Flyers at Bruins – 1 p.m., CSN
TD Bank Garden, Boston, Mass.
Flyers: 11-13-1 (Fifth in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)
Bruins: 15-3-3 (Second in Southeast Division, Fourth in Eastern Conference)
The last time these two clubs faced off, the Flyers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime, but eventually fell to the Bruins, 3-2, in a shootout. Jakub Voracek and Matt Read each scored in regulation for the Flyers and Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves. Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly tallied Boston’s regulation goals and Patrice Bergeron had the game-deciding marker in the shootout.
In the 2011-12 season series, the Flyers went 1-1-2 against the Bruins. They were outscored 16-9 in those four contests. Saturday will mark the first of three meetings between the two teams this year.
The Flyers blew a three-goal, first-period lead in Thursday’s deflating 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Wells Fargo Center. Kimmo Timonen had a goal and two assists, while Voracek continued his stellar play with two tallies of his own. The loss was the Flyers’ second in a row and dropped them to 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 23 games remaining.
Seguin registered two goals and an assist to help the Bruins avoid another third-period collapse in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bergeron had a goal and an assist and David Krejci tallied the Bruins’ other marker. Boston, which had blown leads in its previous two games, has recorded at least three goals in eight of its last nine contests.
No Flyer has been better offensively this season than Voracek. The 23-year-old has posted nine goals and nine assists in his last nine games. In his second season in orange and black, Voracek is on pace to score a career-high 23 goals and 56 points, even in a lockout-shortened campaign. He currently leads the Flyers in tallies (12), is tied with Claude Giroux for the team-lead in assists (17) and his first on the club with 29 points through 25 games.
For the Bruins, Bergeron and Seguin have provided a ton of offense as of late. Bergeron has two goals and four assists in his past three contests and is leading Boston in scoring so far this season with 21 points in as many games. As for Seguin, the former second-overall pick has potted four goals in his last four games after scoring just three in his previous 17.
Danny Briere hasn’t been much of a factor for the Flyers over his past five games. During that span, the veteran forward has just two assists and is a minus-6.
A season after scoring a career-high 20 goals, Boston’s Kelly hasn’t struggled to find the scoresheet so far this year. He has found the back of the net just once this year and ranks towards to the bottom of the Bruins in plus/minus at minus-7.
Keep an eye on ...
The Flyers are the most penalized team in the NHL – they’ve been shorthanded 103 times so far this season. However, the orange and black have also been able to draw penalties, as they are second in the league in power-play opportunities with 103.
Over the past nine games, the Flyers’ power play has gone 13 for 39 (33.3 percent), but will face a tough test in the Bruins. Boston has the best penalty-kill percentage in the league at 91.9 percent.
Tuukka Rask has been one of the best netminders in the NHL so far this season. He enters Saturday with an 11-2-3 record, .923 save percentage and 2.09 goals-against average. In three career regular-season starts against the Flyers, Rask has gone 2-0-1 with a .926 save percentage.
Boston won’t be happy to see Simon Gagne back in a Flyers uniform. The last time Gagne faced the Bruins as a member of the orange and black, he scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals to help the Flyers advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs after being down 3-0 in the series.
Did you know?
The Flyers are the only team in the NHL that has failed to register a point when tied after two periods (0-5-0) this season.
Also, the Flyers' 13 losses in regulation are more than what the Chicago Blackhawks (one), Anaheim Ducks (three), Bruins (three) and Montreal Canadiens (five) have combined.
Flyers: Signs seem to point to Andrej Meszaros making his return from a left shoulder injury against Boston. The defenseman hasn’t played since leaving the Flyers’ 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Jan. 24.
Tye McGinn (right orbital surgery) and Jody Shelley (left hip surgery) are on injured reserve and remain sidelined.
Bruins: Marc Savard is expected to miss the entire season with post-concussion syndrome.
Jordan Caron (upper-body) is on injured reserve.
What do you think the Flyers have to do to turn things around?
VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
It’s all over the ice, too.
Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season?
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time?
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kinda make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
And his self-evaluation?
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 14th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
How to make the kill better remains at large.
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kinda like we finished last couple games there against Washington (in the playoffs). We kinda got burnt there 6-1 (in Game 3). We switched styles a little too late.”
The Flyers gave up five power play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minn., over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”
The Flyers on Monday night kick off their preseason schedule, with split squad games against the Islanders in Brooklyn and New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.
And Monday night offers the first chance for prospects Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to impress the Flyers' brass in game competition, as their quest to make the orange and black continues. Both Konecny and Provorov will be with the Flyers' split squad in New Jersey.
Carter Hart and Mark Dekanich will be the goalies with Konecny and Provorov in New Jersey, while Anthony Stolarz and Martin Ouellette will goaltend in Brooklyn.
Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin will be with the split squad team in Brooklyn, along with veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto.
The Flyers' game in Brooklyn can be streamed on their official website, while the game in New Jersey will be aired on the radio at 97.5 The Fanatic.
Here are the full lineups for Monday's split-squad contest, via the Flyers.