Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers-Flames: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Flames: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (29-23-6) and Flames (22-28-7) meet for the final time this season today.

It’s also the last game for both teams for a few weeks as the NHL breaks for the Olympics.

Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center (CSN).

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Finish strong
The Flyers are rolling right now and it’s important to head into the break with two more points, especially considering the quality of opponent they’re facing today.

Winning four of their last five, the Flyers have three straight wins over three of the best teams in the Western Conference -- the Kings, Sharks and Avalanche. They had a tough 5-3 loss to the Ducks last week, but played Anaheim extremely well.

This is the problem with the Flyers and their inconsistency. They beat teams you’d expect them to lose to, but then fall to teams you’d expect them to beat. There is no excuse for the Orange and Black to leave Wells Fargo Center today without a victory.

Calgary is a team in transition and six games under .500. However, it is riding a hot streak of its own. The Flames have won six of their last seven games, but they’re still a team the Flyers should beat.

The Flyers beat the Flames, 4-1, on New Year’s Eve. Losing to Calgary to enter the break would be a dagger in the Flyers’ hearts. It’s a critical game.

2. Loving the West
Steve Mason misses the Western Conference, because this season he’s tearing it apart.

In his last 10 games vs. Western Conference teams, Mason is 7-2-1 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, including a shutout. This year, he’s 10-6-2 with a 2.30 GAA and .925 save percentage against his former conference.

The 25-year-old has rebounded quite nicely in the last couple of weeks after a rough patch. He’s allowed seven goals in his last five games, including two shutouts. His confidence appears back, which is great because the Flyers’ defense still has its warts.

Mason has faced the Flames a fair amount in his career, posting pedestrian numbers. In 13 games vs. Calgary, Mason has a 5-4-3 record with a 2.97 GAA and .892 save percentage with one shutout.

In the prior meeting between these two teams this year, Mason had the night off. While the Flyers would probably like to get Ray Emery one more start before the break, it’s not a good idea to let Mason have more time off than needed.

3. Getting offensive
What’s behind the Flames’ recent stretch?

Calgary’s offense has been electric in its last seven games, scoring 25 goals -- 3.57 goals per game, 1.25 more goals per game than its season average.

The Flames' only loss during the span was a 2-0 shutout in Montreal.

Youngsters Mikael Backlund, 24, and Sean Monahan, 19, have carried the offense of late. Backlund has 10 points in his last six games, while Monahan has five points -- three goals -- during the stretch.

Monahan, the Flames’ first-round pick in 2013 (sixth overall), leads the team with 16 goals.

Jiri Hudler leads the team with 43 points. He has just three points in the Flames’ last seven games.

4. Three's Company
With Karri Ramo battling a lower-body injury, Reto Berra will get the call again in net.

Berra has started the last three games and he’s been good enough to win but not spectacular. He’s 2-1-0 in those games, but he allowed one goal in the loss; in the two wins, he allowed five goals.

The 27-year-old was in net when the Flyers scored four goals on Calgary on Dec. 31. He stopped 17 of 20 shots in the loss, as the Orange and Black also added an empty netter.

On the season, Berra has a 3.06 GAA and .896 save percentage. Given how well Mason has been playing, three goals on Berra today should be enough for a victory.

5. This and that

• Mark Streit has power-play goals in his last two games. He had two in the first 56 games.

• The Flyers have a PP goal in each of their last eight games. It's the longest active streak in NHL.

• Calgary has won four of its last five games in Philadelphia.

• Monahan’s 16 goals are the most goals by a Flames rookie since Dion Phaneuf had 20 in 2006-07.

• When Claude Giroux scores, the Flyers are 15-2-1 this season.

NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

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NHL Notes: Oilers sign star Leon Draisaitl to mega 8-year contract

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have signed center Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $8.5 million.

The extension runs through the 2024-25 season, similar to the eight-year, $100-million extension superstar captain Connor McDavid signed with the team in July.

With the signings, the Oilers are banking on McDavid and Draisaitl providing a potent one-two punch for the team as it looks to build on last season's return to the playoffs after a decade of futility.

Draisaitl, a 21-year-old German, had 77 points (29 goals, 48 assists) last season, his third in the NHL.

He finished eighth among NHL scorers, and second on the Oilers behind McDavid.

He led the Oilers in scoring during the 2017 playoffs, posting 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 13 games.

Draisaitl was selected third overall by the Oilers at the 2015 draft (see full story).

Avalanche: Hobey Baker winner Butcher now free agent
College hockey's top player is an NHL free agent after former University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher allowed a deadline to pass without signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche selected Butcher in the fifth round of the 2013 draft and had until Tuesday to sign the Hobey Baker Award winner who led Denver to a national championship in April.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Butcher already has had discussions with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils and NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The person said Butcher has not yet narrowed his list, and is also talking with other teams.

The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The Denver Post first reported the three specific teams expressing interest in Butcher (see full story).

Wild: Cullen comes home for 21st NHL season
The Minnesota Wild and center Matt Cullen have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, bringing him back to his home state for a 21st season in the NHL.

The Wild announced the deal, which includes $700,000 in potential performance bonuses, on Wednesday.

Cullen played the last two years with Pittsburgh, winning consecutive Stanley Cups with the Penguins. He played three seasons for the Wild from 2010-13, his first return to Minnesota since launching his career at Moorhead High School and St. Cloud State.

Cullen, who will turn 41 on Nov. 2, had 13 goals and 18 assists in 72 games in 2016-17 for the Penguins, plus two goals and seven assists in 25 playoff games. He has played in 1,366 career regular season games, the sixth-most among active players (see full story).

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

ESPN analyst ranks Flyers' farm system No. 1 in NHL

Ron Hextall never told fans to "trust the process," but apparently any faith in the Flyers' GM has been vindicated.

At least that's the case if you believe ESPN NHL writer Corey Pronman's latest farm system rankings (it's an Insider story, so apologies in advance). Pronman has the Flyers' farm ranked as No. 1 in the NHL. 

"The Flyers don't have as much game-breaking talent as our No. 2 team (Coyotes) does at the top of their system," Pronman writes, "but 2017 No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick is right up there; after Patrick, the Flyers have the cupboards lined with talent at every position."

Pronman credits the Flyers with nailing his first-round picks (Patrick, Ivan Provorov), grabbing middle-round prospects that have blossomed (Shayne Gostisbehere, Oskar Lindblom) and specifically mentions Phil Myers, an undrafted defenseman that has become "one of the very best defense prospects in hockey."

For so long, the Flyers' organization was perpetually in "win-now mode," but the late Ed Snider hired Hextall away from the Kings and eventually made him GM, knowing that Hexy was taking a broader view of the organization. Instead of trading away young talent and draft picks for aging veterans, Hextall restocked a dreadful farm system to get the team where it is today.

"Not too long ago, the Flyers' farm system was a laughingstock, with C-grade college free agents making it into their top five," Pronman said. "Today, they are in the best position of any NHL team in terms of adding young premium players to their roster."