Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know


Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Blue Jackets
7 p.m., TCN

After a long five-day break from game action, the Flyers (7-5-2) will finally wrap up their four-game homestand when they host the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets (4-10-1) at the Wells Fargo Center Friday evening.

Here are five things to get you ready for the tilt:

1. Back from the break
While it’s common for beer-league teams to have a week in between games, it’s not something you see happen with an NHL squad very often. Regardless, the Flyers will attempt to pick up where they left off when they take the ice against the Blue Jackets Friday.

In case you forgot, the Flyers are riding a three-game winning streak and have picked up at least a point in seven of eight home games this season. In their three victories leading up to the break, the Flyers outscored their opponents 12-5 and looked much better on the power play and were producing regularly at even-strength.

While the five-day break wasn’t ideal, Craig Berube tried to make the best of it. The Flyers’ head coach had his team skating hard at the Skate Zone this week, working on all facets of the game — 5-on-5, power play, penalty kill — in hopes to avoid rust. The Flyers should have no problem outskating Columbus early in Friday’s matchup. There’s no excuse for a slow start.

2. Relax, R.J.
It appears R.J. Umberger’s slump has the veteran forward a bit down on himself. So much that Flyers general manager Ron Hextall sat down with him last week to remind him that he can be an effective player and to simplify his game.

“I’d love to be scoring more,” Umberger said (see story). “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and that is the thing that gets me. I need to relax and have fun with the game — continue to work on the penalty kill and other areas of my game. Be hard on the forecheck and block shots and be a hard player for our team.”

The Flyers are hoping a matchup with the Blue Jackets will get Umberger going. He requested a trade out of Columbus this past summer and was thrilled to rejoin the Flyers, his first NHL club. Umberger, who has just one goal and two assists in 14 games, said he has “a lot of emotion built up” for Friday. A strong performance against the Jackets could do wonders for Umberger’s confidence.

3. Black and Blue Jackets
To say Columbus is going through a rough patch would be a severe understatement. The team is in the midst of a nine-game winless stretch (0-8-1) and has been ravaged by injuries to key players.

Still, Berube knows better than to underestimate a slumping opponent.

“They play a hard, physical game," he said (see story). "They are aggressive. And now they are in the division. They’re a team to be reckoned with. I know they have a lot of injuries now, but that is a very good hockey team.”

The Blue Jackets play an up-tempo, in-your-face type of game. In a system like that, injuries are to be expected. But what’s happening in Columbus is just bizarre, maybe even dumb luck.

The Jackets are down forwards Nathan Horton (back), Brandon Dubinsky (lower-body), Mark Letestu (groin) and defensemen Ryan Murray (knee) and Cody Goloubef (knee). Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (finger) and center Artem Anisimov (concussion) made the trip to Philadelphia, but aren’t expected to play. Finally, defenseman Fedor Tyutin and forwards Matt Calvert and Jack Skille are listed as day to day with undisclosed injuries and are questionable to play against the Flyers. Phew.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: How about Claude Giroux? He’s quietly gone about his business this season, picking up four goals and 14 assists. He registered his first three-point performance of the season in last Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche, scoring twice on the power play to go along with an assist. The Flyers’ captain also is a big reason why Jakub Voracek is off to the best start of his NHL career. The duo doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, either.

Blue Jackets: Ryan Johansen is proving he is worth every cent of his three-year, $12 million bridge deal. He sat out most of training camp while trying to negotiate that contract, but hasn’t missed a step so far this season. He enters Friday with a team-high 10 assists and 16 points through 15 games. Johansen has great size (6-3, 223) and excellent offensive instincts. The 22-year-old is also sound defensively and can be relied on to play 20 minutes a game. He sure does look like a future franchise player.

5. This and that
• The Flyers went 1-3-0 against Columbus in 2013-14. They were outscored by a combined score of 17-10 in those games.

• With a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, the Blue Jackets tied the 2009-10 club for the longest losing streak in franchise history.

• Giroux had two goals and three assists in four games against Columbus last season.

• Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson will return Friday after a serving a three-game suspension for an illegal check.

• For the Flyers, Michael Raffl and Andrew MacDonald remain sidelined with lower-body injuries. Luke Schenn will miss his first game of the season because of an upper-body ailment.

Best of NHL: Penguins beat Panthers in Sidney Crosby's debut

Best of NHL: Penguins beat Panthers in Sidney Crosby's debut

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored in his season debut as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied to beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Crosby, who scored on a power play, missed the team's first six games with a concussion. Carl Hagelin and Eric Fehr also scored for the Penguins, who extended a seven-game unbeaten streak against the Panthers.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who has started the first seven games of the season for Pittsburgh, stopped 20 shots. Matt Murray, who backstopped the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in June, served as the backup to Fleury after missing the first six games with a broken hand.

Reilly Smith scored a power-play goal and Mark Pysyk also scored for the Panthers, who have lost 11 of 12 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

James Reimer made 19 saves in his second start of the season (see full recap).

Kings top Blue Jackets in overtime
LOS ANGELES -- Alec Martinez scored 1:14 into overtime, and the Los Angeles Kings rallied to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Tuesday night for their third straight victory.

Drew Doughty scored the tying goal with 5:57 left in regulation for the Kings, who won their third straight overtime game after an 0-3-0 start to the season. Captain Anze Kopitar also scored, and third-string goalie Peter Budaj stopped 19 shots in his third consecutive win.

Cam Atkinson scored a tiebreaking power-play goal late in the second period, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves for Columbus. Brandon Saad also scored for the Jackets, who had won two straight after an 0-2-0 start.

Martinez ended it by putting a rebound into an open net for the defenseman's second goal of the season (see full recap).

Lightning strike for seven goals in win
TORONTO -- Steven Stamkos matched a career-high with four points -- two goals and two assists -- and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 on Tuesday night.

Frederik Andersen gave up seven goals on only 24 shots, the third time in five starts he has allowed at least five goals and fourth time he's allowed four or more. The 27-year-old has an .851 save percentage so far this season.

Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Drouin added goals for Tampa Bay, while Ben Bishop made 40 saves.

William Nylander, James van Riemsdyk and Auston Matthews scored for the Maple Leafs, who outshot the Lightning 43-24 (see full recap).

Flyers pull off huge comeback over Sabres in shootout

Flyers pull off huge comeback over Sabres in shootout


All it took to provide a jolt of energy to a band of weary skaters was a rookie scoring his first goal and a veteran getting laid out on the ice.
Travis Konecny’s first NHL marker (see video) and then Dmitry Kulikov’s ill-advised charging hit to Jakub Voracek released the beast inside of the Flyers on Tuesday night as they climbed from a three-goal canyon to a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).
“It was amazing,” Voracek said. “They didn’t get frustrated and go after Kulikov. They got focused and tried to tie the game up. We’ve been down so many times this season and come back. That’s the big character of this group.”
They were behind 3-0 in the third. Fans had already left the building when Konecny scored the first of a Flyers season-high three power-play goals at 4:30.
A few minutes later, Kulikov went high on Voracek, leaving him wobbly. Under the NHL concussion protocol, the Czech winger left the ice for a few minutes. He returned in the final two minutes of regulation.
By then, Mark Streit had set up one goal for Brayden Schenn — his first — and scored himself on a scramble in front of goalie Anders Nilsson to make it 3-3.
The drama only increased during a dominant overtime session for the Flyers, followed by a shootout in which goalie Steve Mason aggressively challenged and stifled two Sabres shooters before Claude Giroux and Voracek nailed it shut with goals (see highlights).
“You try different things and we did shootout practice a week ago and I did very well so, you try what works,” said Mason, who made eight saves in relief of starter Michal Neuvirth and earned the win.
“They both tried going five-hole and it was good to get the saves with some goal support in the shootout.”
Goal support has always been the Flyers' shootout nemesis.
Now if Dave Haktol’s squad looked fatigued, well, it had reason, given this six-games-in-nine-days torture trial (three in five days) and a late arrival on Tuesday morning from Montreal.
Neuvirth wasn’t very sharp — three goals against on 17 shots — and has been pulled twice in three starts. Somehow he’s also gotten two no-decisions to remain unbeaten with a save percentage well under .900.
Mason came in, made a couple of stops, then watched the comeback begin. In some ways, it was reminiscent of last week in Chicago when the Flyers came back with four goals, only this time, they won.
“We wanted to go out and play hard for each other in the third period,” Hakstol said. “Tough situation down 3-0 in your building, back-to-back night, not a whole lot going right.
“Not able to really get a whole lot of things going … get that first one, anything can happen.”
And it did, starting with Konecny’s goal.
“I felt excited — everyone was excited we got a goal on the board,” the 19-year-old winger said. “But what got us motivated to go was when we saw that hit on Jake. It’s not what you want to see, one of your best players go down like that … that got us motivated to go.”
The Flyers scored twice more in 1:05 to stun the Sabres, who had not played in five days.
“He’s a tough guy,” Giroux said. “He was more mad he had to go off the ice for protocol. He’s a warrior. Don’t tell him I said that.”
Giroux didn’t use tiredness as an excuse for the first two periods.
“We played some bad hockey,” he said. “We know we’re a better team than this. Our work ethic got us back in this game. Emotions and fans behind us, it was a fun third period.”
Fun even though he still doesn’t have a goal — outside of the shootout, which doesn’t count. Hakstol gave him a pep talk.
“He knows I am not happy with my play right now,” Giroux said. “I have to find a way to play better.
“We need everyone in this locker room if you want to be successful. If individually you play some good hockey, if everyone does that, as a team you will be good.”
Incidentally, Hakstol changed up his top line. Schenn, who was hot during preseason, was in a rut since coming back from his suspension. Schenn dropped down to the third line and Matt Read — the team’s leading goal scorer with five — took his spot on Giroux’s unit.
“It’s not easy,” Schenn said. “You get ready for the season, you play preseason and then you sit two weeks. Especially the World Cup guys are fresh, guys are playing well, then you take your two-week break, but it keeps coming.
“I feel it getting better game by game. It’s nice to get on the board tonight and hopefully that builds confidence.”
These comebacks should provide that confidence for his teammates, as well.