Flyers-Hurricanes: What you need to know

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Flyers-Hurricanes: What you need to know

Flyers vs. Hurricanes – 1 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

The Flyers’ four-game homestand will come to a close when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon in the second of three meetings between these two clubs this season.

Offensive struggles have plagued the Flyers in the early going. They have scored just 25 total goals and have two or fewer markers in nine of 11 contests this season.

Although the Flyers haven’t had success finding the back of the net, they have been dominant against the Hurricanes over the past few seasons and will look to continue that trend on Saturday.

Records
Flyers: 4-6-1 (Fifth in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference)

Hurricanes: 5-4-0 (Second in Southeast Division, eighth in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
The Flyers used three power-play tallies to take down the Hurricanes in a 5-3 victory last Saturday. Claude Giroux and Danny Briere each had a goal and an assist to help the orange and black end a three-game losing skid. Netminder Ilya Bryzgalov turned aside a season-high 39 shots.

The Flyers have gone 19-2-3 in their last 24 meetings against Carolina, including a 9-1-2 record at the Wells Fargo Center.

Previous games
Matt Read and Jakub Voracek each scored for the Flyers, but that wasn’t enough in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Florida’s Jonathon Huberdeau and Peter Mueller both beat Bryzgalov in the shootout, while Jose Theordore turned aside attempts from Read and Giroux to help the Panthers snap the Flyers’ three-game home winning streak.

Cam Ward made 45 saves and Jay Harrison scored in overtime to lead the Hurricanes to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Carolina, which has won five of its last seven games, also received goals from Chad LaRose and Alexander Semin in regulation.

Keep an eye on ...
Eric Staal has points in seven straight games, including a goal and an assist in last Saturday’s loss to the Flyers. The Hurricanes’ captain has seven goals, four assists and is a team-high plus-7 through nine games this season.

Eric’s younger brother, Jordan, who was acquired by the Hurricanes in a trade this past offseason from the Pittsburgh Penguins, is off to solid start in Carolina. He has one goal, eight assists and 25 shots on goal in nine games.

Giroux has taken an NHL-high 272 faceoffs so far this season and has won 55.9 percent of those draws. The Flyers’ captain is second on the team in scoring with seven points (three goals, four assists).

When scored on first, the Flyers are 0-4-1 this season. The New Jersey Devils and the Calgary Flames (both 0-1-2) are the only other teams that are winless after allowing the first goal.

Did you know?
The Flyers are just 3 for 34 (8.8 percent) on the power play in their seven losses, compared to 6 for 15 (40 percent) on the man-advantage in their four wins.

Read (four goals, four assists) is leading the Flyers in scoring this season with eight points. The only clubs with a lower team point leader than the Flyers are the Los Angeles Kings -- Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford, Simon Gagne, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Justin Williams each have five -- and the Nashville Predators -- Martin Erat and Colin Wilson each have seven.

Injuries
Flyers: Wayne Simmonds, who has missed the last three games with a concussion, took full practice on Friday and said he feels “ready to play.” Simmonds has two goals and three assists in eight games this season.

Scott Hartnell is still on the mend from a broken left foot. He had the cast removed on Thursday and could start skating next week, according to general manager Paul Holmgren.

Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) is expected to be out for at least another two weeks.

Hurricanes: Tuomo Ruutu had hip surgery before the NHL lockout ended and is expected to miss the entire regular season.

Up next
The Flyers will begin a season-long, six-game road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday at 7 p.m. They will return home on Feb. 21 for a 7 p.m. matchup with the Panthers.

Carolina will continue its six-game road trip with a 7 p.m. contest against the New York Islanders on Monday night.

Sound off
What do you think the Flyers need to do to turn things around on offense?

 

End to End: The State of Claude Giroux

End to End: The State of Claude Giroux

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

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The state of Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

Boruk
The state of Giroux is more of a state of mind at this point of his career. There was one very revealing quote that surfaced following his breakout day when he said, “Your mind wants to do something but your body doesn’t do it, it’s frustrating.” That tells me the dynamic part of his game that we came to expect and admire for much of his career is perhaps no longer there, and he’s searching for a way to reinvent himself. He still has a big-time slap shot, terrific vision and an unbelievable set of hands.
 
The bigger worry here is that Giroux, who turns 30 in January, hasn’t performed as a No. 1 center (despite being paid like one) at even strength for the past three seasons, where he’s ranked 81st, 60th and a mind-blowing 189th last season in even-strength points. It’s an accumulation of facing the top lines and defense pairings every single game, and eventually, it takes a toll.

If this trend continues, I would give thought to moving him back to wing where he started his Flyers career during the Mike Richards-Jeff Carter era. I agree to some extent with Jeremy Roenick’s assertion that he lets too much get into his head, and that probably includes all facets of life, even off the ice. Giroux needs to come to camp like a finely-tuned Ferrari, and if he can start strong, it will go a long way toward a rebound season.  

Dougherty
The numbers tell a cautionary tale. Since the 2014-15 campaign, Giroux’s goal, assist and point totals have been in a consistent decline. What makes that season important?

That was when his eight-year, $66.2 million contract extension began. Giroux’s decline over the last three seasons should concern the Flyers. He’s not the same player he was in 2013-14. But I don’t believe he’s the player he was in 2016-17, either. I think there’s a happy medium here, and I expect Giroux to have a much better season in 2017-18.

It’s two-fold as to why I believe so. One, Giroux's confidence was rocked last season after undergoing hip and abdominal surgery last summer. Was he fully healthy all season? He’ll never say, but toward the end of the year, I thought he was much better. I think with a full summer of training and added motivation, Giroux will come in with a chip on his shoulder.

More importantly, there will be less pressure on Giroux to carry the workload because the talent level at forward will be deeper. I expect Nolan Patrick to be a Flyer. I also expect Oskar Lindblom to be here too. Then there is Jordan Weal and Travis Konecny. Weal will be here all season, and I expect Konecny to make a big jump in Year 2. Those four should lessen the demand placed on Giroux.

We may never see Giroux reach 70 points again. But with expected scoring depth incoming, the Flyers can live with Giroux in the 60-65-point range, which I think he’ll be in. The contract could be a cap problem in a few seasons, but I don’t think the Flyers are there yet.

Hall
Giroux's right — he's his toughest critic, which can be a blessing and a curse.

Any organization wants a driven player. With Giroux, it's not so much about what outsiders think, but it's his own expectations. So when he struggles, he sort of creates his own pressure because he expects a lot of himself — just like the fans and media expect a lot from him.

What I expect this season is an ultra-motivated Giroux, maybe the most fueled we've ever seen him. It didn't look or sound like Giroux was healthy last season, which only added to his frustration when he didn't perform. A summer full of recouping and training — he's pretty excited about both — should help Giroux's chances of rebounding.

I don't think he'll ever put up 80-plus points again, but that doesn't mean he can't be productive — say 20 goals and close to 50 assists? Giroux needs a supporting cast, not all the weight on his shoulders, because it has a negative affect on the captain.

The supporting cast should be better in 2017-18, and so should Giroux.

Paone
Is Giroux still an upper-echelon, high-level NHL player? Absolutely he is. The skill is still there and the guy isn't a former Hart Trophy finalist and four-time All-Star by accident. But after last season's woeful campaign where the captain, in many ways the sparkplug of the Flyers' offense and arguably the team's most important player, struggled mightily, it's more than fair to question just which echelon and level he is on these days, especially as he enters his age 29-30 season.

In so many ways, as Giroux goes, so does the Flyers' offense. And it's been that way for the last several years as he is still the main guy other teams gameplan for when preparing to play the Flyers. But the decline in production has been steady over the last few years and the Flyers' offense has suffered because of that.

In 2014-15, Giroux posted 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.59 goals per game. In 2015-16, Giroux put up 67 points (22 goals and 45 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.57 goals per game. Last season, the captain notched 58 points (14 goals and 44 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.59 goals per game again. All of those goal-per-game numbers the last three seasons were in the bottom half of the league's numbers. Compare all that to 2013-14 when Giroux, a Hart finalist that year, posted 86 points (career-high-tying 28 goals and 58 assists) and the Flyers tallied 2.84 goals per contest, seventh in the league.

That Giroux may not be there any more. It's a legitimate question with the the decline shown over the last several seasons. That's why this season is all about answering questions for Giroux. And he couldn't answer those questions for the better part of last season as that hip surgery turned his hockey world upside down. He couldn't get a full summer of training in and then jumped right into the World Cup of Hockey, where he took this hit from Joe Pavelski in an exhibition. That's an injury that lingers, especially for a hockey player, and Giroux was basically stuck in mud the for most of the year as he tried to get his motor going. The quote John mentioned above from breakout day is so telling with that. Shayne Gostisbehere knows the feeling. But much like Gostisbehere, Giroux started to turn it on more and more and showed flashes of his more productive self as the season wound down.

Giroux is a guy who takes his play to heart and he can be very hard on himself. The way you see him break his stick over the bench every so often is proof of that. He expects so much more out of himself than he gave last season.

But now healthy, with a full offseason of training and a year's worth of motivation under his belt, I expect him to be much better and much more productive. The Giroux of five years ago? No, probably not. But with another year of young talent surrounding him and a healthy slate, I really don't feel there's a reason Giroux can't be a top-line threat again and I even look for him to be reckoned with as the season gets underway. But he's the guy who will provide the answers that both he and Flyers fans have been looking for.

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.