Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Islanders: 5 things you need to know

After snapping a four-game losing streak Thursday in a 2-1 win over the Rangers, the Flyers on Saturday will attempt to win two in a row for the first time this season against another New York team.

The Flyers (2-7-0) head to Long Island to face the Islanders (4-3-3), who are coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Penguins on Friday.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m. at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (CSN), here are five things you need to know:

1) G-start?
Last season, the Flyers were off to a bad start. They were 6-9-1 before their first game against the New York Islanders. New captain Claude Giroux was in the middle of a seven-game goalless streak and wasn't happy with his team's start of the season.

Giroux stepped up, snapped his goalless streak with two tallies and an assist to lead the Flyers to a whopping 7-0 win over the Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y.

Nine games into the 2013-14 season, the 25-year-old finds himself in a similar situation. The Flyers are off to another bad start, one that resulted in a coaching change, and Giroux hasn't scored a goal in nine games. Will another meeting with the Islanders jumpstart the struggling center?

Giroux will play his second game with Vinny Lecavalier, who returned Thursday after missing four games, on his wing along with Michael Raffl. Giroux and Lecavalier played together at even strength for the first time this year against the Rangers. The line produced no points.

Against the Islanders in his career, Giroux has produced more than a point-per-game in 25 regular-season contests. He's potted seven goals and has 21 helpers against the Isles. Lecavalier, too, has torched the Islanders in his career. The 33-year-old has 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists) in 50 career games against the Isles.

A game against the Islanders could be a perfect opportunity for the Flyers' top line to get going.

2) Hartnell returns
On Thursday, Lecavalier returned to the Flyers, and tonight, Scott Hartnell is expected to play after sitting out four games with an apparent rib injury, which he says feels "pretty good" and isn't worried about re-injuring (see story).

Hartnell participated in full practice Friday and played with Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek. He'll, at least, start the game with the pair as head coach Craig Berube continues to tinker with his line combos. With Peter Laviolette, Hartnell was on the top line with Giroux and Voracek.

The 31-year-old left wing, who is in the first year of a six-year contract extension signed with the orange and black last year, is another top forward struggling to score for the Flyers. In five games this year, Hartnell has no points and is a minus-2. But like Giroux, the Islanders could be a perfect team to get Hartnell's season going.

Hartnell has 19 goals and 33 points in 41 games against the Islanders. Ten of those goals are power-play markers, and that should come in handy for the Flyers, whose power play this season has been allergic to scoring.

The Flyers have three power-play goals in 37 opportunities through nine games. Their 8.1 percent success rate ranks 29th in the league. Only the Anaheim Ducks, who come to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, have a worse PP unit. The Flyers are one for their last 25 power play chances, so Hartnell's return will be welcomed there as well.

3) Stay out of the box
It has been one of Berube's biggest worries since taking over as head coach. The Flyers have had an apparent disregard for discipline, though it has improved in the last three games.

The Flyers have 56 total penalties -- 46 minor penalties -- and are averaging 16.9 penalty minutes per game. Their penalty kill unit ranks 15th in the league with an 82.5 percent kill rate and hasn't allowed a power-play goal in three games. But they cannot afford to put the Islanders on the man advantage.

New York's power play is one of the top units in the NHL. If the Flyers get in penalty trouble, it will be a long night for Steve Mason.

The Islanders have 10 power-play goals in 33 opportunities. That gives the Isles a 30.3 percent success rate with a man advantage, the league's top unit. Matt Moulson leads the team with five power-play goals.

4) Contain Grabner
You hear about John Tavares all the time. He's the Islanders' captain and best player -- one of the top players in the game -- and you're going to have to watch for a few other players, including Moulson, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. But the Flyers have to find a way to contain Michael Grabner.

Grabner, 26, is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and his speed, coupled with his skill, gives teams headaches. Grabner returns to the Islanders after serving a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Carolina's Nathan Gerbe last Saturday.

In eight games this year, Grabner has two goals and six assists. He started the season off strong, scoring seven points in his first four games but has just one point in his last four games. The Austrian winger has five goals in 15 career games against the Flyers.

It will take a team effort for the Flyers to contain Grabner, whose speed often nets him at least one breakaway per game. With an aging Kimmo Timonen, who appears to have very little acceleration at the age of 38, Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann, the Flyers' defense has below-average speed. The forwards have to make sure they don't get caught when Grabner is one the ice -- and, for that matter, at any time during the game, as the Islanders are a young, good skating team.

5) This and that
• Last season, the Flyers were 2-1-1 against the Islanders, and are 17-3-2 in their last 22 games against the Islanders.

• Sean Couturier has no goals and just two assists in nine games this season, but his 20:07 of ice time against the Rangers is a season high. In six games since Berube has taken over as head coach, the third-year center has averaged 18:39 per game. He is also averaging 1:50 of ice time on the power play. He played 4:51 on the PP against the Rangers.

• Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov has a lifetime 10-4-2 record against the Flyers. In 17 games against the orange and black, Nabokov has a 2.69 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage. He has twice shut out the Flyers.

• Both Flyers goalies have had success against the Islanders in their career. Mason has a 2-1-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and a .933 SV percentage vs. the Islanders, while Emery is 6-0-1 with a 1.69 GAA and .935 SV percentage in seven games against the Islanders. Mason has started the last three games and will be in net for the Flyers on Saturday night. 

• Mark Streit will play the Islanders for the first time since signing with the Flyers in the offseason.

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier know Flyers by now, ready for anything at NHL draft

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier know Flyers by now, ready for anything at NHL draft

CHICAGO — Nico Hischier was nervous, swaying a bit as he spoke to the media, admitting he had some jitters as this NHL draft approaches on Friday.

About 60 feet away, Nolan Patrick leaned on a stick and said not only was he not nervous, he also really couldn't care less whether he's picked first overall Friday by New Jersey or second by the Flyers because his goal is just to get into the NHL.

"Doesn't matter to me," Patrick said Thursday. "A lot of guys will tell you what you want to hear. That they don't care, but deep down, they do.

"I don't care. It's not going to change my chances in the NHL if I go No. 1 or 4. I'm gonna take it. Where I go is not gonna help me any more. At the end of the day, I've got to work hard."

That said, Hischier is poised to become the highest-drafted Swiss player ever and if he went first overall …

"I would make history and that would make me proud," Hischier beamed. "Really happy, for sure."

Both players participated in Thursday's ball-hockey clinic in a parking lot just across the street from United Center where one of them will go to the Devils and one to the Flyers on Friday night.

"Yeah, I little bit nervous," Hischier admitted. "It's not up to me. I just have to enjoy it."

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall took both players out to dinner separately in Buffalo, New York, earlier this month at the NHL Scouting Combine to try and get a peek behind their personalities (see story).

"We talked about Philadelphia, talked about the club, the goals, what's important for them," Hischier said. "It was good dinner and went well."

Patrick, who is from Winnipeg, Manitoba, said he was impressed with the steakhouse and said what he liked best about the meal was getting into arguments with fellow Manitoban, Hextall, who is from Brandon.

"He's a really nice guy," Patrick said. "It was a fancy steakhouse. I'll take those dinners any day. He knows what he is doing in Philly. If I were lucky enough to go there, I'd be happy.

"I know all about him. He's a Brandon Wheat King. Us Manitobans always going at each other. We got into a few arguments about some of his guys. Manitoba is the best place in the world."

Right now, for a couple hundred hockey players, Chicago is the best place in the world because this is the NHL draft and what happens Friday and Saturday will impact their lives forever.

Which is why Hischier brought his older brother, Luca, here. He plays for Bern in Switzerland where Hischier also was before transferring to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to play for Halifax this past season.

"My idol is my brother," Nico said. "He is playing pro in Bern. We have a good relationship. I'm happy he is here because I can ask him everything, on and off the ice."

Both players have some Flyers familiarity.

Hischier skated with Mark Streit last summer but hasn't talked to him since.

"Last summer, I skated with Streit, [Roman] Josi, [Shea] Weber and those guys," Hischier said. "It was fun."

Patrick played with Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov two years ago in Brandon.

"Talked to Provy two weeks ago," Patrick said. "I was talking to Brayden Schenn the last couple days. Provy works out 10 hours a day."

A few weeks from now, one of these guys will be at the Flyers' developmental camp working out in Skate Zone.

"It's not up to me," Hischier said. "I don't focus on expectations, I don't focus on teams. Everything can happen.

"I'm going to be open for everything and happy, for sure. If it's No. 2 or 3, I'm gonna be happy anyway."

Flyers begin 2017-18 season out West, face Vegas for 1st time in February

Flyers begin 2017-18 season out West, face Vegas for 1st time in February

For the second straight year, the Flyers are beginning the season out West.

The NHL on Thursday released its 2017-18 schedule and as reported Wednesday, the Flyers open the season in San Jose on Oct. 4 as part of a four-game road trip that includes games in Los Angeles, Anaheim and concludes in Nashville on Oct. 10.

They'll return home on Oct. 14 for their home opener against the Washington Capitals that kickstarts a five-game homestand (see story). The Flyers will host the Islanders on Black Friday.

Flyers fans will have to wait a while for their first taste of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Flyers will face the Golden Knights for the first time on Feb. 11 in Vegas.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and the Golden Knights come to Philadelphia on March 12.

The Flyers will end the season at home against the New York Rangers.

You can see the Flyers' full schedule here (and buy tickets here).