Flyers-Devils: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Devils: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (33-24-7) will begin an important three-game stretch against Metropolitan Division foes when they take on the Devils (28-24-13) Tuesday evening.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here’s what you need to know for the game:

1. That’s a wrap
Tuesday marks the fourth and final meeting between these two clubs this season. The Flyers have won two of the three games, most recently a 3-2 overtime victory at the Prudential Center in New Jersey on Jan. 7.

Interestingly, the road team has won all three contests so far.

Brayden Schenn will likely be a marked man. He’s collected both game-winning goals for the Flyers against the Devils this year and has three points overall in the three meetings.

The Flyers, who will play six of their next seven at home, have gone 7-1-1 in their last nine games and are one point behind the Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Devils have also been playing well as of late. They’ve won four of six since the Olympic break and are still in the thick of the wild-card race in the Eastern Conference.

2. Salute
What more can be said about Devils forward Jaromir Jagr? The future Hall of Famer has exceeded expectations with New Jersey this season and has proven he still is a very valuable player in the NHL.

In fact, Jagr is leading the Devils in assists (35), points (55), plus/minus (plus-17) and shots on goal (168) this season. He also reached the 20-goal mark for the 18th time in his career in New Jersey’s 7-4 loss to the Red Wings on Friday.

Even more impressive, Jagr became the second-oldest player to reach the 20-goal plateau at 42 years and 20 days old. Only Gordie Howe has ever had 20 or more goals in a season later in life (42 years and 324 days old), per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“He loves hockey, he loves to be out there and he’s a great scorer and has always been,” Mark Streit said Monday (see story). “He protects the puck well. You got to keep him on the outside.”

Streit couldn’t be more correct. Jagr is utterly dominant when the puck is on his stick. Watch him closely in any game and you’ll see how much trouble opponents have trying to force a giveaway when he’s the puck carrier. It’s remarkable how much poise the veteran has, and it’s one of the many reasons why he’ll be able to play at a high level for as many more seasons as he chooses.

3. Who’s hot
Adam Henrique has been playing like a man possessed. The speedy forward was named one of the NHL’s Three Stars of the Week Monday after scoring five goals in three games.

Overall, Henrique has potted nine markers and 11 points since the Olympic break.

For the Flyers, Jakub Voracek has been on a tear. He’s collected three goals and four assists in his past three games and has looked at lot more confident in the offensive zone.

4. Injuries
Ray Emery returned to practice Monday. He said his pulled groin is feeling better, but he’s not ready to play yet and needs more time (see story).

Steve Downie missed Saturday’s overtime loss to the Maple Leafs with an illness, but will likely return to his usual spot on the Flyers’ third line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read on Tuesday.

New Jersey has no injuries to report.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason will make his sixth consecutive start Tuesday. He’s 26-15-6 with a .913 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average this season.

• Martin Brodeur will start for the Devils. In 91 career games (89 starts) against the Flyers, he is 49-31-10 with a .908 save percentage, 2.39 goals against average and 12 shutouts.

• Vinny Lecavalier needs three goals to reach 400 in his career. Voracek needs three to get to 100.

• New Jersey has gotten strong play from its special teams. The Devils’ power play (20.8 percent) and penalty kill (86.4 percent) both rank in the top 10 in the NHL.

• Claude Giroux was held pointless against Toronto, but has four goals and three assists in his last five games.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”