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?

 

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).

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.