Flyers-Canucks: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Canucks: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers have been plagued by several issues through the first six games of the season -- lack of discipline, poor play on the special teams and goal scoring most notably.

Tuesday’s matchup with the Vancouver Canucks (3-3-0), who have had problems of their own as of late, is the perfect opportunity for the Flyers (1-5-0) to turn things around.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center (CSN), here are five things you need to know for Flyers-Canucks:

1) Stay out of the box
It seems fairly simple, but the Flyers can’t seem to stay out of the penalty box in the early going.

The orange and black have been shorthanded 33 times and have allowed seven power-play goals already this season. Head coach Craig Berube knows it’s an issue that needs to be corrected.

"We've got to stop taking penalties, we really do," Berube said after the Flyers’ 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday (see story). "It's been an issue in this organization for too long. The dumb penalties have to be eliminated altogether because they are unacceptable."

Although they entered the game 0 for 10 on the man advantage, the Red Wings burned the Flyers for three power-play markers.

The Flyers would be smart to use the loss to Detroit as a learning experience as Vancouver has also had its troubles on the man advantage. The Canucks enter Tuesday’s action 0 for 7 over their last four contests while up a man and are just 2 for 19 on the PP overall this season. That doesn't mean the Flyers should take them lightly.

2) The other guys
Defenseman Erik Gustafsson and forward Tye McGinn made an immediate impact in their first action of the season for the Flyers on Saturday. Each player netted a goal and they combined for seven shots.

Gustafsson, who admitted he had a poor training camp and sat out the Flyers’ first five games, replaced Andrej Meszaros on the blue line against Detroit. He was paired with veteran Kimmo Timonen and played over 18 minutes in the loss.

The 24-year-old was a turnover machine during the preseason but was solid in both ends of the ice in his season debut. Gustafsson will remain in the lineup for Tuesday’s matchup (see story).

McGinn brought a ton of energy and performed well while skating with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. He played just less than 17 minutes and created several offensive opportunities for the Flyers’ top line (see story).

With Scott Hartnell (upper body) out for two to four weeks and Vinny Lecavalier (lower body) sidelined for at least a week, McGinn has a chance to prove he belongs with the club. If he has more games like he did in Detroit, the 23-year-old will make it difficult for general manager Paul Holmgren to send him back down to the Phantoms.

3) Keep an eye on …
A key for the Flyers -- or any team playing the Canucks really -- is shutting down Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

That’s much easier said than done. The Swedish twins have combined for three goals, 11 assists and 40 shots through Vancouver’s first six games of the season.  

In case you didn’t know, Henrik (No. 33) is the passer and Daniel (No. 22) is the scorer. One thing in the Flyers’ advantage is Henrik and Daniel’s usual linemate, Alex Burrows, is sidelined with a foot injury and won’t play on Tuesday.

However, new Canucks head coach John Tortorella switched things up in Vancouver’s 5-4 win in Calgary on Sunday. Toward the end of the third period, Henrik played on a line with Chris Higgins and Mike Santorelli while Daniel skated with Ryan Kesler and Jannik Hansen.

It’s still unclear if they will play together in Philadelphia, but one thing is certain: The Sedins have good numbers against the Flyers. Daniel has three goals and eight assists in 11 career regular-season games vs. the orange and black. Henrik, in the same number of games, has two goals and 13 assists.  

4) It’s been awhile
Because last year’s 48-game, lockout-shortened season saw teams play only within their conferences, the Flyers and Canucks have not faced off since Oct. 12, 2011.

It was the lone matchup between the two clubs in the 2011-12 campaign, a 5-4 Flyers victory at the Wells Fargo Center.

Giroux had a goal and two assists to pace the Flyers. Henrik and Daniel Sedin had a goal and assist each for Vancouver.

5) This and that
• Matt Read has yet to register a point for the Flyers this season but is first on the team in shots on goal with 19.

• Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo is 2-3-2 with a 3.46 goals-against average in his last seven starts against the Flyers.

• The Flyers have just eight goals total and have not scored more than twice in a single game this season.

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

Best of NHL: Before visiting Flyers, Devils fall to Canadiens

NEWARK, N.J. -- The toughest thing Montreal Canadiens goalie Al Montoya had to do against the New Jersey Devils was stay awake.

The Canadiens limited the Devils to a season-low 17 shots, and Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty each scored a power-play goal during a major penalty early in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 victory Friday night.

"I'd take this any night," Montoya said after the Canadiens snapped a two-game skid. "Your team is playing fantastic in front of you. Halfway through the game it's 1-1 and all I'm really focused on is making that next save. These guys did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to make that next save, and the power play was terrific. The guys were mainly terrific all night."

Alex Galchenyuk added a goal and two assists, and Alexander Radulov had three assists as Montreal ended the Devils' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Big 2nd period helps Penguins roll Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have been beatable away from home this season. Good thing for them this felt nothing like a road game.

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist during Pittsburgh's four-goal second period, and the Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1 on Friday night.

Conor Sheary scored twice, and Evgeni Malkin had a late goal and an assist. Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz joined Sheary in scoring during the second for Pittsburgh.

"In a win like that, I think it was a really complete effort from all the guys," said Sheary, who has four goals in three games. "It's fun to win on the road,” (see full recap).

Blackhawks beat Bruins on Hossa's late goal
BOSTON -- Blackhawks backup Scott Darling insists he isn't trying to take playing time away from No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford.

"I don't know if you guys know who my goalie partner is," Darling said with a smile after beating the Boston Bruins 1-0 on Friday night. "He's one of the best goalies in the world, hands down, no arguments. So I'm just pretty happy to get any games I can."

Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to break a scoreless tie, and Darling stopped 30 shots to post his second shutout of the season. Darling is 12-4 and he brought a 2.34 goals-against average into the game, even better than Crawford's 2.54 (see full recap).

Okposo gives Sabres OT win over Red Wings
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal 4:34 into overtime and the Buffalo Sabres rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Friday night.

Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist, and Sam Reinhart also scored to help the Sabres overcome a pair of one-goal deficits. Anders Nilsson made 32 saves for Buffalo, which has won two straight against Detroit in one season for the first time since 1989-90.

Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen scored for the Red Wings, and Petr Mrazek was sharp in stopping 33 shots.

The Red Wings had their three-game winning streak snapped and took a rare loss to Buffalo. They fell to 8-0-2 in their past 10 meetings with the Sabres and 31-4-3 with a tie in their past 39 (see full recap).

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers — just three wins in their last 14 games — there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory five-day bye week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michal Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do — to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew (see story) with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Star break.
 
Three of these games are against Metropolitan Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild-card spot that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kind of scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild-card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation — only Colorado (100 GA) has allowed more. The Flyers' 3.13 goals-against number is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those numbers improve significantly, the Flyers won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game to game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60 minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”