Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Same old song as playoff hopes are all but dead

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Same old song as playoff hopes are all but dead

Hurricanes (30-27-12) at Flyers (32-30-8)
7:30 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7

The Flyers return home Sunday night to host the Carolina Hurricanes after a lifeless 6-2 loss to the lowly Devils last Thursday night in New Jersey that all but ended the Flyers' playoff hopes.

Let's take a closer look game No. 71 for the orange and black.

1. Same old song
Inconsistency has plagued the Flyers all season long. One night, they look like a playoff team and the next, they turn in a listless effort like they did Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday night's 4-0 blanking of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the Flyers' most complete game this season. It was a 60-minutes effort with very few mistakes. They shut down the NHL's highest-scoring team and did so while also generating offense themselves.

Then comes Thursday's game against the Devils in New Jersey, where the Flyers played like they were the team coming in on a 10-game losing streak. They weren't. Nothing went right in N.J. Steve Mason left with cramps. They were blown out by the Eastern Conference's worst team in an embarrassing defeat. If the dagger had already punctured the skin of the Flyers' playoff hopes, the Devils only dug deeper to send the orange and black back to reality.

"The consistency is something we need to address," Mason said Saturday. "We can't go from having one of our best games of the year against Pittsburgh and then come around the next night against Jersey with that kind of outcome and overall team game.
 
"It's something that we continually seem to be talking about. That's what makes good teams and separates them. Consistency on any given night, what kind of effort they have."

Mason is expected to be in net for the Flyers on Sunday. It would be Mason's eighth start in nine games since the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a two-year contract extension.

2. Playing for draft position
Thursday's 6-2 loss in New Jersey unofficially ended the Flyers' playoff chances. They are not officially eliminated from postseason contention but the odds are astronomically high.

The Flyers have a 0.3 percent chance at making the playoffs, according to SportsClubStats.com. With 72 points, the Flyers would have to win all 12 games in order to reach last season's point total, which was enough to earn the East's second wild-card spot last season. Entering Sunday, they're seven points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final spot this year.

Ten of 12 wins would get the Flyers to 92 points, which will not be enough to get in. The magic number to have a realistic shot at the postseason is 11 wins and even then it is still improbable because of tiebreakers. At this point, it'd be better to play for draft position.

At 72 points, the Flyers would be lined up for the ninth pick if the season ended Sunday. Carolina, also with 72 points, could move two points ahead of the Flyers with a win. Big picture, the Flyers are a mediocre team still in a rebuild. With long-term lenses, a higher draft pick this summer would help the cause more than being stuck in the middle of the pack.

However we slice it, this season has been a step back for the Flyers, but it is not the time to panic because they still have kids on the way and it was never about this season anyway.

3. Coming in hot
The Hurricanes come into Sunday's matchup picking up points in their last six games, with a 4-0-2 record and eight of their last 10 games, as they open up a four-game road trip in Philadelphia.

On Saturday night, the 'Canes did away with the Nashville Predators with a 4-2 win thanks to two goals from Jeff Skinner, his fifth multi-goal and sixth multi-point game of the season. Like the Flyers, the Hurricanes are seven points out of a playoff spot. Eddie Lack won his second straight game in net for Carolina against Nashville for his first two-game winning streak as a member of the Hurricanes. Cam Ward is expected to get the starting nod on Sunday night.

This is Carolina's fourth of five meetings with the Flyers. The two teams meet in the season finale on April 9 in Philadelphia. The Hurricanes lost the first two games -- 6-3 in Philadelphia on Oct. 22 and 4-3 in Carolina on Oct. 30 but dominated the orange and black, 5-1, in their last meeting on Jan. 31.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's roll with Brayden Schenn, who tallied his 21st goal of the season Thursday. Schenn has four points in his last three games and enters on a five-game point streak at home. In his last five games at Wells Fargo Center, Schenn has two goals and four assists.

Hurricanes: Elias Lindholm's shorthanded empty-net goal on Saturday night extended his point streak to six games. Lindholm's 29 assists have surpassed his career-high in his fourth season. He had two assists in the Hurricanes' 5-1 win over the Flyers on Jan. 31 but was held scoreless in two other games against the orange and black.

5. This and that
• Claude Giroux extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, four assists) with an assist Thursday. He has a goal and two assists in three games against Carolina this season.

• The Hurricanes are 6-4-3 on the latter half of a back-to-back this season.

• Brandon Manning is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after missing three games with a right shoulder injury. Nick Schultz is expected to sit if Manning can return.

• Skinner's two goals on Saturday moved him ahead of Sami Kapanen on Carolina's career points list since the team moved from Hartford to Raleigh, North Carolina. Skinner now has 315 career points.

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Gunn's bullet points: Run game comes alive and a kicker saves the day

Five bullet points from the Eagles' 27-24 win over the Giants in their home opener (see breakdown).

• The smallest guy on the field was the biggest hero Sunday. Jake Elliott's 61-yard field goal on the final play of the game saved what could have been a disaster. Wide receiver Torrey Smith said, "We didn't even know he could kick it that far." Other players admitted they had hardly spoken to Elliott in the two weeks he's been here, but they would definitely go out of their way to exchange words with him in the future.

• Thirty-nine (39?!?!) rushing attempts in one game! The Birds had a grand total of 41 attempts in the first two games. The Giants came into this affair allowing 133.5 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles busted them up for 193. Wendell Smallwood told me, "We just knew where the holes would be after watching them on tape." Lane Johnson added, "We did a great job of mixing up our runs inside, outside, mix directions and delay runs."

• The Giants' trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard combined for 24 catches, 278 yards and three touchdowns. They killed the Eagles on slant routes. Considering how depleted the Eagles' secondary was, Jalen Mills said they wanted to keep everything in front of them. When I asked cornerback Patrick Robinson why they played Beckham so much in single coverage, he responded, "We didn't think he was that healthy, but in the second half, we found out otherwise."

• As if the Birds' defense wasn't banged up enough going into this game, they lost Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks along the way. Safety Rodney McLeod, who was a scratch for this game, told me he will be ready for Philip Rivers and the Chargers next week.

• Numerous players said they were proud of the way the team came together in unity in response to President Trump's comments. Alshon Jeffery told me, "It doesn't make a difference if you're black or white, we are all in this together."

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Roster chatter, Nolan Patrick's status, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers play a preseason back-to-back set when they visit the Rangers on Monday, then host them Tuesday.

With such a schedule setup, head coach Dave Hakstol already has two lineups in mind as the Flyers continue their evaluation for the opening night roster. The training camp roster is technically at 29, but with three players injured (Cole Bardreau, Colin McDonald, Anthony Stolarz), it's actually at 26 and must be down to 23 by the Oct. 4 season opener.

The obvious roster hopefuls are forwards Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Mike Vecchione, and defensemen Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim.

"Everybody that's here is still in the mix," Hakstol said after practice Sunday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I said it a couple days ago, this is when the competition gets pretty high."

If Sunday's practice combinations are any indication of what Monday's lineup will look like at Madison Square Garden, Travis Konecny, Vecchione, Leier and Lindblom will be extras. They were the four-man rotational line Sunday.

Hakstol said there could be some differences from the groupings Sunday when it comes to Monday's game. However, he does hope to play each bubble player at least one of the two games. So whoever sits Monday is more than likely to play Tuesday.

Eyes on Patrick
Patrick is feeling better and better.

After assisting Shayne Gostisbehere's overtime winner in Wednesday's 3-2 preseason split-squad win against the Islanders, Patrick played 16:50 Thursday in the 2-1 OT loss to the Bruins at TD Garden. The No. 2 overall pick saw some power-play time, had a few shots on goal and a pair of takeaways.

"Last game was the most comfortable I've felt," Patrick said Sunday.

He's now played in three preseason games, as well as the rookie game.

Patrick centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds on the second unit at practice, a spot in which suits his strengths playing between two finishers with a good blend of ways to score.

Look for that line to stick Monday.

"We've only had one game together, but I think Simmer's obviously a top player in the league, he was an All-Star last year, he can put the puck in the net and make plays," Patrick said. "So he's big down low to create space. Jordan's great offensively, he's got a lot of speed, so I just try to play smart and find them when they're open and make plays."

Sound with studs
Hagg has put together a strong camp and preseason.

The 22-year-old defenseman is well-groomed and prides himself on play in his own end. Playing alongside Gostisbehere doesn't hurt, either. It allows Gostisbehere to focus a bit more on producing offensively because Hagg understands his defensive role.

The last two days, Hagg has been paired with Ivan Provorov.

With those two, he isn't complaining and seems to relish being the complementary piece.

"They're pretty good guys to play with," Hagg said.

"I don't mind it. Let them do their job and I'm taking care of the defense, kind of what I did last year, as well. Start getting used to it and I don't have any problems with it.

"I think my best game is in the D-zone, shutting down guys, 1-on-1 battles. And then sure, I can follow up in the game and find some pucks here and there. But my main focus is to be good in the D-zone, take care of that and the rest will take care of itself."

Roster two cents
Vecchione has played only two preseason games thus far and he was among the four-man line at practice. He should play at least one of these games on the back-to-back, but at this point, he looks like he'll start the season at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. There just isn't a spot for the rookie forward right now and he won't be on the roster to be an extra man.

Laughton seems to be a safe bet to make the Flyers' roster. He's been playing in the exact role the Flyers are hoping for him and he proved growth to general manager Ron Hextall last season with the Phantoms.

Leier has done everything you'd ask for from a guy fighting for a spot. However, the numbers game likely pegs him at Lehigh Valley to start 2017-18.

Nonetheless, Hakstol has been impressed by the 23-year-old winger, who had a two-goal game Wednesday in the 3-2 split-squad win at the PPL Center.

"It's about playing his role, what his role is," Hakstol said. "Taylor's a responsible two-way forward. When he's been with us, he's played in that third, fourth-line wing type of role, he's killed penalties — that's his chair. He's done a good job of that so far in camp and that's why he's got himself solidly in the mix."

Can't get enough
Weal is always getting in extra work.

Ever since coming to the Flyers in the January 2016 Vinny Lecavalier trade, he is often the first player on the ice before practice even starts. On Sunday, he was the last one off of it with Konecny. Together, the two took in some bonus ice time.

The 25-year-old Weal just loves the rink and it's gotten him from lots of healthy scratches in 2015-16 to what should be a prominent role in 2017-18.

Quotables
"I think they're going to try to stick to it a little bit more. I don't mind it. It's like impossible to cheat now in faceoffs. But some guys, it's kind of a skill to be able to cheat in faceoffs. I don't know, I think they're going to stick to it, and if they do, it's good. Guys are going to be not trying to cheat because you want to stay in the faceoff dot. We'll see what happens."

- Claude Giroux on refs being stricter in the faceoff circle during preseason

"I had quite a few chances that game. Just being able to jump up in the rush at the right times. You're seeing a lot more in the NHL these days that a lot of the offense is being pushed from D-men getting up in the play and joining the rush and creating chances. That's something I've had as a part in my game all the way through my career. I'm just trying to bring that to this level."

- Travis Sanheim on his goal against the Bruins Thursday

Practice lines and pairings

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek (more on this here).
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Mike Vecchione-Taylor Leier-Oskar Lindblom-Travis Konecny

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald

Current roster breakdown

Forwards (18)
Cole Bardreau (injured)
Sean Couturier
Valtteri Filppula
Claude Giroux
Travis Konecny
Scott Laughton
Jori Lehtera
Taylor Leier
Oskar Lindblom
Colin McDonald (injured)
Nolan Patrick
Michael Raffl
Matt Read
Wayne Simmonds
Mike Vecchione
Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal
Dale Weise

Defensemen (8)
Shayne Gostisbehere
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Andrew MacDonald
Brandon Manning
Sam Morin
Ivan Provorov
Travis Sanheim

Goalies (3)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
Anthony Stolarz (injured)