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.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.