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.

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

When the Flyers signed Yale goalie Alex Lyon last April, they knew they were getting a competitive guy who was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.
 
What they didn’t know, however, was likely how he could stand on his head and keep an undermanned squad in an exhibition game with just three NHL players on his side.
 
The Flyers lost 2-0 to the Devils on Monday night against a New Jersey lineup that was far superior and kept the puck in Lyon’s end two-thirds of the game.
 
Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers open their home preseason schedule against the Islanders with a legit lineup.
 
Lyon, who posted a 1.64 goals against average and .936 save percentage last season in college, was outstanding against the Devils with 28 saves on 29 shots (one empty netter).
 
“I had shaky legs until the middle of the first and then I felt I had settled in,” the 23-year-old said. “I guess I didn’t expect that.”
 
Exhibition games don’t mean much but this was a performance worth noting because Lyon showed he will challenge Anthony Stolarz for the starter’s job with the Phantoms this season. 

“Alex Lyon had a solid performance right from start to finish,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “Great demeanor and presence. Just a real steady performance all the way through.”
 
The kid seemed undaunted by the Devils' lineup in what was his first-ever start against an NHL club. Notice anything different from college?
 
“The biggest difference is six months ago, I was watching Travis Zajac on TV and now I am playing an exhibition game against him,” Lyon replied. “It was pretty cool going up against those guys.”
 
The Devils attacked him mostly with angled shots. So eager they were to test him, they put a shot on goal from their own blue line in the opening minutes of the game, which Lyon saved.
 
“Yeah, I think they were trying to throw some pucks and my rebound control wasn’t as good as it usually is,” Lyon said. “I think it’s because I was a little nervous. I was just trying to stop the puck to be honest, that is all I was thinking about.”
 
Lyon stopped two breakaway attempts from Beau Bennett, both coming in the opening two periods. The only goal from Nick Lappin came on a second rebound in the crease.
 
“They got their point shot through and I saw it clearly the whole way and didn’t react to it,” Lyon said. “I thought it was going to be tipped. There was a forest of sticks as Keith Allain (Yale coach) would say, in front of me.
 
“I was trying to get big in front of it and they took a couple of whacks and subsequently it bounced right to their guy.”
 
While exhibition games mean little to fans, it meant something to him.
 
“I told my roommate in Philly I was playing my first NHL game,” Lyon said. “Yeah, it’s preseason but going from college, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
 
Lyon won’t play Tuesday night against the Islanders.
 
On Provorov
Rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov, who logged a whopping 28:48 ice time during the loss in New Jersey, will play tonight against the Islanders.
 
The staff wants to get an idea of how he plays with heavy minutes in back-to-back games.
 
“I want to get him into two of the three (exhibitions), assuming he earned it,” Hakstol said. “He did a good job last night. His minutes got high but we wanted to get him into a good situation.
 
“He did a good job and the minutes didn’t seem to wear on him. It will be a challenge playing back-to-back. But that’s one for him and a few others where they have to meet the challenge.”
 
Provorov will be paired with Andrew MacDonald as Hakstol has one vet paired with one prospect in this game.
 
World Cup returnees
Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier both say they want to play games right now to keep themselves in game shape but Hakstol is biding time with them, insisting they get some rest off the ice.
 
“I feel like I’m in midseason form already,” Voracek quipped. “I don’t want to sit around. If I take more than 3-4 days off, I'll put on six pounds. ... I wouldn’t mind playing but obviously, we've got to get some rest. ”
 
Loose pucks
• Other defensive pairs: Nick Schultz and Travis Sanheim; Michael Del Zotto and Philippe Myers.  

• The lines: Jordan Weal will again center Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds; Andy Miele will handle Michael Raffl and Matt Read; Nick Cousins centers Scott Laughton and Dale Weise, which has been a line in camp; and Boyd Gordon will center Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov.

• Steve Mason will be in goal and Stolarz will back him up.

• Forward Travis Konecny will not play.