Flyers-Devils: What you need to know

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Flyers-Devils: What you need to know

Flyers vs. Devils – 7:30 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

Records
Flyers: 19-21-3 (Fourth in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)

Devils: 15-17-10 (Fifth in Atlantic Division, 12th in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
Ilya Bryzgalov made 27 saves and the Flyers came away with a 2-1 shootout win over the Devils in the last matchup between these two clubs. Max Talbot scored the Flyers' lone goal in regulation, while Matt Read and Claude Giroux each beat Johan Hedberg in the shootout. A major reason why the Flyers earned the victory was because of their play on the penalty kill. They killed off all five Devils power plays, but more importantly stopped a 5-on-3 situation in the first period with the game still scoreless.

Thursday will mark the fifth and final meeting between the Flyers and Devils this season. New Jersey has owned the 2013 series, taking three of the four contests and outscoring the orange and black by a 14-7 margin.

Previous games
The Flyers received a strong performance from Steve Mason, who made 38 saves in his first home start at the Wells Fargo Center, and topped the New York Rangers, 4-2, on Tuesday. Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek each scored for the Flyers, who climbed to within five points of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Devils were shut out for a second consecutive game and fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-0, on Monday. Martin Brodeur turned aside 11 of 12 shots but it wasn't enough to keep New Jersey from losing its 10th game in a row. Phil Kessel was the only Leaf to beat Brodeur, before Jay McClement sealed the victory for Toronto with an empty-net marker.

Devil of a time
When the Flyers take the ice tonight, they will not have to worry about New Jersey's top sniper or two of the Devils' best defenseman. Neither Ilya Kovalchuk nor captain Bryce Salvador will play because of injuries and Anton Volchenkov will be serving the third game of a four-game suspension for elbowing Boston's Brad Marchand.

This is a huge break for the orange and black. Kovalchuk has lit up the Flyers for 10 goals and 20 assists since becoming a member of the Devils in February of 2010. It's also worth mentioning that New Jersey has not won a single game since Kovlachuk went down with a right shoulder injury on March 23 (0-6-4).  The Devils have struggled to find offense with Kovalchuk out of the lineup. During their 10-game skid, the team has potted just 16 goals.

On the other end of the ice, the Flyers have a chance to keep their offense going with Salvador and Volchenkov absent from the Devils' blueline. After scoring just three goals during a four-game losing skid, the Flyers have gone off for 11 tallies in their last two contests combined. With New Jersey missing two key shut-down defenseman, the Flyers  need to capitalize on this opportunity if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Scoreboard watching
Entering tonight's game, the Flyers trail the Rangers by five points for the final postseason position in the East. The Devils are back six points for the eighth seed.

The Rangers, who have one game in hand on the Flyers, will also be in action. They host the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m.

Winnipeg and Buffalo -- the two teams ahead of the Flyers and Devils -- are also in the hunt for a playoff position, but are idle on Thursday.

Keep an eye on ...
Look for Jakub Voracek to come out strong against the Devils. The 23-year-old has been one of the few bright spots for the Flyers this season and has been playing with a ton of confidence alongside Claude Giroux. In the win over the Rangers, Voracek collected his 19th goal, a new career high, with an empty-net tally. With 43 points in 2013, he trails only Giroux (44) for the team-lead in scoring.

One Devil that always seems to hurt the Flyers is Patrik Elias. The veteran forward has faced the orange and black 80 times in his career. In those games, Elias has registered 35 goals and 45 assists. It's been the same story in 2013 as Elias has two goals and three assists in the four meetings between the two bitter rivals.

Did you know?
The Devils have not gone winless in 11 straight since an 0-7-4 slide in the 1990-91 season.

Injuries
Flyers: Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder), Braydon Coburn (separated left shoulder), Nicklas Grossmann (concussion), Bruno Gervais (abdominal surgery), Kent Huskins (concussion), Max Talbot (broken left leg), Zac Rinaldo (high left ankle sprain) and Jody Shelley (left hip) all remain sidelined.

Devils: Kovalchuk (sprained right shoulder) and Salvador (bruised right wrist) will not play against the Flyers and could miss the remainder of the season if New Jersey falls out of playoff contention.

Sound off
Will the Flyers hand New Jersey its 11th straight loss tonight? Explain why or why not below.

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

Best of NHL: Capitals blow lead, rebound for OT win over Bruins

WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Washington Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 after blowing a three-goal lead Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston outshot Washington 34-20. The Capitals have won two straight following a three-game losing skid (see full recap).

Staal scores on Leafs again in Wild win
TORONTO -- Eric Staal scored yet another goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.

Staal has 47 points in 43 career games against Toronto, and three of his six goals this season have come against the Leafs.

Jason Zucker and Chris Stewart also scored for the Wild, who wrapped a five-game trip 2-1-2.

Ben Smith and Tyler Bozak had goals for the Maple Leafs, who dropped to 8-4-0 at Air Canada Centre.

Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves for Minnesota and Frederik Andersen stopped 17 shots for Toronto (see full recap).

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.