Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

Scoring outburst? Check. Back-to-back wins? Check. The Flyers are still far from perfect, but there were several positives that came from the club’s 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

The Flyers (3-7-0) will look to build on their best effort of the early season when they host the Anaheim Ducks (9-3-0), who are in the midst of an eight-game road trip, at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. (CSN) and here are five things you need to know for the contest:

1. Keep it going
The Flyers entered Saturday with their leading goal scorer in the AHL. Tye McGinn, who had three goals in a brief stint with the Flyers as an injury call-up, was sent down to the Phantoms to make room for a returning Scott Hartnell.

So what did Vinny Lecavalier do? He made sure the Flyers left Long Island with a leading goal scorer who is actually on the current roster. Lecavalier netted his seventh career hat trick, and now has four goals and two assists in his first seven games in orange and black.

Lecavalier, however, didn’t act alone in the Flyers’ victory over the Isles. Several players had solid performances including Jakub Voracek, who netted his first marker of the season, Michael Raffl, who picked up his first NHL point, and former Islander Mark Streit, who collected two helpers. Even struggling center Claude Giroux got himself into the mix, earning two assists of his own.

After a horrid 1-7-0 start, the Flyers certainly appear on the precipice of breaking out after two wins over the New York teams of the NHL. They’ll search for their first three-game winning streak of the season against a very good Anaheim club.

The Ducks are capable of putting up goals at will -- they are averaging 3.17 per game -- but will also wear teams down physically. If the Flyers carry over their effort from the Islanders game, then Tuesday should be an entertaining matchup.

2. Advantage Flyers?
Believe it or not, the Flyers are actually better on special teams than the Ducks, statistically speaking. Both teams have struggled this season while on the power play, but the Flyers have the advantage in this game (see story).

The Flyers, who snapped a 1-for-25 skid on the power play against the Isles, are 10 percent on the man advantage. They’ll be going up against a Ducks penalty-killing unit that is at 76.2 percent.

As good as Anaheim has been offensively, its power-play units have disappointed early on. The Ducks rank dead last in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 8.2 percent.

That’s not to say Anaheim is weak on the PP. The Flyers can’t afford to give players like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne more ice to work with in the game.

However, one of the few things the Flyers have done well this season is kill penalties. They’ve allowed just seven goals in 43 shorthanded situations. If you take away the three power-play goals the Flyers allowed in a loss to Detroit, the team’s PK would be at 88.8 percent instead of 83.7.

3. Clipped Ducks
While the Flyers are fielding a healthy lineup, the Ducks have a handful of injuries to key players.

Veteran Saku Koivu returned to Anaheim for tests after taking a hard hit during Sunday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Koivu was knocked unconscious on a check by Brandon Dubinsky and must be tested and evaluated before he is allowed to return to the Ducks, per NHL protocol.

Netminder Viktor Fasth also returned to Anaheim on Monday. Fasth, who is receiving additional treatment on his lower-body injury, hasn’t played since Oct. 16.

In addition, the Ducks are missing forwards Jakob Silfverberg (hand), Matt Beleskey (upper body) and defensemen Luca Sbisa (ankle) and Sheldon Souray (wrist).

Forwards Dustin Penner (concussion) and Mathieu Perreault (wrist) were both full participants at practice Monday and head coach Bruce Boudreau said it was possible one or both could return to the Ducks’ lineup on Tuesday.

4. Ducks fly together
Tuesday will be a measuring-stick game for the Flyers’ defense. The Ducks have a potent offense, led by Perry, Getzlaf and company.

A big reason for Anaheim’s strong start is the balance throughout its lineup. Six players have scored three or more goals already, with Perry (six) and Getzlaf (five) leading the way. In addition, 12 Ducks have registered four or more points.

In comparison, the Flyers have just two players with at least three goals (Lecavalier and McGinn) and only five have four or more points (Lecavalier, Giroux, Streit, Voracek and Brayden Schenn).

The Flyers would be smart to pay attention to Perry. The former MVP has back-to-back two-point games and has three goals and four assists in his last five contests.

Don’t forget about Getzlaf, either. The Ducks’ captain is at a point-per-game pace (12) and trails Perry by just one point for the team lead.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have not played Anaheim since Dec. 2, 2011. In that game, Jaromir Jagr scored twice and added an assist to help the orange and black to a 4-3 overtime victory. Kimmo Timonen registered three helpers, while Giroux and Hartnell each had a goal and an assist.

• Selanne, who is in his 22nd NHL season, has faced the Flyers 21 times in the regular season. The 43-year-old has 17 goals and 13 assists in those contests.

• Due in large part to the strong play of Steve Mason, the Flyers have allowed the fewest goals of any team in the Metropolitan Division (27).

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

Steve Mason named NHL's 1st star after strong week

There’s a number of reasons why the Flyers have a five-game winning streak, why they’re playing better hockey, and why they own the No. 1 wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
 
Perhaps the biggest reason of all is goaltender Steve Mason, who has won four of those games, compiling a 1.71 goals against average and .945 save percentage during that span.
 
Mason was named the NHL’s first “Star of the Week” on Monday. St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and San Jose Sharks goalie Martin Jones were second and third stars.
 
“The team is on a roll right now and I’m a benefactor of that,” said Mason, who needs a win Tuesday against Florida to tie his career-high streak of five set Dec. 17-30 in 2013, during his first, full season as a Flyer.
 
“There’s strong play in front of me. The team is playing a little tighter in our defensive zone of late and making the goaltender reads that much more simple. 
 
“Right now, there’s a comfort level with the guys in front of me … Winning five in a row is nice and we’d like to keep making ground in the standings.”
 
His four victories last week were tops in the NHL. Among them, he had a season-high 45 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against Boston. 
 
Like many goalies, Mason prefers action. Games such as the 3-2 overtime win at Ottawa last week when the Senators only fired 21 shots, bother him.
 
“Those games, when you are not getting a lot of shots, the ones you do get will be a high-grade scoring chance,” he said. “And when you’re sitting around a few minutes not seeing the puck and all of a sudden see a chance like that …
 
“It’s more difficult to play [those games] than the games where there is a constant workload and you’re not thinking, but just playing. For myself personally, those are the games I enjoy the most. When I see a lot of pucks.”
 
The Flyers have seen dramatic improvement over the past month in their overall defensive play, from both their defensemen in down-low coverage in the slow and with their forwards on the backcheck.
 
Mason said the team has gone through “growing pains” with trying to integrate some younger bodies to the lineup this season – Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, and Nick Cousins  come to mind.
 
“You have to familiar with everybody,” he said. “Have a constant lineup where guys go out  shift after shift and night after night, you know what to expect from one another. When you have that kind of confidence in guys, it makes playing easier.” 
 
Mason’s 4-2 victory at Nashville on Sunday saw him go over .500 for the first time this season with a 9-8-3 record. 
 
His GAA is coming down at 2.76 while his save percentage has risen to .904.
 
“I was aware of it obviously, just because of the way the year started,” he said. “It’s taken a lot of work to get it above the .900 level.
 
“We’re obviously going to continue to work at getting it even better. The way the team’s playing right now and the way everybody’s clicking, we’re going at a good pace right now.”

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to the Carter Hart Show

Future Flyers Report: Welcome to the Carter Hart Show

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we continue our weekly check-in on a dominant goalie prospect and a pair of AHL players fighting for the next call-up and much more. Let’s dig in.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
It appears the Flyers have struck gold with a legitimate goalie prospect, one of a few in the system, in Hart. The 18-year-old is dominating the Western Hockey League. Last Monday, Hart was named the WHL Goaltender of the Week for the second consecutive week. More good news for Hart came Tuesday, when he was named to Team Canada’s selection camp roster.

Hart also saw his shutout streak reach an Everett record 193 minutes and 48 seconds. He pitched a 20-save shutout Wednesday in the Silvertips’ 5-0 win over Kootenay. That was his second straight shutout, and his third in his previous four games. He saw his shutout streak snapped at 6:47 in the first period Friday against Medicine Hat, a game in which he stopped 23 of 26 shots in a 4-3 Silvertips’ win.

Oskar Lindblom, LW/RW, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
More points for Lindblom last week, as he now is second in the SHL with 24 points. The winger had a two-assist game in Brynäs IF’s 3-2 defeat to Skelleftea on Thursday, then a goal in Brynäs’ 2-0 win over Växjö. The 20-year-old has developed into force as a kid playing among men. He’s been a mainstay of the Future Flyers Report this year, and it’ll be interesting if he comes overseas for a tryout again with the Phantoms once the SHL season ends.

Jordan Weal, C, 5-10/179, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
There is not much to be disappointed with Weal this season. He came into Flyers’ training camp and nearly wrangled a roster spot, and then responded by going down to the Phantoms and torching the AHL. His wrath continued again last week, and he’s currently on a four-game point streak. Weal has seven points in his last four games, and nine points in his last six games. Overall, Weal leads the Phantoms with 15 assists and 24 points — which has him tied for second in the AHL. He’s third on the team with nine goals. Weal’s production offers general manager Ron Hextall some scoring depth in the American League, which should allow some comfort if an injury falls to one of the Flyers’ skilled forwards. Weal would be the first call-up from Lehigh Valley.

Taylor Leier, LW, 5-10/176, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Leier has heated up over the past few weeks, and last week he turned in another impressive string of games for Lehigh Valley. Leier displayed unselfishness last Tuesday in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over Toronto, dishing a pass to Colin McDonald for an empty-net goal instead of going for the goal himself. He picked up another apple on a McDonald goal Saturday in the Phantoms’ 4-3 overtime win over Hershey. To cap off the week, Leier recorded a goal and an assist for Lehigh Valley in its 3-2 win over Bridgeport. He’s now two points shy of a point-per-game pace with 20 in 22 games, and sits behind Weal for the team lead. Could be an injury call-up at some point this season.

Quick hits
• Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski turned in a four-point night for the Buckeyes Saturday vs. Minnesota, scoring one goal and three assists. He now has 22 points in 15 games.

Wade Allison registered his seventh collegiate goal and scored in a shootout Saturday for Western Michigan in a 5-5 tie to St. Cloud State. He has 10 points in 14 games in his freshman campaign.

• Bowling Green’s Mark Friedman picked up another assist Saturday against Lake Superior. Friedman has nine assists and 13 points in 17 games this season.

Merrick Madsen started two more games for Harvard last week. Madsen stopped 44 of 47 shots in two Crimson wins. He’s goaltended every game for Harvard this season.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom pitched a 22-save shutout against Växjö on Saturday, his first start since Nov. 22.

Sam Morin tallied his second goal of the season last Tuesday in the Phantoms’ 4-1 win over the Toronto Marlies. His D-partner, Travis Sanheim, had an assist last week.

• A good week for Robert Hagg, who picked up his first goal of the season Friday against Hershey and then an assist Sunday against Bridgeport.

Alex Lyon started three of the Phantoms’ four games last week, going 2-0 and allowing seven goals on 78 shots. He let up four in his only loss last week.

• After returning from a concussion two weeks ago, Pascal Laberge missed both of Victoriaville’s games last week with concussion symptoms.

• Rouyn-Noranda’s Philippe Myers had a goal and two assists in two games last week for the Huskies. Myers will join Hart on Team Canada’s selection camp roster.

Connor Bunnaman scored a hat trick in Kitchener’s 5-4 overtime win over Ottawa on Saturday night. He now has 15 goals in 25 games.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri words had a goal and an assist in two games last week.

Carsen Twarynski picked up a goal and an assist in Calgary’s 7-5 loss to Moose Jaw on Saturday night.