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?

 

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power-play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first-unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league (see game notes).

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit — Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds — hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists — two on the power play — against the Canucks on Sunday (see story).

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Couturier, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.