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.
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.