Flyers-Coyotes: 5 things you need to know

flyers-coyotes-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Coyotes: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers may have gotten their first win of the 2013-14 season out of the way on Tuesday, but the club is still searching for goals in the early going.

Headed into Friday’s matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes (2-2-0), the Flyers (1-3-0) have netted just five goals in four games.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m. on CSN, here are five things you need to know for Flyers-Coyotes:

1) Get “G” going
Claude Giroux, who has led the Flyers in scoring the past three seasons, has struggled to find his offensive game so far in this campaign. He has fired 10 shots on net, but has zero points in the team’s first four games.

Giroux on Wednesday said his hand, which required surgery in August to repair severed tendons from a freak golfing accident, isn’t bothering him but his confidence is (see story).

“The confidence is not there,” Giroux said. “I don’t think it’s the hand -- the confidence is just not there. I will be fine. A few bad games, you always have a stretch like that during the season. Going day by day. We have a new system today and guys did a good job working it. It’s an ugly win, but we’ll take it.”

Although Giroux netted two markers in the Flyers’ first two games last year, the 25-year-old didn’t get off to the best start. He had just two assists -- both in a 7-1 rout of the Florida Panthers on Jan. 26 -- in the club’s next six games.

Giroux isn’t the only forward struggling to find the back of the net, but if the Flyers want to be successful they’re going to need their captain -- and main offensive weapon -- to find his confidence soon.

2) Schenn-sational
Is 22-year-old Brayden Schenn finally poised for a breakout season?

It sure looks like it through the first four games. Schenn has registered 11 hits, seven shots and three points and has shown some chemistry with first-year Flyer Vinny Lecavalier on the Flyers’ second line.

The young forward hasn’t quite lived up to his much-talked about potential since being acquired by the Flyers as part of the Mike Richards trade in 2011. In his first two seasons in orange and black, Schenn scored 20 goals and assisted 26 more in 110 games.

Schenn’s contract expires after this season. In the preseason, he said he wasn’t worried about his contract situation and was more focused on finding “consistency.”

The season is still young, but don’t be surprised if you see a lot more from No. 10 this year.

3) Between the pipes
Steve Mason has the hot hand in net as the Flyers prepare for Phoenix. Granted, Mason has started three of the Flyers’ first four games, but the netminder has put up impressive numbers (.936 save percentage, 2.02 goals-against average) and was the main reason why the Flyers came away with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

New head coach Craig Berube hasn’t named a No. 1 goaltender and isn’t expected to any time soon. He reiterated earlier this week that the goaltending situation will “work itself out.”

The Flyers enter their second back-to-back situation this season with the Coyotes in town Friday and a matchup with the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday. It’s likely Mason and Ray Emery will split those games.

4) Catching up with the Coyotes
Thanks to last year’s lockout-shortened season, in which teams played only within their conference, the Flyers have not played the Coyotes since Dec. 3, 2011. The orange and black won that game, 4-2.

The last time the Coyotes traveled to Philadelphia was Nov. 17, 2011. The Flyers handed Phoenix a 2-1 loss at Wells Fargo Center on that night.

The Coyotes went 21-18-9 and finished 10th in the Western Conference last year, failing to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

5) This and that
• In 2011-12, Matt Read collected two goals and two assists in two games against Phoenix. Giroux and Scott Hartnell added a tally and a helper each in the season series.

• Coyotes captain Shane Doan has had plenty of success in his NHL career, but not against the Flyers. In 21 regular-season games against the orange and black, Doan has just four goals and is a minus-9.

• Zac Rinaldo is averaging less than 10 minutes per game, but has registered 24 hits in the Flyers’ first four games.

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers (28-25-7) at Penguins (37-14-8)
8 p.m. on NBC, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

It’s time for some outdoor fun.

The anticipated Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game has arrived, as the two rivals clash Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Let’s get you ready for it all with five things to know.

1. Eye on the ice
The one caveat of playing ice hockey outdoors is, of course, the weather.

The forecast is calling for rain showers from morning until noon with temperatures in the low-to-mid 50s. The precipitation is expected to taper off and temperatures are expected to dip into the high-30s for puck drop.

The ice can still be playable with some rain. Both teams are expected to have their morning skates indoors. No matter what, the game ice will certainly be a bit different than playing in a concealed arena.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Michael Del Zotto said this week (see story). “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors.

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

Ultimately, players are ready for anything weather-wise -- with the wind being just as big of a concern as the ice (see story).

2. Two directions
The Flyers and Penguins are in contrasting spots.

Pittsburgh is built for another Cup run.

The Flyers are not yet. Instead, they are fighting simply for their postseason lives.

The orange and black have lost seven of their last 10 games. Since the 10-game winning streak, they are 9-15-4 with the NHL’s second-fewest points at 22.

When the Flyers won 10 straight, they had a plus-14 goal differential over that span. In the 28 games since, they have scored an NHL-low 48 markers and own a minus-36 goal differential.

So, like last season, the Flyers have a mighty mountain to climb for a playoff berth (see story). They are now five points back of the Islanders, who currently hold the second wild-card spot with 68 points. The Flyers, at 63 points, also trail the Bruins (68) and Panthers (66), while the Sabres (62) and Lighting (62) are right there in the mix.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Penguins are third in the NHL with 82 points and first with 3.47 goals per game, spearheaded by Sidney Crosby’s league-best 33 scores.

3. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Brayden Schenn is on a three-game goal streak and ranks No. 1 in hockey with 14 man-advantage tallies. Since Jan. 8, he is tied with Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers’ lead in goals at eight. He also owns eight goals and eight assists in 23 career games against Pittsburgh.

Penguins: Right winger Patric Hornqvist, who plays alongside Crosby, was super active in the first meeting with the Flyers, recording two assists, five shots on goal, three hits and three blocked shots. The 30-year-old has 17 goals, 18 assists and a plus-19 rating, while the Penguins are 12-3-0 when he scores a goal.

4. This and that
• Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth is making his sixth straight start and ninth in the last 10 games. He is 2-2-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in seven lifetime matchups with Pittsburgh.

• Penguins goalie Matt Murray is 5-1-2 in his last eight games with a .940 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average. In two career games (one start) against the Flyers, the 22-year-old is 1-0-0 and has stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.

• Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings with the Flyers. This is Game 2 of the four-game regular-season series between the teams. The Penguins won the first matchup, 5-4, on Oct. 29 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Penguins defensemen Justin Schultz (upper body) and Kris Letang (upper body) will be game-time decisions. Schultz is a team-best plus-31 on the season, while Letang is a two-time All-Star.

• Jakub Voracek has 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 29 career games against Pittsburgh.

5. The rivalry
Relive some great moments from the Flyers-Penguins rivalry with these terrific pieces from CSN’s Orange Line.

Danny Briere recalls brawl in Pittsburgh

The origin of Philly’s hatred for Crosby

Reliving Flyers’ five-overtime playoff win

Mario Lemieux returns to form in first game back

Top Flyers-Penguins moments

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

Another wild-card run? Flyers need it to start outdoors

PITTSBURGH -- At this point, the Flyers are sick of talking about Saturday night's Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins at Heinz Field.

They just want to get it on and get it over with. Too much buildup.

“Yeah, kind of,” Simmonds said Friday. “For us, this is an extremely important game. We’ve got to get all the points we can possibly get going down the stretch if we want to make the playoffs.

“Obviously, it’s going to be an exciting time. A lot of guys have families here. But we have to stay focused on the goal.”

To say the Flyers need points right now is a huge understatement. They are five points behind the New York Islanders for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot.

That’s the farthest they have been behind since occupying the wild card on Dec. 4. When the Flyers won their 10th consecutive game Dec. 14, they were 14 points ahead of the Islanders.

That’s a 19-point swing in the standings since then.

“So, we just have to find a way to get two points and get some wins in a row here,” Jakub Voracek said. “Every game against Pittsburgh is special. Playing an outdoor game -- I don't know how many people are going to be here -- but it's going to be a great experience.

“For us, every game is a huge game. So, if you play Pittsburgh or Colorado, it doesn't matter. You have to get two points.”

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Friday night he believes his team can still make a playoff run and salvage a wild card.

The thing is, when the Flyers made their second-half push last season, it actually began in mid-February -- earlier than now.

A couple players got hot, as did Michal Neuvirth and then Steve Mason, and you could see momentum building in the team over weeks.

That hasn’t been the case here. It’s almost March and the Flyers are floundering, no one is scoring and they are losing games despite playing pretty good hockey with no answer on how to turn things around without a major scoring increase across the board.

“It's a different season,” Voracek said of the comparison. “Different teams. You could use it as an advantage. … We have to play our hockey. The last two games, we went 1-1, but we played pretty good. We have to be ready [Saturday].”

Hextall said what happens this weekend and Tuesday against Colorado will have a trickle-down effect on what he does Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline (see story).

“We’ve played well enough at times this year that we can mount a run,” Hextall said. “I have no doubt in my mind. We’ve been playing pretty good the last eight, nine games. Except for the Edmonton game.

“But we haven’t gotten results. We need to get results. It’s not about moral victories or playing good against Washington. That’s fine and dandy, but not good enough. We have to win games.”

It starts tonight.