Flyers-Canadiens: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Canadiens: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Canadiens
7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

Winners of five of their last six, the Flyers (23-22-8) will continue their four-game road trip when they travel to the Belle Centre for a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens (34-15-3) on Tuesday night.

Here are five things you need to know before puck drop:

1. Ray of hope?
With Steve Mason sidelined for the immediate future, backup Ray Emery is now firmly in possession of the Flyers’ crease, and perhaps the team’s dim playoff hopes.

Mason’s latest injury came during a TV timeout on Sunday, when he was stretching by the Flyers’ bench and suddenly appeared to tweak his right leg, which he could not put any pressure on. Emery relieved Mason and wound up making five saves on six shots to pick up the win against the Capitals.

Rob Zepp, who was called up twice from the Phantoms this season, has a lower-body injury of his own, giving the Flyers no choice but to recall young Anthony Stolarz, the club’s top goalie prospect, to serve as Emery’s backup until Mason’s length of absence is determined.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall admitted Stolarz probably isn’t ready to play at the NHL level on Sunday, so don’t expect the 21-year-old to see much action. The brunt of the workload belongs to Emery, who has a 3.34 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in 21 appearances this season.

Unfortunately, Emery’s first start since Jan. 27 will come against Montreal. The veteran netminder has allowed nine goals on 66 shots in two games against the Habs this season, both losses. If the Flyers are to continue their run of success, they’ll need Emery to find his 2013 Chicago form.

2. Weise guy
Dale Weise isn’t exactly what you would call a top-line player.

Don’t get me wrong, the 26-year-old is a nice complementary forward who has good size and a stellar work ethic. But he lacks the natural talent to contribute on a nightly basis.

No matter, Weise has proved to be a nice fit with center David Desharnais, the NHL’s reigning Third Star of the Week, and left winger Max Pacioretty on the Canadiens’ top offensive unit over the past two games. Weise scored twice in a 6-2 win over the Devils on Saturday before adding another marker and an assist in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over the Bruins. Chemistry can be a funny thing, eh?

Shutting down Weise, who potted two goals against the Flyers on Nov. 15, and Montreal will be a difficult assignment. The Habs, who have defeated the Flyers twice already this season, have won two straight and seven of their last nine overall.

In fact, the Canadiens’ current surge has them on the verge of overtaking the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. A Montreal win and a Lightning regulation loss at Nashville on Tuesday would catapult the Habs into first in the East even though they have three fewer games played than Tampa.

3. Injuries
Forward Michael Raffl (pneumonia) returned to practice on Monday, but still has some conditioning to do before he’s ready to play in a game. According to CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio, Raffl is 10 pounds under his playing weight of 195 (see story).

Defenseman Braydon Coburn, who hasn’t played since Jan. 12 because of a foot injury, is also skating with the team. He’s battling his way toward a return — literally (see story).

For Montreal, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (concussion) is out. It’s a lucky break for the Flyers as Parenteau collected both game-winning goals for the Habs against the Flyers this season.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Claude Giroux snapped a three-game pointless drought on Sunday in Washington, D.C. He was a factor on two of the Flyers’ three goals, earning secondary helpers on Mark Streit’s second-period goal and Jakub Voracek’s empty-netter. The Flyers’ captain also played a strong physical game. Giroux is at his best when he’s strong on the forecheck and actively pursuing the puck. Look for a carryover performance.

Canadiens: Max Pacioretty is having a terrific season in Montreal. He leads the Canadiens in most offensive categories, including goals (24), points (45), plus/minus (plus-28) and shots on goal (194). The 26-year-old has tremendous speed and quick hands. He can be a threat on any given night, as evidenced by his three goals and four assists over his last six games. It’s hard to miss No. 67 on the ice.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have allowed just 10 regulation goals during their 5-0-1 stretch.

• Andrei Markov has one goal and four assists in two games against the Flyers this season.

• Brayden Schenn has two goals and an assist in two games against the Canadiens this season.

• Emery is 9-8-1 with a 3.05 goals-against average, .901 save percentage and one shutout in 18 career games — 17 starts — against Montreal.

• Carey Price is 10-9-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 20 career games — 19 starts — against the Flyers.

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).

 

Flyers collapse in second period vs. Devils, fall in wild card

Flyers collapse in second period vs. Devils, fall in wild card

This was game the Flyers needed to win.

A team they were more than capable of beating.

Two points they absolutely had to have if they’re going to reclaim the wild card they so carelessly tossed aside in the past month.

And it was all lost when they became unglued over a bad penalty, then an even worse call, during a tied game late in the second period.

Poof! Two goals later, it’s 3-1 New Jersey as the Flyers collapsed in a 4-1 loss Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center to the Devils and slipped one point behind Toronto (51) in the wild card (see Instant Replay).

Veteran referee Dan O’Halloran, who calls an honest game, whistled Radko Gudas for clipping on a legal hip check for a Devils power play.

Then, Flyer MVP candidate Wayne Simmonds argued and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

New Jersey scored on the subsequent 5-on-3 power play, then the Devils added a bad goal off a horrendous line change in the final 48 ticks of the stanza to completely change the complexion of the game.

“I’ll take blame for that,” Simmonds said. “I didn’t agree with the [Gudas] penalty, I got an extra two that’s my fault. They score a goal, make it 2-1, that’s a momentum changer, I take all of the blame for that.”

O’Halloran should have warned Simmonds to walk away, but didn’t. That’s what a good, veteran official does. He blew it. Twice.

“What was said both ways?” Simmonds asked. “The referee was talking to me; I was talking to him. I am not commenting on calls; it is what it is. It happened, it’s over with now. I am not going to say anything about that.”

That the Flyers collapsed so easily at that point just goes to show you how vulnerable and how fragile this team is right now. This was fifth loss in six games for Dake Hakstol's squad.

“It’s a turning point in the hockey game, but no one play or one situation dictates a hockey game,” Hakstol insisted.

Indeed, the poor line change was just as bad or worse. Jakub Voracek was going off the ice at the blue line when the puck was unexpectedly tossed at his feet.

“I didn’t [expect it] and tried to redirect it and it kinda fumbled and we changed and they got a breakaway out of it,” Voracek said.

Miles Wood sped past several Flyers up the right side on Michal Neuvirth, who had not had to make a momentum save till then. He couldn’t. It was 3-1.

If Voracek gets the puck deep enough, the entire sequence is voided.

“It’s two-fold,” countered Hakstol. “It’s the turnover and not being able to get the puck deep. And then it’s the line change.”

A lot of bad things are happening to the Flyers right now. Just a little adversity seems to collapse them like a house of cards.

That wasn’t the case in December when they won 10 games in succession.

“When you lose so many games, you lose confidence,” said Neuvirth, who was pulled for “precautionary reasons” said general manager Ron Hextall, as Steve Mason played the final period.

Neuvirth was limping after the game after tweaking his left knee again, sources said.

“For us it was a tough break to come back, the Devils playing really good hockey, but I think we got to keep believing and keep pushing forward. I still believe in this group,” Neuvirth said.

Question is, do they believe in each other?

Even after giving up the game’s first goal, the Flyers came back tied it, 1-1, on a jam-in goal past Keith Kinkaid by Travis Konecny, had some momentum, then lost everything in that brutal second period.

That’s not to say they didn’t have their chances. Six power plays? No goal? Then again, the power play is 0-for-11 over the past two games. Claude Giroux’s first unit was awful in this one.

And then there’s eight penalties the Flyers took, as well.

“Yeah, we had penalty trouble,” Konecny said. “I think it has kind of crept into our game in the past four or five games. It is not like it is one specific guy. Everyone is taking penalties. We are working hard, and some of those penalties are working hard.

“There are some things we can clean up a little bit, but at the same time when we have taken penalties our  guys have been great. You can’t stop everyone. Everyone’s got good power plays and our guys have been phenomenal on the PK. We just have to take a little less.”

“It’s tough," Neuvrith added. "Seems like taking bad penalties at the wrong times and it’s costing us the games.”

Hakstol insists the team’s confidence hasn’t waned even if it seems that’s exactly what has happened.

“No, I’ve answered that question before,” Hakstol said with a certain amount of irritation. “It’s hard, if we want to rest on confidence sagging, that’s the wrong answer. Our answer is pull together, dig in and get back to work.”