Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

flyers-hurricanes-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Hurricanes
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (33-29-18) will try for a third straight win when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes (29-40-11) at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

Here are five things you should know before puck drop:

1. Feeling right
Have the Flyers finally figured out the best way to utilize Brayden Schenn?

After moving Schenn from his natural center position to left wing, sliding him up and down the lineup and giving him numerous different linemates over the past three seasons, the Flyers may have struck gold by placing the 23-year-old on the right wing with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.

Schenn has collected four goals and three assists during a four-game point streak and is enjoying his first opportunity to play on a different side of the ice.

“Just off the rush, you are able to make more plays and see more of the ice,” he said of his transition to right wing. “I’m able to get off the boards a little more. It’s a change but whatever position Chief (Craig Berube) puts me in, I will be comfortable at. I’m going to do the best job I can.”

Consistency has been Schenn’s biggest crutch at the NHL level. He tends to go through lengthy scoring droughts despite receiving significant playing time at even strength and on the power play in a top-six forward role. The Flyers would love to see Schenn carry over his recent production into next season, but, with one more year on his contract after this season, his future with the organization remains cloudy as ever.

2. Power surge
One aspect of the game that has rarely been an issue for the Flyers in 2014-15 is the power play.

The Flyers boast the league’s third-best PP unit at 23.8 percent. The team has been especially strong on the man advantage over its last seven games, too. The Flyers have tallied at least one power-play goal in each of those tilts and haven’t missed a beat even after losing key PP contributor Wayne Simmonds to a season-ending leg injury two weeks ago.

Believe it or not, the Hurricanes are in a good position to put an end to the Flyers’ recent surge on the power play. Despite its horrid play this season, Carolina is actually the fourth-best team on the penalty kill in the NHL at 84.5 percent.

3. Injuries
Forwards R.J. Umberger (hip/abdomen) and Simmonds (leg) are out for the rest of the season.

Defensemen Andrew MacDonald (hand), Luke Schenn (abdomen) and Radko Gudas (knee) are also sidelined for the Flyers.

The Hurricanes will be without defensemen Jack Hillen (concussion) and Rasmus Rissanen (knee) and forward Riley Nash (concussion).

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Mark Streit has been mighty generous as of late. The veteran defenseman has collected six assists in his last four games, and now ranks third on the Flyers in scoring with 51 points in 79 games. The 37-year-old, who is the first Flyers blueliner to record 50 points in a season since Chris Pronger accomplished the feat in 2009-10, is also just one goal away from recording back-to-back campaigns with at least 10 markers.

Hurricanes: Eric Staal is one of those players who just kills the Flyers. The Hurricanes’ captain has four goals and four assists during his current seven-game point streak against the orange and black, and enters Thursday with nine points in his last eight contests overall. He’s having a down season, but he doesn’t really have much to work with right now. The 30-year-old can still light up any team on any night when he’s on though.

5. This and that
• Dating back to the start of last season, the Flyers have dropped seven of their last eight meetings with the Hurricanes, including three straight.

• Carolina has been outscored, 21-11, excluding shootout goals, during its current 1-4-1 slide.

• The Flyers have averaged 4.4 goals during their current 4-0-1 stretch at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Claude Giroux has seven goals and four assists in his last 11 games.

• Eric and Jordan Staal each have two goals and two assists against the Flyers this season.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

Ivan Provorov passes latest rookie test by shutting down Jaromir Jagr

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe he saw some old video of how Chris Therien did it.
 
Or maybe Ivan Provorov just shrugged his 19-year-old shoulders and figured he’d do it his way.
 
Whatever the Flyers' rookie defenseman did, he shut down the ageless Jaromir Jagr during Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers. 
 
Just like Therien used to do back in the day. 
 
Provorov frustrated Jagr into taking penalties. And when he wasn’t in the box for hooking the rookie, you could visibly see Jagr’s frustration across his face.
 
At one point, they were talking to each other on the ice. A Russian and a Czech. What was said?
 
“It stays in the game,” Provorov said with a smile Wednesday.
 
Provorov said he didn’t spend time watching a ton of video.
 
“We did our pre-scout in the morning,” he said. “That was it.”
 
Provorov, with help from centerman Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, held Jagr to one shot. His teammates were impressed.
 
“Unbelievable, a 19-year-old kid going against Jaromir Jagr,” Wayne Simmonds said. “I think he did a pretty good job. 
 
“I think he has done a great job all year long and he is only going to get better. If you watch him play, he is getting better and better, not every game but every shift.”
 
Provorov had an assist and two blocked shots, including a critical block on Reilly Smith that could have been a game-winner in overtime.
 
“Well we haven’t used him a lot in the 3-on-3 but we felt that it was time,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Again, coming off of a real solid night where he’s playing against really good players all night long, he continued that right through the OT. 
 
“The impressive thing on that play is the read that he made to make that block … I haven’t looked at it on the replay or on tape yet. But I think that Mase might have been over on it but that play that Provy made was potentially a game saving play right there.”
 
Provorov doesn’t make flashy plays. He just makes the steady play every time he needs to. At season’s start, he was struggling to get his shot off without being blocked. Now he finds space along the blue to better position himself to get his shot through. He thinks before he reacts.
 
Behind the net, he is one of the few Flyers defensemen who almost never loses a puck battle. It’s often hard to believe he’s as young as he is.
 
“He moves so well and makes good reads, he’s a very intelligent player,” Andrew MacDonald said. “He has great poise with the puck, and not just for a 19-year-old, but for any aged player. 
 
“Defensively he always seems to be in the right positions and communicates well. We were fortunate to have some time together in camp, and a few games. I feel like we picked up where we left off the past few games.”
 
Jagr’s assets are size, strength — especially his lower core — and a skill set of moves without blinding speed.
 
Thursday will present a new challenge for Provorov: Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the NHL’s leading scorer with 36 points. McDavid is all about youth and raw speed. 
 
“They’re different players, but it doesn’t matter,” Provorov said. “You take away time and space. Don’t give him time to get a lot of speed.”
 
This is another learning experience for Provorov. In a different age category. Hakstol credits assistant coach Gord Murphy for bringing Provorov up to speed at the NHL level.
 
“I think Murph has done a really good job in managing that progression along, most importantly, with Provy, managing it," Hakstol said.
 
“You can go back to the tell-tale sign of the tough night back in Chicago [third game]. That didn’t shake or rattle Provy in any way. He came back with pretty good determination the next day.
 
“You have to be an honest evaluator of your own game. I think Provy … whether it’s a real good night or a tough night, that allows you to keep an even keel and an even balance. I think that’s a real strength.”

Injury update
The Flyers on Wednesday placed left winger Matt Read on injured reserve and activated center Boyd Gordon. Gordon has been out since Nov. 3.