Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Ducks
7 p.m., CSN

The Flyers (0-2-1) will try for their first win of the season when they host the Anaheim Ducks (2-1-0) at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday evening.

The schedule is only going to get more difficult for the Flyers. After concluding their three-game homestand against the Ducks, the orange and black embark on a three-game road trip to Dallas, Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Here are five things to get you ready for Flyers-Ducks:

1. Bad luck for Lecavalier
Vinny Lecavalier was right where he needed to be during the Flyers’ first power play attempt in Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. The veteran forward put himself in a good position to redirect a shot while screening Canadiens netminder Carey Price.

Unfortunately for Lecavalier, Mark Streit’s rocket from the point struck him in the left foot and will cost him some playing time. The Flyers announced Monday that Lecavalier will miss two weeks with what the team is calling a lower-body injury.

Lecavalier has suffered a handful of injuries since joining the Flyers. Last season, he missed three games in October with a lower-body injury, one game in November because of a facial injury and nine games in December with an ailing back. The 34-year-old was off to a strong start this season, posting a goal and two assists in the Flyers' first three games.

2. Movin' on up
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has done a superb job centering the Flyers’ fourth line. He’s a responsible two-way player and has proven to be one of the hardest working skaters on the ice night in and night out.

With Lecavalier sidelined, Bellemare now has an opportunity to play with more offensively-minded wingers in Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. The 29-year-old Frenchman instantly brings a new dynamic to the line. He’s much faster than Lecavalier and is a ferocious forechecker, which could lead to more scoring chances for his new linemates.

It was an interesting decision for Flyers coach Craig Berube to leave Schenn on the wing. Berube wants Schenn, who has jockeyed back and forth between center and wing the past few seasons, to adjust to life as a winger. Bellemare also appears to be a better option in the faceoff circle as he’s won over 61 percent of his draws this season.

Don’t be surprised if Bellemare picks up his first point as a Flyer against the Ducks. He could benefit from playing with the red-hot Simmonds, who has been playing some inspired hockey early on. The pair could also spark Schenn, who has picked up just one assist so far this season.

Blair Jones will make his regular season debut, barring a call-up. He turned heads during training camp, registering four assists and a plus-3 rating in four preseason games, but has been a healthy scratch the past three games. He’ll likely center Zac Rinaldo and Jason Akeson.

3. Quack attack
The Ducks boast a potent offense. They’ve collected 12 goals in three games and don’t show any signs of slowing down.

Anaheim relies heavily on superstars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The dynamic duo combined for 74 goals and 95 assists last season alone. To take some of the attention off their top line, the Ducks went out and acquired former Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler this past summer.

The move has paid off already. Kesler has collected two goals and three assists in his first three games in a Ducks uniform. To nobody’s surprise, Getzlaf and Perry also have five points apiece this season.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: How about the entire defense? It could be a long night for the defensive corps if they hang back and allow Anaheim to set up shop. The Flyers simply cannot afford to give the Ducks time and space with the puck. If they do, they’ll get embarrassed. The Flyers have been without Braydon Coburn, who is now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and Nicklas Grossmann’s (stomach flu) status is questionable. Shutting down the Ducks will be no easy task. But if the Flyers can survive the night, it could serve as a major confidence booster for their suspect blueline.

Ducks: Since we already covered Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler, let’s go with rookie netminder John Gibson. Frederik Andersen has started the past two games for Anaheim, including Monday afternoon’s 5-1 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres, so expect Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to give Gibson the nod vs. the Flyers. Gibson has an impressive frame and developed a strong mental toughness at a young age. The 21-year-old should also be eager to get back between the pipes. He allowed six goals on 39 shots in a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Anaheim’s season opener.

5. This and that
• The Flyers dropped both meetings against the Ducks in 2013-14. Matt Read had two goals and an assist in the season series.

• Anaheim outshot the Sabres 44-12 in Monday’s dominant victory in Buffalo. Rookie William Karlsson scored twice.

• Steve Mason is 0-3-0 with a 4.93 goals against average in his last four starts against the Ducks.

• The Ducks, who will conclude a four-game road trip, have won five of their past six games against the Flyers.

• The Flyers haven’t dropped their first four games since the 2008-09 season.

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

He did it last Sunday in Nashville.

And he did it again Thursday night against Edmonton.

Michael Raffl displayed power and speed to send the Flyers to their seventh straight victory and longest winning streak since 2011 Thursday with a 6-5 win over the Oilers.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," goalie Steve Mason said. "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl received a bank pass off the wall from Jakub Voracek, stutter stepped and then blew by Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, protecting the puck along the way before flipping it over goalie Jonas Gustavsson for the game-winning marker with 1:29 left in the game.

It was his sixth goal of the season and his second game-winner in three games.

"Jakey has been hard on me for three years now," Raffl said, referring to Voracek's pass, "and it's actually the first time it worked out.

"He wants me to make that play all the time. He's been hard on me. I threw a little fake in there, got around their D-man and chipped it up high."

Voracek, who tied a career high with four points (one goal, three assists) said after the game his pass was not as perfect as it appeared on tape, as it didn't hit Raffl in stride.

"I think we should use it a little bit more to be honest," Voracek said, "because if their D wants to have a gap on that, you know you put it off the boards, it's tough to handle for the defenseman. [Raffl] had to slow down a little bit, so next time I've got to put it better."

Juggling his lines in an attempt to find chemistry, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol moved Raffl up from the third line to the top line with Voracek and captain Claude Giroux on Nov. 27. Coincidentally, that was the start of this seven-game winning streak.

On Thursday night, Raffl showcased the reasoning behind the move to the top line, a spot he's familiar with, having played with Giroux and Voracek in seasons' past.

"He's good from coming off either way as he enters the zone," Hakstol said. "He's got the ability to take it to the net. 

"Obviously at a critical time of the hockey game. But, that's Raffl when he's at his best. He's a power forward that can do those type of things offensively."

In his fourth season with the Flyers, the 28-year-old doesn't possess jaw-dropping skill. He's better suited for a third-line role, but drives play at 5-on-5 and is strong on the puck to move up into the top six. His style complements Giroux and Voracek's game well.

"[Raffl] complains a lot on the bench," Giroux quipped. "Nah, he was fired up there in the third. He is so strong on the puck. That's a big goal for us. He's been playing some great hockey right now for us. I think me and Jake are lucky to play with him right now."

"He does every little thing right," Voracek said. "He wins the battles. He wins so many puck battles in the corners and on the boards and gives me and G a lot of space to work with. He knows what to do to have success with us and he's been doing that."

Against the Oilers, Raffl was one of two European free agents the Flyers found to contribute to their win, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare slowing down Connor McDavid.

It's been an avenue the Flyers have found some success in recent years. Raffl was a Paul Holmgren signing, while general manager Ron Hextall plucked Bellemare from the SHL.

"Since we signed him, I think he surprised everyone," Voracek said of Raffl. "He's got a lot of talent. He's a strong guy on the puck. He's skating well. He's got a great shot.

"I think he's one of the good players."

The Flyers described Raffl as a sneaky talent, someone who may not demand the respect from defensemen but has the ability to surprise and make them pay for playing lax against him.

But it's really simpler than that, according to Raffl.

"Just puck possession," he said. "Just focus on being the first on forecheck, digging out pucks. It's not a fun job to do, but somebody has to do it.

"They're two great players with the puck, I try to dig it out and get it to them and get in an open area and they'll find me eventually."

And they found him Thursday night when it mattered most.