Vladimir Tarasenko also scored for St. Louis, which lost for the first time since a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Feb. 4 (see full recap).

Jets spoil Julien's return to Montreal
MONTREAL -- Patrik Laine and Mathieu Perreault each had a goal and an assist, and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled Claude Julien's return to Montreal with a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens on Saturday.

Joel Armia also scored for Winnipeg (27-29-5), and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots. The Jets had dropped five of six.

The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien on Tuesday and hired Julien in hopes of getting their season back on track. Julien also coached Montreal from 2003-2006.

But Julien's first game back was more of the same for the first-place Canadiens (31-20-8), who have lost three in a row and seven of eight (see full recap).

Senators top Leafs to gain on Canadiens
TORONTO -- Mark Stone had a goal and four assists, Derick Brassard scored twice in the third period and the Ottawa Senators recovered after blowing a two-goal lead to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Saturday night.

The Senators pulled within two points of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa led 2-0 after one period but trailed 3-2 in the third before getting a tying goal from Mike Hoffman and a power-play goal from Brassard. Stone and Brassard added empty-netters, and Chris Wideman and Ryan Dzingel also scored for the Senators.

Ottawa has won four of five overall and three of four against the Leafs this season. Craig Anderson stopped 34 shots.

Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander scored and Auston Matthews had two assists for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).