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.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.