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.

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.”