Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

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

The Flyers (7-9-2) will try to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (6-11-2) at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s matchup:

1. Stop the skid
The Flyers tried their best to find some positives in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild (see game story).

To sum it up, head coach Craig Berube thought the Flyers were competitive and had a much stronger effort than they did in Wednesday’s no-show performance at Madison Square Garden.

Captain Claude Giroux thought the Flyers played “the right way all game” and the team gave itself a “chance to win.”

Defenseman Mark Streit thought the Flyers “did a lot of good things offensively” and the team took a “step in the right direction” after a horrible showing in New York.

It’s never a bad thing to stay positive, but the fact of the matter is the Flyers are still not winning. Playing harder and showing improvement on special teams will only get you so far. The Flyers are 4-6-0 in their last ten and could soon find themselves in the basement of the Metropolitan Division. They need to put an end to this skid now before it spirals into something worse.

2. Catch that kid
Maybe a little youth is exactly what is needed for struggling veterans Vinny Lecavalier and R.J. Umberger.

In just his second game with the Flyers since being recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 20-year-old Scott Laughton skated on a line with Lecavalier and Umberger in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Wild and was productive in his 10:53 of ice time.

Laughton’s aggressive play seemed to spark Lecavalier and Umberger, who have combined for just three goals and six assists this season. The line had a handful of chances and had a strong shift that resulted in Mark Streit’s second-period marker that tied the game at 1-1. Lecavalier faked a shot on the rush and then sent a nifty pass that landed on Streit’s tape and eventually into the back of the net.

It hasn’t been easy to make Lecavalier and Umberger look good, but Laughton did just that Thursday. It’s unclear if the young forward will hang around when Michael Raffl is fully recovered, but it sure does look like Laughton is ready for a bigger role with the organization.

Laughton has been labeled as a defensive-minded center, much like Sean Couturier. He recently talked about gaining more confidence in his game and how he always thought of himself as an offensive player. That’s certainly shown in his short time in the AHL this season. He posted six goals and 11 points in 13 games with the Phantoms before his call-up. The Flyers have been relying heavily on their top line for scoring, but if Laughton can translate those numbers to the NHL level, it will be difficult to send him back to Allentown.

3. Injuries
The Flyers’ defense got a boost with Andrew MacDonald and Luke Schenn making their returns against Minnesota. But fellow blueliner Michael Del Zotto sat out his first game of the season because of a lower-body injury sustained in Wednesday’s loss to the New York Rangers. Del Zotto is listed as questionable for Saturday’s tilt.

On offense, Chris VandeVelde (lower-body) exited Thursday’s game in the third period. General manager Ron Hextall said Friday night that VandeVelde is unlikely to play against the Blue Jackets. Raffl (lower-body) remains sidelined.

Columbus is still banged up. Forwards Nathan Horton (back), Brandon Dubinsky (lower-body), Mark Letestu (groin) and defensemen Ryan Murray (knee), Fedor Tyutin (lower-body) and Cody Goloubef (knee) are all on injured reserve and will not play against the Flyers.

4. Keep an eye on …

Flyers: I’m not sure what was more impressive: Jakub Voracek’s saucer pass to Brayden Schenn, Brayden Schenn’s backhand dish to Claude Giroux, or Claude Giroux’s rocket on the power play that tied Thursday’s game at 2-2 in the third period. And that was all one play! Simply put, the Flyers’ top line of Giroux, Voracek and Schenn is the only unit worth watching right now. The trio has provided most of the offense over the past two weeks and could certainly use some help. From anyone.

Blue Jackets: Last week I said to keep an eye on Ryan Johansen. So what did he go out and do? How about assist all four of Columbus’ goals in a 4-3 victory over the Flyers. The 22-year-old is off to the best start of his young career. He leads the Blue Jackets with 23 points and is coming off a three-point performance in Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. His combination of size (6-3, 223) and offensive instincts make him a threat every time he touches the puck. He’s good.

5. This and that

• Dating back to last season, the Flyers have just one win in their last five games against Columbus.

• Nick Foligno scored twice against the Flyers on Nov. 14. His 11 career tallies against the Flyers are the most he’s posted against any team he’s faced.

• In six games against Columbus, Voracek has three goals, six assists and a plus-4 rating.

• James Wisniewski has three goals and three assists in his last four games against the Flyers. 

• Giroux fired seven shots on goal against Minnesota. He has an NHL-high 86 shots, one ahead of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.

Future Flyers Report: Merrick Madsen steals the show at NCAA Tournament

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Future Flyers Report: Merrick Madsen steals the show at NCAA Tournament

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this week’s report, we highlight a Flyers goaltender prospect continuing to make waves in the NCAA Tournament over the weekend and much more as the season winds down.

Merrick Madsen, G, 21, 6-5/190, Harvard (NCAA)
Former Flyers general manager and current team president Paul Holmgren deserves a ton of credit for Madsen because the 21-year-old goaltender was a 2013 sixth-round pick and has developed into a legitimate goalie prospect. Last Friday night, Madsen proved again he has a future in professional hockey with a show-stealing 41-save shutout of Providence in Harvard's 3-0 win. He followed that up with another solid performance in net -- 27 saves, including several big ones in the final minutes to preserve a 3-2 win over Air Force on Saturday night to send Harvard to the Frozen Four. Madsen has now won 16 straight games -- a Harvard school record. He surpassed Grant Blair last weekend for the Crimson's single-season win record -- now at 28 victories. He earned the ECAC Tournament's Most Outstanding Player last weekend and also earned all-tournament honors; he's on the all-Ivy League first team, a finalist for the Ken Dryden ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year award and a semifinalist for the Mike Richter Award -- NCAA Division I's best goaltender. With the Flyers' goalie situation next season, it's likely Madsen will come back to Harvard for his senior season, but his growth has been exciting to track. He's been excellent all season.

Philippe Myers, D, 20, 6-5/209, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
After finishing the regular season on a seven-point, five-game point streak, Myers exploded for three points in Rouyn-Noranda's 5-4 loss to Halifax in Game 1 on Friday night. The right-handed blueliner registered his first goal of the postseason in the third period with a power-play tally with the Huskies down, 5-2. Myers began the play with the puck before handing it off to Jean-Christophe Beaudin and setting himself up for a one-timer in the circle. He added two assists in in the loss and finished as a plus-one. In Game 2, Myers was held pointless and finished as a minus-1, as Rouyn-Noranda won, 3-2, in overtime. The Huskies and the Mooseheads are now tied 1-1 with Game 3 scheduled for Tuesday night.

Wade Allison, RW, 19, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison's freshman campaign is now over after Western Michigan was bounced from the NCAA Tournament Friday night in a 5-4 loss to Air Force. It was a rough return to the lineup for Allison, too, who finished the game as a minus-4 and received a five-minute major for charging with 1:13 left in the game shortly after WMU made it 5-4. He finished the season tied for fourth on WMU with 29 points -- 12 goals and 17 assists -- in 36 games.

Quick hits
Tanner Laczynski assisted on Ohio State's game-tying goal in the third period Friday night in its 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Laczynski finished the season with 32 points in 34 games and never regained his form he had before the world juniors.

• Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg returned to the lineup Saturday for the first time since March 3. Hagg was a minus-1 with two penalty minutes in his first game back, a 4-0 loss to Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. He sat out Sunday as a healthy scratch as scheduled.

Matej Tomek's sophomore season came to an end, too, over the weekend, as North Dakota was eliminated with a 4-3 double-overtime loss to Boston University. Tomek was a healthy scratch and has played just two games in his collegiate career thus far.

• After missing a lengthy period of time because of a concussion, Taylor Leier added a goal and two assists in four games last week with the Phantoms.

Connor Bunnaman finished as a minus-3 and received a five-minute major for slew footing in Kitchener's 9-1 loss to Owen Sound in Game 1 of their playoff series Friday night. Bunnaman was suspended two games for the incident and missed Game 2 on Saturday. He'll serve the second game Monday night in Game 3 of the best-of-seven game series.

Anthony Salinitri picked up an assist in Sarnia's 9-3 loss to Erie Saturday night in Game 2 of its best-of-seven series. The Sting and Otters are knotted up 1-1. Game 3 is on Monday.

German Rubtsov (upper body) missed Games 1 and 2 of Chicoutimi's series with Victoriaville last weekend. Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday. Chicoutimi is up 2-0.

Pascal Laberge scored Victoriaville's lone goal in the Tigres' 2-1 loss to the Saguenéens in Game 2 on Saturday night. He had two penalty minutes in a 4-3 loss last Friday.

Samuel Dove-McFalls didn't factor in any of the scoring for Saint John's in its wins vs. Rimouski in Games 1 and 2 over the weekend but did win 63.3 percent of his faceoffs.

• Kelowna's Carsen Twarynski potted two goals and was named the first star in the Rockets' 4-0 win over Kamloops in Game 1 on Friday. He was pointless in Game 2 Saturday.

Carter Hart has Everett tied, 1-1, in its best-of-seven series with Victoria. In Game 1, Hart turned away 30 of 32 shots in a 4-2 win but yielded four goals in a 4-3 loss Saturday night.

Oskar Lindblom picked up an assist on Brynäs IF's game-winning goal over Linkoping in a 1-0 overtime win in Game 4 on Friday. He had just one point in four playoff games last week. Brynäs leads the best-of-seven series, 3-2.