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.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has turned his steady play for the Stanley Cup champions into a new contract.

Dumoulin and the team agreed to a six-year deal on Monday that will run through the 2022-23 season and will pay him an average of $4.1 million per year.

The 25-year-old Dumoulin had three goals and 11 assists during Pittsburgh's run to the Cup this spring and hasn't missed a playoff game during the team's sprint to back-to-back titles.

Dumoulin averaged a team-high 21:59 of ice time this postseason, and his plus-9 rating was best among Penguins defensemen. Dumoulin was forced to take on a larger roll this spring after injuries forced Kris Letang to miss the playoffs.

Predators: Watson signs 3-year, $3.3 million deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year $3.3 million deal keeping him under contract through 2019-20.

The Predators announced the deal Monday.

Watson will earn $1 million this season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in the third year.

The 25-year-old forward is coming off his best season yet with Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Watson had a career high with five goals and seven assists in 77 games this past season. Watson scored four goals and had nine points in 22 playoff games helping Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The 18th pick overall in the 2010 draft, Watson had three goals and 10 points in 57 games during the 2015-16 season.

Now, center Ryan Johansen is Nashville's lone restricted free agent awaiting a new deal.

Sabres: Okposo says he’s healthy after concussion
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said he is fully healthy after a concussion led to sleeping trouble, significant weight loss and a trip to intensive care last March.

Okposo missed the final few weeks of Buffalo's season with a previously undisclosed illness. In a letter posted on the team's website Monday, Okposo said a routine hit in practice caused his mood to change and other problems that required hospitalization.

The 29-year-old said he lost his appetite, had a negative reaction to sleep medications and that at one point he weighed less than 200 pounds. He spent time in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital to be stabilized. Okposo's playing weight is listed at 218 pounds.

Okposo played in a 4-on-4 summer league game in Minnesota with other NHL players last week and reported feeling great. New general manager Jason Botterill said Okposo was on track to be ready for training camp.

"I've worked with a lot of different people -- concussion experts and people who have dealt with concussions themselves -- and I feel confident in the fact that I can play hockey again," Okposo said in the letter. "In fact, I know I can play again. I know I can play and not worry about hitting my head, which is a major hurdle for someone who's dealt with this. If I didn't feel 100 percent right now, that probably wouldn't be the case."

Okposo's last NHL game was March 27 against Florida. He had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. He signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres last summer.

NHL: Gamble to get back Hall of Fame ring
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A scuba-diving treasure hunter who found an American Hockey League Hall of Fame ring in one of New York's Finger Lakes is returning it to its owner.

Gary Gavurnik, of Auburn, New York, plans to return the prized ring to former AHL star Dick Gamble on Monday. Gavurnik found it with a metal detector in Canandaigua Lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

The 88-year-old Canadian-born Gamble starred for the AHL's Rochester Americans and retired early in the 1969-70 season. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2007.

Instead of wearing the ring, though, he gave it to his son, Craig, who wore it every day for seven years before losing it in the lake. He never told his dad and ordered a replacement.