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.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”