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.

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

Claude Giroux's struggles mirroring Flyers' offensive issues

PITTSBURGH -- He was plus-1 with an assist.
 
No shots on goal and obviously, no goals.
 
Another day's useless energy spent by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, skating around the rink looking for the net and finding nothing but darkness.
 
He hasn't scored a goal in nine games, which is a major reason why the Flyers are 2-6-1 over that same span of time, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field in the Stadium Series (see game recap).
 
Indoors, outdoors it makes no difference right now for Dave Hakstol's band of minstrels. As goes the captain, so go the Flyers, and it's rough sledding these days with the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference fast disappearing.
 
"Yeah, it’s frustrating," Giroux said this weekend. "You try to do the best you can do to help the team. Right now it’s not going in. I really believe we’re playing some good hockey, playing the right way and we’re going to get rewarded soon."
 
Asked whether he believed his own production is a mirrored reflection of the team he plays for, Giroux hedged.
 
"You try to play the right way, do what’s asked of you," he replied. "I've had a lot of chances, but at the end of the day, it has to go in. We’re done with excuses."
 
Thing is, Giroux really hasn’t had that many chances. Just 13 shots during this nine-game stretch. In four of those games, he had no shots at all.
 
Teammate Jakub Voracek says it’s going to come for Giroux. But when? Time is running out on the Flyers.
 
"He's always been a streaky player," Voracek said. "And not streaky that he's going to go on a tear for 10 games and then disappear for 10. He was streaky for 18 and then struggled for two, then he had another 20 games.
 
"It's only a matter of time. I think the last two games he played really well. For the guys who don't watch the hockey game, they look at the stat sheet and say, 'Oh, he didn't have any points.' But that's the way it is."
 
The Flyers used the word "desperation" before and after their outdoor loss to the Penguins. They played another pretty good overall game, but one thing stood out: they didn't make it difficult enough for Pens goalie Matt Murray in terms of traffic.
 
Pittsburgh's fourth goal was an example of what the Flyers couldn't do – screen out the goalie.
 
"I thought in the first couple periods we – not a whole lot, but I thought there were a few opportunities where we didn't make it difficult enough for [Murray] to find the puck," Hakstol said.
 
"But we had enough quality, no question. We did have good quality. Is it enough? Obviously tonight it wasn't. We didn't win the hockey game."
 
There were spurts where the Flyers carried the play, showed momentum, and then it died. When Shayne Gostisbehere made it a 3-2 affair early in the third, the Flyers needed to seize the moment. They didn't get the equalizer.
 
Eight minutes later, the Penguins scored from the point off a lost faceoff draw between Evgeni Malkin and Sean Couturier. Michal Neuvirth didn't see the puck soon enough. On Matt Cullen's wraparound goal that made it 3-1, Neuvirth was unaware.
 
Neuvirth wasn't very good in this game.
 
"There's no question they had two or three spurts where they carried some momentum for short periods of time, but I thought overall through the 60 minutes, our group did a good job and played the type of game that we wanted to play," Hakstol said.
 
Giroux was asked this weekend how much pressure he is putting on himself right now to salvage the Flyers' fading playoff hopes.
 
"It’s tough not to put a lot of pressure on yourself when it’s not going the right way," Giroux said. "At the end of the day, you have to take a step back and know what you’re playing for.
 
"I’ve been playing since I was three years old and I love the game so much, just try to go out and enjoy the game even if it’s not going your way. You have to find a way to love the game and play with passion."
 
You've seen the Flyers do that throughout all this losing – 3-7-1 in their last 11 – but passion doesn't always result in goals. Voracek had a goal in this game. His second in three games.
 
The Flyers need a bunch of guys to get going simultaneously like last season when they made their playoff charge. Over the last 16 games (6-9-1), the Flyers have scored just 25 goals. That's a bad trend that needs to be reversed immediately.
 
"Obviously, we haven't been able to score a whole lot," Hakstol said. "There's been a lot made of that. And you know what, fairly so. I think that's fair.
 
"Yet tonight, I look at the opportunities at this time of year, the type of opportunities and the number of opportunities that we generated were pretty reasonable.
 
"We've got to stick with it. We've gone through a tough stretch here, and through that stretch we've played for the vast majority, we've played some pretty good hockey.  ... We've got to make sure that we completely stay together as we have, and we've got to keep pushing the envelope."
 
Hakstol was pleading his case.
 
Whether he wins it, is another story.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.