Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

flyers-hurricanes-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

Two struggling Metropolitan Division clubs will hit the ice on Tuesday night.

The Flyers (4-9-0) will look to carry over momentum gained in a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils when they take on the depleted Carolina Hurricanes (2-6-2) for the second time this season.

The puck will drop at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. at 7:30 p.m. (CSN). Here are five things you need to know for the contest:

1. Welcome back, Vinny
After missing one game because of a facial injury suffered in a fight with Washington’s Steve Oleksy on Friday, Vinny Lecavalier will return to the Flyers’ lineup against Carolina (see story).

The Flyers’ big offseason acquisition practiced on Claude Giroux’s line with Scott Hartnell on Monday. Lecavalier denied reports that he had a broken jaw, but did still have some swelling on the left side of his face.

In order to protect himself, Lecavalier will wear a helmet with a half-shield, half-cage. He tried using a bubble shield, but quickly switched to a different bucket.

“I wanted to try both,” he said. “I was happy I started off with the cage because I felt a lot better with the thing [Sidney] Crosby wore last year -- the little protective thing. It fogs up a little bit, but I had better vision with the second one.”

Lecavalier, who missed three games earlier this season with a lower-body injury and four overall through the first 13 games, leads the Flyers with five goals and is tied with Brayden Schenn for the team lead in points with seven. Steve Downie, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, also has seven points but he recorded all of them as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

2. Eye of the storm
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Hurricanes. Carolina enters Tuesday with a five-game losing streak and has several key players sidelined with injuries.

Leading-scorer Jeff Skinner -- nine points in 10 games -- is out with an upper-body injury and missed practice Monday to seek a second opinion on whatever is bothering him. The Hurricanes haven’t clarified exactly what the 21-year-old’s injury is, but he has had concussion problems in the past.

To make matters worse, both of Carolina’s netminders are on injured reserve with lower-body ailments. Starter Cam Ward isn’t skating yet and backup Anton Khudobin, who stopped 17 of 18 shots in the Hurricanes’ win over the Flyers earlier this season, is progressing slowly.

Radek Dvorak (lower body) skated with the ‘Canes on Monday and could be activated from IR to play against the Flyers. In addition, Tim Gleason and Kevin Westgarth are both listed as day-to-day with upper-body injuries and are questionable for Tuesday’s game.

Finally, former Flyer Joni Pitkanen (heel) is out for the season, leaving a big hole on Carolina’s blueline. With the exception of Downie, the Flyers will field a healthy roster.

3. Defensive carousel
The Flyers have already used all eight of their defensemen on the active roster this season, mostly because of inconsistent play on the blueline.

Head coach Craig Berube has inserted Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson in and out of the lineup a few times, but made another move on Saturday. Luke Schenn was a healthy scratch and Hal Gill made his official Flyers debut.

Gill, now in his 16th NHL season, played nearly 15 minutes and was aggressive in front of the Flyers’ net. Only Braydon Coburn logged more shorthanded minutes than Gill among defensemen. The Flyers allowed just 14 shots and did not register a single giveaway in the win.

At practice Monday, Berube’s defensive parings were identical to the ones used in the New Jersey game. It looks like Gill and Meszaros will remain in the lineup, leaving Gustafsson and Schenn to be scratched again.  

4. Struggling offenses
The Flyers and Hurricanes are two of six NHL clubs averaging under two goals per game in the early going.

The Flyers’ offensive struggles returned after a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders. In the three games since that victory, the orange and black have netted just three markers. In addition, their 21 goals are an NHL-low.

Carolina has only five tallies during its current losing streak. The ‘Canes have 27 goals in 14 games overall.

5. This and that
• Luke Schenn netted the Flyers’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Carolina on Oct. 6. Dvorak potted the game-winner for the ‘Canes.

• Steve Mason is 5-1-0 with a .941 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average in six career starts against the Hurricanes. Ray Emery’s numbers are even better. He’s gone 5-0-0 with a .977 save percentage, 0.74 goals-against average and two shutouts against Carolina.

• The Hurricanes will open a five-game homestand on Tuesday.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.