Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

flyers-hurricanes-matchup-slide.jpg

Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Hurricanes
1 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (31-29-17) will mercifully finish the road portion of their schedule when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes (28-38-11) at PNC Arena Saturday afternoon. 

Here’s what you need to know before puck drop:

1. Road kill
Take it away, Mark Streit.

“The road hasn’t been good this year and it’s a big part of why we’re out of the playoff race,” the veteran defenseman said Friday (see story). “[Saturday], we play a team that plays good at home. We just want to finish on a positive note. It’s a good test for us.”

The road has been an absolute nightmare for the Flyers all season. They’ve scored just 92 goals away from the Wells Fargo Center and have allowed 129 for a pitiful minus-37 differential.

The Flyers are among four teams that have failed to record more than 10 road wins in 2014-15. Their miserable road record (10-20-10) is a major reason why they were eliminated from postseason contention a week ago.

And if the Flyers fall to the Hurricanes, they will finish with their fewest wins away from Philadelphia in a non-shortened season since the 1991-92 campaign (10-26-4), according to STATS. Yikes.

2. Eye of the storm
If we were to use the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, this Carolina club would probably peak as a Category 2 on a good day.

Simply put, the Hurricanes have no offense. They average just 2.25 goals per game. Only the New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres score less.

Perhaps the team’s biggest crutch is its play at even strength. The Hurricanes rank 27th in the NHL in 5-on-5 scoring (0.75).

Strangely, Carolina is solid on both the power play and penalty kill. They have the league’s 10th-best PP unit and are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the NHL in PK effectiveness at 85.3 percent. 

The Hurricanes also have the Flyers’ number. They’ve taken two of the first three matchups between the two clubs this season and have won the last four meetings in Raleigh.

3. Injuries
The Flyers have a long list of players who will miss the final five games of the season.

Defensemen Andrew MacDonald (hand), Luke Schenn (abdomen) and Radko Gudas (knee) and forwards R.J. Umberger (hip/abdomen) and Wayne Simmonds (leg) are all out. 

For the Hurricanes, forward Riley Nash and defenseman Jack Hillen are sidelined with concussions. Defenseman Rasmus Rissanen will not play because of a sprained MCL. 

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: After scoring twice in the Flyers’ 4-1 win over the Penguins, forward Brayden Schenn is just one goal or assist away from setting a new career high in points. The 23-year-old tallied 20 markers last season, but hasn’t made the most of increase in ice time in 2014-15. He spent a large chunk of games skating on the team’s top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek but enters Saturday with just 16 goals in 77 games. With five games remaining, it’s not outrageous to think he can reach the 20-goal mark for a second straight season. Anything is possible. But the Flyers will certainly be looking for more from the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder moving forward. 

Hurricanes: Carolina hasn’t supplied many goals as of late, but that hasn’t stopped rookie winger Chris Terry from finding his way onto the scoresheet. The 25-year-old has potted two goals and assisted two more during his current four-game point streak. Terry is one of a handful of Hurricanes players who is playing for a job next season. He’s proved he can put up solid numbers in the AHL — 299 points in 375 games — but hasn’t yet shown the consistency needed to play every day in the NHL. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder has good offensive instincts, and could be a solid depth forward on a rebuilding Hurricanes team. He wears No. 25.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have lost six of their last seven matchups against the Hurricanes.

• Carolina has been outscored, 12-4, during its current three-game losing streak.

• Ray Emery is 5-0-0 with a 0.74 goals-against average and .977 save percentage and two shutouts in five career starts against the Hurricanes.

• Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has six goals and six assists in his last 11 games against the Flyers.

• Streit is four points away from becoming the first Flyers defenseman to record 50 points in a season since Chris Pronger accomplished that feat in 2009-10.

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

With the Flyers on their bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.

Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Today’s question: What adjustment would you make on the Flyers' defense?

Dougherty
There is not much in Dave Hakstol’s arsenal to significantly improve the team defense with a lineup change. Sure, scratching Andrew MacDonald could be a positive step, but that does not solve the problem here. We can point fingers at the defensive group because the Flyers have allowed the league’s second-most goals at 144. They’re part of the problem.

What is plaguing the Flyers is not just the play of their six defensemen on any given night; it’s their overall team defense. Some forwards are quitting on the backcheck, and not providing enough support in their own zone, missing their own assignments.

The Flyers, I believe, are struggling with the lack of practice time. And while it is true that every team is dealing with the same compact schedule as the Flyers, Hakstol has to maximize the little practice time he gets going forward and preach team defense. Gaps have been a major issue with the current group of blueliners, and that is an area assistant coach Gord Murphy has to fix. Hakstol has singled out the team’s rush defense as an issue, and that’s another area the team has to work on, too.

A lot of the same issues that were appearing in the beginning of the season when the Flyers were struggling are reappearing in their game now. They were able to make adjustments earlier in the season to hone their game defensively. More film study and more coaching are just a couple of the adjustments I’d make with the current options.

Hall
Sometimes it takes a fresh face, some new blood to spark change.

If anything, it sends a bit of a message.

The Flyers have options at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule anything out last Sunday.

But, of course, given the Flyers’ salary cap conundrum, it’s not as simple as just calling up a player.

So, the easiest thing that can be done is change within the current personnel. That means scratching MacDonald from time to time, just how Hakstol has done so with Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and many Flyers forwards.

MacDonald hasn’t been as bad as some may think. Oftentimes, his mistakes are magnified more than others. But too frequently do we see him out of position or misreading a play on a goal against. And that’s been true for all Flyers defensemen, yet MacDonald seems to be one of the only spared of the consequences.

Benching MacDonald isn’t a drastic fix and it may not do much at all, but it’s something we haven’t seen since Nov. 19.

Paone
This a really tough question because, to be quite frank, there is no easy solution here to fixing a Flyers defense that has been mired in a state of miserable play and has played a large part in the team's allowing 3.50 goals per game in the 14 contests since the 10-game win streak ended in mid-December. 

It's not like Hakstol or Hextall can push some magic button here and have things fixed in a matter of moments. The Flyers have salary cap and roster issues, so it's going to be tough to bring in a player via trade to help fix things on the back end. Same goes for bringing up a prospect because space on the roster would have to be made first.

This situation leaves the Flyers to fix the problem from within with the defensemen they currently have at the NHL level. They're going to have to play their way out of this. And that's why I'm interested in focusing on the younger defensemen like Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov right now. We know what the veteran defensemen on this team are and they've been through this sort of thing before. This will not be the last team-wide rut the younger defensemen will play through in their careers. It will happen again. They're going to have to learn how to play through this and not let it affect their individual play. That's why I didn't agree with Ghost's benching in Boston last weekend.  Sure, he has not played well this season and the warts to his game have been evident. And there are times when sitting back, taking a breather and watching can be beneficial. But I'm a believer that a young player has to play through his growing pains and grow from them.

This isn't going to be an answer most of you will like to hear, but with the way the Flyers' hands are tied, they're just going to have to play their way out of these defensive struggles with what they have.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).