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.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe he saw some old video of how Chris Therien did it.
 
Or maybe Ivan Provorov just shrugged his 19-year-old shoulders and figured he’d do it his way.
 
Whatever the Flyers' rookie defenseman did, he shut down the ageless Jaromir Jagr during Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers. 
 
Just like Therien used to do back in the day. 
 
Provorov frustrated Jagr into taking penalties. And when he wasn’t in the box for hooking the rookie, you could visibly see Jagr’s frustration across his face.
 
At one point, they were talking to each other on the ice. A Russian and a Czech. What was said?
 
“It stays in the game,” Provorov said with a smile Wednesday.
 
Provorov said he didn’t spend time watching a ton of video.
 
“We did our pre-scout in the morning,” he said. “That was it.”
 
Provorov, with help from centerman Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, held Jagr to one shot. His teammates were impressed.
 
“Unbelievable, a 19-year-old kid going against Jaromir Jagr,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I think he did a pretty good job. 
 
“I think he has done a great job all year long and he is only going to get better. If you watch him play, he is getting better and better, not every game but every shift.”
 
Provorov had an assist and two blocked shots, including a critical block on Reilly Smith that could have been a game-winner in overtime.
 
“Well we haven’t used him a lot in the 3-on-3 but we felt that it was time,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Again, coming off of a real solid night where he’s playing against really good players all night long, he continued that right through the OT. 
 
“The impressive thing on that play is the read that he made to make that block … I haven’t looked at it on the replay or on tape yet. But I think that Mase might have been over on it but that play that Provy made was potentially a game saving play right there.”
 
Provorov doesn’t make flashy plays. He just makes the steady play every time he needs to. At season’s start, he was struggling to get his shot off without being blocked. Now he finds space along the blue to better position himself to get his shot through. He thinks before he reacts.
 
Behind the net, he is one of the few Flyers defensemen who almost never loses a puck battle. It’s often hard to believe he’s as young as he is.
 
“He moves so well and makes good reads, he’s a very intelligent player,” Andrew MacDonald said. “He has great poise with the puck, and not just for a 19-year-old, but for any aged player. 
 
“Defensively he always seems to be in the right positions and communicates well. We were fortunate to have some time together in camp, and a few games. I feel like we picked up where we left off the past few games.”
 
Jagr’s assets are size, strength — especially his lower core — and a skill set of moves without blinding speed.
 
Thursday will present a new challenge for Provorov: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer with 36 points. McDavid is all about youth and raw speed. 
 
“They’re different players, but it doesn’t matter,” Provorov said. “You take away time and space. Don’t give him time to get a lot of speed.”
 
This is another learning experience for Provorov. In a different age category. Hakstol credits assistant coach Gord Murphy for bringing Provorov up to speed at the NHL level.
 
“I think Murph has done a really good job in managing that progression along, most importantly, with Provy, managing it," Hakstol said.
 
“You can go back to the tell-tale sign of the tough night back in Chicago [third game]. That didn’t shake or rattle Provy in any way. He came back with pretty good determination the next day.
 
“You have to be an honest evaluator of your own game. I think Provy … whether it’s a real good night or a tough night, that allows you to keep an even keel and an even balance. I think that’s a real strength.”

Injury update
The Flyers on Wednesday placed left winger Matt Read on injured reserve and activated center Boyd Gordon. Gordon has been out since Nov. 3.