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.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.