Flyers-Devils: What you need to know

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Flyers-Devils: What you need to know

Flyers at Devils – 7 p.m., CSN
Prudential Center, Newark

The Flyers will continue their six-game road trip when they take on the New Jersey Devils Friday night in the second of five meetings between these two Atlantic Division rivals this season.

Despite losing All-Star winger Zach Parise to free agency this past offseason, the Devils have gotten off to a very strong start to this lockout-shortened season. They currently sit atop the Eastern Conference with 19 points through 13 games.

Both teams should be fresh heading into Friday’s contest, as each club had a rare two-day break in between games.

Records
Flyers: 6-7-1 (Fourth in Atlantic Division, 10th in Eastern Conference)

Devils: 8-2-3 (First in Atlantic Division, First in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
In the first matchup between these two teams this season, veteran netminder Martin Brodeur made 24 saves to record his 10th all-time shutout against the Flyers in New Jersey’s 3-0 victory on Jan. 22 in Newark. Travis Zajac and David Clarkson each scored first-period markers for the Devils. Sniper Ilya Kovalchuk beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a nice deke on a penalty shot -- while shorthanded -- in the second to put the game away.

Previous games
The Flyers’ line of Tye McGinn, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek led the way in Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. McGinn and Schenn each scored tip-in goals that were assisted by Voracek. Bryzgalov was strong in net, making 24 saves for his sixth victory of the season.

New Jersey had its five-game winning streak snapped after suffering a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Kovalchuk and Ryan Carter both recorded tallies for the Devils, who lost in regulation for the first time at home this season.

Who's hot
The chemistry building between Voracek and Schenn has greatly benefited a Flyers team that has struggled offensively most of the season. Voracek has two goals and six assists in his last eight games and is now leading the Flyers in scoring with 10 points. Schenn has four points in his last three contests and is second on the team with nine points.

McGinn has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers. The 22-year-old rookie has provided a ton of energy in his 11 games this season. He has three goals, two assists and two decisive fight wins that have given the Flyers a lot to look forward to this year.

Long-time Devil Patrik Elias has one goal and eight points in his past five games and is tied with Clarkson for the team-lead in points this season with 15.

Clarkson, who is one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, has nine goals in 13 games and has continued to play with a strong physical presence.

Who's not
Although he registered an assist on Kimmo Timonen’s power-play goal on Tuesday, Claude Giroux hasn’t been the offensive force he was in 2011-12. Giroux has three goals and five assists in 14 games. Last season, he amassed 93 points in just 77 games.

Keep an eye on ...
Sean Couturier, who has missed the past two games with a stomach virus, returned to the ice on Thursday. Couturier centered Max Talbot and Zac Rinaldo during practice and is questionable to play against the Devils.

The Devils reacquired veteran forward Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Jets on Wednesday in exchange for two draft picks. Ponikarovsky played 33 regular-season games for New Jersey in 2011-12, recording seven goals and 11 assists. The 32-year-old signed with Winnipeg this offseason after posting one goal and nine points to help the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Did you know?
In eight games away from the Wells Fargo Center this season, the Flyers have mustered only 18 goals -- with seven alone coming in their win over the Florida Panthers on Jan. 26.

Injuries
Flyers: Scott Hartnell is still recovering from surgery to repair his broken left foot. He could begin skating this weekend.

Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) rejoined the Flyers for practice on Thursday wearing the “no contact” yellow jersey. He is expected to miss at least another two weeks.

Jody Shelley (hip) and Michael Leighton (upper-body) are on injured reserve.

Devils: Former Flyer Dainius Zubrus was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday and is expected to miss 2-8 weeks after undergoing exploratory surgery on his left wrist on Thursday.

Matthew Corrente (shoulder surgery) is out for the season.

Sound off
Do you think New Jersey will win the Atlantic?

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 
 
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.

 
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
 
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
 
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
 
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
 
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
 
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
 
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
 
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
 
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
 
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
 
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
 
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
 
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
 
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
 
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
 
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
 
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
 
The clock is ticking.