Flyers-Devils: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Devils: 5 things you need to know

At least one team is bound to break out, right?

Two of the NHL's worst offensive clubs will face off in a Metropolitan Division clash when the Flyers (4-9-1) host the New Jersey Devils (3-7-4) at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

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

1. Will anybody score?
Hard times have fallen on these two bitter rivals.

The Flyers have scored just one goal in each of their past two games and rank dead last in the NHL at 1.57 goals per game. The Devils aren't much better. They've been shut out in consecutive games and are second-to-last in the league at 1.86 goals per game.

Entering Thursday's game, the Flyers have netted only two markers in their last 226-plus minutes. New Jersey has gone more than 144 minutes without a tally.

Scoring woes have plagued both teams in the early going, so don't be surprised if Thursday's game looks like a repeat of when the Flyers and Devils last met -- a 1-0 win for the orange and black on Saturday. Brayden Schenn scored the only goal of the game and Ray Emery stopped 14 New Jersey shots for his first shutout of the season.

It's also worth pointing out the Devils are tied for the fewest wins in the league, but have one more point than the Flyers, who sit dead last in the Metropolitan Division. This matchup should be looked at as an early-season must-win for both clubs.

2. Changing it up
Craig Berube is at it again. The Flyers' head coach has tried just about every line combination you can think of in hopes to generate offense, but has not succeeded yet.

At practice Wednesday, Berube moved Jakub Voracek back to the top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell (see story). Those three players have combined for just two tallies this season.

“Me, Jake and Hartsy had chemistry before,” said Giroux, who has not found the back of the net in 2013-14. “We can get that early in tomorrow’s game [against New Jersey]."

Berube also ended the Vinny Lecavalier at right wing experiment -- for now. He will center Brayden Schenn and Matt Read against the Devils.

The Flyers have not found much chemistry this season. They've scored a goal or less in eight of their last 14 games and have only scored more than three goals once. That, obviously, has to change.

3. Injury updates
Steve Downie is the only Flyer on the injury list. The newly-acquired forward skated on his own Wednesday and was upgraded to day to day with a concussion (see story).

The Devils, however, have several key players with ailments. Defensemen Bryce Salvador (foot) and Jon Merrill (face) and forwards Patrik Elias (upper body) and Ryan Clowe (concussion) are out for Thursday's matchup.

There is some good news for New Jersey. Travis Zajac, who sprained his ankle at practice last week, could return to the Devils' lineup against the Flyers.

Zajac has just one goal and three assists in 12 games this season. He has recorded 27 points in 39 career regular-season games against the orange and black.

Finally, Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov told reporters Wednesday he would play against the Flyers. He sat out New Jersey's loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday because of a lower-body injury.

4. Minor move
The Flyers on Wednesday recalled Kris Newbury from their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, and sent down forward Tye McGinn.

Why? It's pretty simple. Tye McGinn is not a fourth-line player. That's the role McGinn found himself in on Tuesday. He played just over five minutes while skating with Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo in the Flyers' 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

It would benefit the Flyers -- and McGinn -- more to give the 23-year-old more ice time with the Phantoms.

Newbury, 31, has appeared in three games for the Flyers this season, registering one assist and seven penalty minutes.

At this point, it makes much more sense for Newbury to eat up fourth-line minutes with the big club and use McGinn in a bigger role with the Phantoms.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason, who has a 3.68 goals-against average vs. New Jersey in his career, is 3-7-1 this season despite not allowing more than three goals in any game.

• The Flyers have lost six of eight games at home this season. The Devils have lost eight of nine on the road.

• Martin Brodeur will start for New Jersey. He is 46-28-1-7 with 11 shutouts, a 2.49 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in his career against the Flyers.

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.”