Flyers-Bruins: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Bruins: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (39-28-9) will try to snap a three-game losing streak when they take on the Boston Bruins (52-18-7) for the final time this season Saturday afternoon.

Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. at TD Garden in Boston. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Where’s the offense?
Seventy-six. That’s how many shots the Flyers have fired on opposing goalies since they last scored a goal. One-hundred thirty minutes and 25 seconds. That’s how much game-time has gone by since Vinny Lecavalier last got the Flyers on the board. Not good.

The dry spell couldn’t have come at a worse time. There are just six games remaining this season for the Flyers, who have gone 1-3-2 since a five-game winning streak and are in danger of falling out of an automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Why is that bad? If the Flyers continue to slide they may find themselves in a wild-card position. That would mean a first-round playoff matchup against either Boston or the Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s not to say the New York Rangers or Columbus Blue Jackets would be an easy first-round matchup, but taking on either Boston or Pittsburgh -- the two best clubs in the East -- early in the playoffs is probably something the Flyers would like to avoid.

With that said, the Flyers need just six points to clinch a playoff berth. They are four points behind the Rangers for second place in the Metro with two games in hand and are two points ahead of the Jackets for third with one game in hand. Every point is precious at this stage of the season, so the Flyers need to figure out how to get their offense going.

Head coach Craig Berube said Friday he talked to his players about harder work and better shot selection. He also said the Flyers’ execution has been poor lately. That’s been especially true on the power play. The Flyers are 0 for 11 on the man advantage over the last three games and have given up numerous shorthanded chances. That’s something that must be corrected.

2. Beasts of the East
The Bruins basically have the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, but they still have a lot left to play for.

Boston enters Saturday tied with the St. Louis Blues for the most points in the NHL (111). The Blues currently have the edge for the Presidents’ Trophy because they have a game in hand on the Bruins, but you can bet the battle for the best record in the league is a fight the B’s want to win.

The Bruins are also looking to bounce back from two consecutive losses. They haven’t dropped three in a row at any point this season and if they can keep it from happening Saturday, they’ll secure home ice in the playoffs through at least the conference finals.

With a win in regulation over the Flyers or a regulation loss by Pittsburgh to the Minnesota Wild, the Bruins will secure the top spot in the East. They could also clinch by earning one point coupled with a Penguins loss of any kind.

The Flyers will be looking to play spoiler while also trying to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Bruins. The last time the Flyers went winless in a season against Boston was in 1997-98, when they went 0-3 with a tie.

3. Forget about Columbus
Thursday could have been a statement game against a new division rival. Instead, the Flyers were left looking for answers after a disappointing 2-0 loss to the Jackets.

“I think that was deflating, obviously,” Wayne Simmonds said (see story). “I think we’ve played the last two games pretty tight checking. We stopped playing in the third, and that’s the bad thing. I thought we had a great first and second. Then for reasons unknown, we just stopped playing.”

It’s crucial for the Flyers to put the loss to Columbus in their rear-view mirror. If they come out flat against Boston they’ll get buried. A quick start and a first-period goal or two would do wonders for the Flyers’ confidence. We’ll see how they respond.

4. Injuries
Steve Downie is listed as a game-time decision against the Bruins. He’s missed the Flyers’ last six games with an upper-body injury.

The Bruins will continue to be without defensemen Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg. McQuaid is on injured reserve with a quad injury and Seidenberg is out for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Jarome Iginla returned to Boston’s lineup on Thursday after missing a game with a lower-body injury, while Carl Soderberg left the team to be with his wife who was having a baby.

5. This and that
• Ray Emery will start in net for the Flyers. In 10 games (nine starts) in his career against Boston, Emery is 5-3-1 with a 2.81 goals-against average, .890 save percentage and one shutout.

• Patrice Bergeron has nine goals over his last nine games for the Bruins and enters Saturday riding a 10-game point streak.

• The Flyers have never been shut out for three straight games in the regular season in their history.

• Boston is currently on a seven-game home points streak (6-0-1), tied with the Dallas Stars for the longest active streak of this kind in the NHL.

• The Flyers haven’t been swept by the Bruins in the regular season since they went 0-3 against them in 1989-90.

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 victory Friday night.

"I'd take this any night," Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. "Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it's 1-1 and all I'm really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night."

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Big 2nd period helps Penguins roll Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been beatable away from home this season. Good thing for them this felt nothing like a road game.

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist during Pittsburgh's four-goal second period, and the Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1 on Friday night.

Conor Sheary scored twice, and Evgeni Malkin had a late goal and an assist. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz joined Sheary in scoring during the second for Pittsburgh.

"In a win like that, I think it was a really complete effort from all the guys," said Sheary, who has four goals in three games. "It's fun to win on the road,” (see full recap).

Blackhawks beat Bruins on Hossa's late goal
BOSTON -- Blackhawks backup Scott Darling insists he isn't trying to take playing time away from No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford.

"I don't know if you guys know who my goalie partner is," Darling said with a smile after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Friday night. "He's one of the best goalies in the world, hands down, no arguments. So I'm just pretty happy to get any games I can."

Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to break a scoreless tie, and Darling stopped 30 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Darling is 12-4 and he brought a 2.34 goals-against average into the game, even better than Crawford's 2.54 (see full recap).

Okposo gives Sabres OT win over Red Wings
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal 4:34 into overtime and the Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist, and Sam Reinhart also scored to help the Sabres overcome a pair of one-goal deficits. Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for Buffalo, which has won two straight against Detroit in one season for the first time since 1989-90.

Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, and Petr Mrazek was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

The Red Wings had their three-game winning streak snapped and took a rare loss to Buffalo. They fell to 8-0-2 in their past 10 meetings with the Sabres and 31-4-3 with a tie in their past 39 (see full recap).

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers — just three wins in their last 14 games — there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory five-day bye week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michal Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do — to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew (see story) with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Star break.
 
Three of these games are against Metropolitan Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild-card spot that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kind of scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild-card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation — only Colorado (100 GA) has allowed more. The Flyers' 3.13 goals-against number is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those numbers improve significantly, the Flyers won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game to game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60 minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”