Flyers-Capitals: 5 things you need to know

flyers-capitals-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Capitals: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (32-24-6) will wrap up their home-and-home series with the Washington Capitals (29-23-10) on Wednesday night.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center. The game will be televised on NBCSN.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. That’s all, folks
The Flyers and Capitals will clash for the fifth and final time this season on Wednesday. Washington won the first two contests before the Flyers reeled off back-to-back victories in the next two meetings.

Both clubs have 20 games remaining this season and are fighting for a playoff spot in the crowded Metropolitan Division. The Flyers currently hold the second-place position in the Metro with 70 points. The New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets are right behind them with 69 points apiece. The Capitals (68 points) and New Jersey Devils (67 points) are also within striking distance of the Flyers.

It’s at the point where every game the rest of the way will have Stanley Cup playoff implications. It’s important for the Flyers to make the most of their divisional games.

Sunday was a perfect example of that. The Flyers rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit and beat the Caps 5-4. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux each tallied three points in the win and Vinny Lecavalier potted the game-winning marker at the 2:45 mark of overtime.

Voracek (four goals, two assists) and Giroux (three goals, three assists) have led the way for the Flyers in the team’s four games against the Caps this season. On the other end of the ice, Joel Ward (three goals, three assists) and Nicklas Backstrom (two goals, four assists) have given the Flyers headaches in the series.

2. Wheeling and dealing
NHL teams can make trades up until 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon but the Flyers and Capitals got a jumpstart on the deadline, both striking deals on Tuesday.

The Flyers bolstered their blueline by acquiring defenseman Andrew MacDonald from the New York Islanders in exchange for two draft picks and prospect Matt Mangene (see story).

“He’s a great addition for our team,” said Mark Streit, who played parts of three seasons with MacDonald on Long Island. “He’s a good, all-around defenseman. He plays well defensively, blocks a lot of shots and has a good first pass. It’s a really good mix.”

The Flyers now have nine defensemen on the active roster. What’s the next move? Will there be a next move? Anything can happen on deadline day. Stay tuned.

Washington, on the other hand, is likely done making moves. They sent a fourth-round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for veteran forward Dustin Penner and shipped Martin Erat and John Mitchell to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Chris Brown, Rostislav Klesla and a draft pick on Tuesday.

Klesla and Brown are expected to join Washington’s AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, but Penner will likely find himself on the Caps’ top line with Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

3. The Ovechkin factor
Speaking of Ovechkin, the Flyers did a fantastic job containing the Russian sniper in Sunday’s win at the Verizon Center.

Ovechkin, who is leading the NHL in goals with 43, finished the game with six shots in 20 minutes of ice time but did not register a point and was a minus-3 for the Caps.

It’s not often the Flyers can say they held Ovie off the scoresheet. The Caps’ captain has 26 goals and 16 assists in 32 career games against the orange and black.

Even scarier, Ovechkin always comes to play in Philadelphia. He has 16 markers and nine helpers in 18 career visits to Wells Fargo Center, including the playoffs.

The Flyers would be wise to stay out of the box. They gave the Capitals six power plays on Sunday and miraculously killed them all off. They won’t get away with giving Ovechkin and Washington’s prolific PP units that many opportunities again.

4. Injuries
Goalie Ray Emery (groin pull) isn’t ready to play just yet. Cal Heeter was recalled from the Adirondack Phantoms on Tuesday and will serve as Steve Mason’s backup.

For the Capitals, Jack Hillen (right tibia) and Mikhail Grabovski (left ankle) are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s tilt.

Aaron Volpatti is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury and won’t suit up.

5. This and that
• Giroux has seven goals and eight assists in his last 10 games.

• Dmitry Orlov, who was assessed a five-minute major for boarding Brayden Schenn on Sunday, will begin his two-game suspension.

• MacDonald had four goals and 20 assists while averaging over 25 minutes a game for the Islanders this season.

• Penner had 13 goals and 19 assists for the Ducks this season. He played on their top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

• Even with a win, the Caps can’t pass the Flyers in the standings. The Flyers hold the tiebreaker by having eight more regulation/overtime wins.

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

With the Flyers on their bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.

Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Today’s question: What adjustment would you make on the Flyers' defense?

Dougherty
There is not much in Dave Hakstol’s arsenal to significantly improve the team defense with a lineup change. Sure, scratching Andrew MacDonald could be a positive step, but that does not solve the problem here. We can point fingers at the defensive group because the Flyers have allowed the league’s second-most goals at 144. They’re part of the problem.

What is plaguing the Flyers is not just the play of their six defensemen on any given night; it’s their overall team defense. Some forwards are quitting on the backcheck, and not providing enough support in their own zone, missing their own assignments.

The Flyers, I believe, are struggling with the lack of practice time. And while it is true that every team is dealing with the same compact schedule as the Flyers, Hakstol has to maximize the little practice time he gets going forward and preach team defense. Gaps have been a major issue with the current group of blueliners, and that is an area assistant coach Gord Murphy has to fix. Hakstol has singled out the team’s rush defense as an issue, and that’s another area the team has to work on, too.

A lot of the same issues that were appearing in the beginning of the season when the Flyers were struggling are reappearing in their game now. They were able to make adjustments earlier in the season to hone their game defensively. More film study and more coaching are just a couple of the adjustments I’d make with the current options.

Hall
Sometimes it takes a fresh face, some new blood to spark change.

If anything, it sends a bit of a message.

The Flyers have options at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule anything out last Sunday.

But, of course, given the Flyers’ salary cap conundrum, it’s not as simple as just calling up a player.

So, the easiest thing that can be done is change within the current personnel. That means scratching MacDonald from time to time, just how Hakstol has done so with Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and many Flyers forwards.

MacDonald hasn’t been as bad as some may think. Oftentimes, his mistakes are magnified more than others. But too frequently do we see him out of position or misreading a play on a goal against. And that’s been true for all Flyers defensemen, yet MacDonald seems to be one of the only spared of the consequences.

Benching MacDonald isn’t a drastic fix and it may not do much at all, but it’s something we haven’t seen since Nov. 19.

Paone
This a really tough question because, to be quite frank, there is no easy solution here to fixing a Flyers defense that has been mired in a state of miserable play and has played a large part in the team's allowing 3.50 goals per game in the 14 contests since the 10-game win streak ended in mid-December. 

It's not like Hakstol or Hextall can push some magic button here and have things fixed in a matter of moments. The Flyers have salary cap and roster issues, so it's going to be tough to bring in a player via trade to help fix things on the back end. Same goes for bringing up a prospect because space on the roster would have to be made first.

This situation leaves the Flyers to fix the problem from within with the defensemen they currently have at the NHL level. They're going to have to play their way out of this. And that's why I'm interested in focusing on the younger defensemen like Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov right now. We know what the veteran defensemen on this team are and they've been through this sort of thing before. This will not be the last team-wide rut the younger defensemen will play through in their careers. It will happen again. They're going to have to learn how to play through this and not let it affect their individual play. That's why I didn't agree with Ghost's benching in Boston last weekend.  Sure, he has not played well this season and the warts to his game have been evident. And there are times when sitting back, taking a breather and watching can be beneficial. But I'm a believer that a young player has to play through his growing pains and grow from them.

This isn't going to be an answer most of you will like to hear, but with the way the Flyers' hands are tied, they're just going to have to play their way out of these defensive struggles with what they have.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).