Flyers-Capitals: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Capitals: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Capitals
8 p.m. on NBCSN

Fresh off a seven-goal outburst against one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers (17-19-7) will hit the road for a divisional clash with the Washington Capitals (23-11-8) at the Verizon Center.

Let's take a closer look at Flyers-Caps:

1. Another defenseman down
Already without the services of Nicklas Grossmann (shoulder), the Flyers' defensive corps took another significant hit in Monday's 7-3 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Braydon Coburn, who blocked a shot attempt from Nikita Kucherov early in the first period, is expected to miss at least four weeks with a suspected left foot fracture. You may recall the same injury cost Coburn 12 games earlier this season after he blocked a shot in the opener against the Boston Bruins. Chalk it up to some unfortunate luck.

Coburn's season, much like many of the Flyers', has been mired by inconsistent play. He's been uncharacteristically weak when handling the puck, which has led to numerous glaring turnovers. The veteran blueliner has also had difficulty clearing lanes in the slot, usually an area of strength in his game.

It should be interesting to see how the Flyers perform with Coburn sidelined. They've gone 6-4-2 without him in the lineup this season, and a string of wins over the next few weeks could potentially damage his trade value. He's unquestionably a solid second-pairing defenseman, but moving the 29-year-old would clear a good chunk of a cap space — something the Flyers desperately need — and provide an opportunity for young prospects to compete for the vacant spot. Let's not forget, Nick Schultz and Michael Del Zotto are on one-year deals, too.

In the meantime, Carlo Colaiacovo will step in to fill Coburn's void. Many fans have wanted Colaiacovo reinserted to the lineup anyway, but don't be surprised if he shows some signs of rust in his first game back. Remember: He hasn't played since Nov. 19 against the New York Rangers.

2. In the crease 
It was somewhat startling to see head coach Craig Berube give recent call-up Rob Zepp the start against Tampa Bay over backup Ray Emery.

Then again, Emery hasn't exactly been dependable in net as of late. The team was in need of a spark, which Zepp ultimately provided.

Berube rewarded Zepp with another start Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Maybe the Flyers' coaching staff is losing faith in Emery. Maybe it was just a gut decision. No matter, Emery holds no resentment for the decision.

“You always want to be in there and want to contribute,” Emery said (see story). “I want the team to do well. I can’t control when I play. ... I try to use it as motivation to get better and contribute when I get in there.”

Emery has had the same positive attitude since rejoining the orange and black. He has struggled to find a rhythm, but has a well-respected voice in the locker room. With that said, it remains imperative for Emery to elevate his game with Mason out. 

3. Catch the Caps?
It's going to be mighty tough to catch the Caps for the third and final automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Flyers enter Wednesday 13 points back of Washington and have played one more game than their divisional foe.

It doesn't help that the Caps are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They've picked up at least a point in 17 of their last 18 games and have allowed just 36 non-shootout goals during that stretch. Oh yeah, and they are riding a six-game home winning streak. Like we said, one of the hottest clubs in the league.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: The one thing that has been consistent for the Flyers' defense this season has been Mark Streit's offensive production. The 37-year-old has five goals and 26 assists in 43 games after tallying a marker and two helpers against the Lightning. Streit, who is on pace for 60 points, has the tendency to cough the puck up now and again, but he's never been relied on to shut down the opposition's top lines. He's paid to provide some extra offense, and that's exactly what he's done.

Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom is like a man possessed when he faces the Flyers. The 27-year-old has 12 goals and 29 assists in 27 career games against the orange and black. It shouldn't come as a surprise, however. The veteran centerman displays outstanding patience when handling the puck and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He enters Wednesday leading the Caps with 42 points in as many games. Why hasn't this guy ever been an All-Star? Arguably the biggest offensive snub from this year's festivities.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have won their last four meetings with Washington.

• The Capitals have gone 13-1-4 in their last 18 games.

• Zepp had 21 saves on 24 shots Monday, but stopped the last 12 he faced.

• Braden Holtby is 0-1-2 with a 4.74 goals-against average in his last four starts against the Flyers.

• Claude Giroux has 12 goals and nine assists in his last 15 games against the Caps.

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

A high school hit, Flyers draft pick Noah Cates now looks ahead

VOORHEES, N.J. — Noah Cates was just a teenager playing high school hockey in Minnesota.
 
Then he spun himself into a national sensation.
 
Back in February 2016, Cates scored a goal you see in movies with a fairytale finish. To push Stillwater Area High School into the Class 2A state tournament, Cates shook the only defender in sight with a stunning spin move before reaching around the goalie and finding the net for the punctuation.

The result was a 1-0 overtime win and pure chaos in the stands. What ensued over the following days, Cates never could have imagined.
 
"Oh geez," he said with a smile last week at Flyers development camp. "Attention right away, but it was just a crazy experience all around. That, and the next couple days with the tourney and stuff — it was a great time in my life playing high school hockey with all my friends."
 
Cates, a junior at the time, was featured on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays, while the goal made waves on the internet across national media outlets.
 
All while he was preparing for states.
 
"It was just a whirlwind those couple days, but it was unbelievable," he said. "Unforgettable."
 
Cates is now moving on from Stillwater, looking to write a new chapter of his young but already exciting hockey career. His junior season ended in the semifinals of the state tournament. As a senior, Cates racked up 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) in 25 regular-season games.
 
A little over a month after high school graduation, Cates was skating on the Flyers' practice ice and seeing the NHL life. The 18-year-old left winger was selected by the Flyers in the fifth round of the June entry draft and took part in the team's six-day July development camp.
 
"Just see what elite players are like from my age, year older, two years older," Cates said of the Flyers' annual youth gathering. "See what I need to work on, see what the next steps should look like for me and my development.
 
"It was definitely cool to see but you try to calm down. They drafted me, so you've got to feel you belong here."
 
Cates will play for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in 2017-18 before starting his college career at the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2018-19. He still has long ways to go in accomplishing the NHL dream, but his potential was obvious at development camp. Cates stands at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, and brings a slick shot as well as strong puck skills, as evident by his famous goal.
 
"I like skill, I like trying new stuff," he said. "Just kind of try new stuff, try new things out there."
 
Getting a feel for the Flyers was a nice start to his year of preparation for the college ranks in the USHL.
 
"Strength and speed, just getting bigger, faster, stronger," Cates said of what he hopes to improve. "Those players, you see them out here, they're so big, strong and skilled. They'll be tough to keep up with them, but if you're in the weight room and you're working out hard, it'll make it easier."
 
It's all part of moving on from high school. He'll never forget the spin and goal to send Stillwater into states — and how could he? It's hard to top such a memory.
 
An NHL goal might do it.