Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

flyers-jets-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Jets
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (20-22-7) will continue their homestand when they battle the playoff-hopeful Winnipeg Jets (26-15-8) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the game:

1. Money Mase
Forget his bout with the flu. Forget his lower-body injury. Steve Mason looked like his usual reliable self in relief of Ray Emery on Tuesday night.

Emery surrendered two goals on just four shots in just seven minutes against the Arizona Coyotes, prompting Flyers coach Craig Berube to quickly replace the veteran netminder with Mason in hopes of sparking the team. It worked, too. Mason gave up one goal on 23 shots before turning aside all three Arizona attempts in the shootout to lift the Flyers to a 4-3 victory.

Mason was actually aiming to return for Thursday’s game against Winnipeg. He had missed six straight games because of a knee injury and practiced just twice — on his own — during the All-Star break. Then he got sick. He was feeling well enough to dress against the Coyotes, but wasn’t expecting to see game action.

“It wasn’t exactly the plan, but it was probably easier to get thrown in not expecting anything,” Mason said after the game. “I just went out and played. With the long layoff, there’s obviously room for improvement. It was the guys in front of me who won the game with their effort.”

Mason, who has a .921 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average in 30 games this season, practiced in full with the team Wednesday and said he felt “great.” Expect him to be back in the crease Thursday.

2. The other guys
Ryan White made his Flyers debut Tuesday, centering Wayne Simmonds and recent call-up Petr Straka.

White channeled his inner Zac Rinaldo in the first period, when he was whistled for an unnecessary interference call in the offensive zone. Remarkably, it was the Flyers’ only penalty of the game. White finished the game with two hits, a blocked shot and one shot on goal in 18:35 of ice time — a rather uneventful night.

Straka wound up playing just 10 minutes and eight seconds in his NHL debut. He didn’t make much of an impact on the scoresheet — one hit and a blocked shot — but showed flashes of his speed early on. He could get another look if Michael Raffl (flu) is unable to go.

Simmonds played the role of hero in the Flyers’ win. He tallied his 10th power-play goal of the season — snapping an eight-game goalless drought — and later scored the game-winner in the shootout. Yes, the shootout. If you’re paying attention closely at home, that’s twice already in 2015 that Simmonds has helped the Flyers to a win in the gimmick.

R.J. Umberger, who has been noticeably better over the past month and a half, also had a strong game. He fired a team-high five shots on goal and collected his ninth goal of the year. His next goal will give the Flyers seven skaters with at least 10 tallies this season.

3. Injuries
Braydon Coburn (foot) and Scott Laughton (upper-body) remain sidelined for the Flyers.

Nicklas Grossmann, however, returned to practice and skated with his usual partner, Mark Streit, on Wednesday. The shot-blocking defenseman, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, isn’t quite ready to play in a game, but could return as soon as Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For the Jets, defensemen Grant Clitsome (upper-body) and Mark Stuart (lower-body) are on injured reserve and will not suit up.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Jakub Voracek (five assists), Michael Del Zotto (two goals, three assists) and Streit (two goals, two assists) are all riding four-game point streaks. Take your pick.

Jets: Dustin Byfuglien, also known as “Big Buff,” was an absolute force the last time these two teams met. He bruised and battered several Flyers forwards, most notably Brayden Schenn, Raffl and Giroux. The All-Star defenseman, sometimes winger, is built like a linebacker (6-5, 265), but skates well for his size and is almost unstoppable in both zones when he’s on his game. He enters Thursday with 12 goals and 32 points in 49 games this season.

5. This and that
• The Flyers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games against Winnipeg.

• The Jets are 6-2-2 on the road against the Eastern Conference.

• During their current 3-1-0 stretch, the Flyers have potted at least one power-play goal in each contest and are 5 for 14 on the man advantage overall.

• Winnipeg has 271 infractions for 689 penalty minutes this season, the most in the NHL.

• Steve Mason is 3-0-1 with a 0.91 goals-against average, .968 save percentage and one shutout in five career games — four starts — against the Winnipeg franchise.

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Wild-card race about to get busy

Flyers-Islanders 5 things: Wild-card race about to get busy

Flyers (36-32-8) vs. Islanders (35-28-12)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers welcome the New York Islanders to the Wells Fargo Center Thursday on a busy night in the wild card.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Let's get wild
Ready for some movement in the Eastern Conference playoff race?

The four teams ahead of the Flyers for the second wild card are all in action Thursday.

The Bruins (vs. Stars) still lead the pack at 86 points, followed by the Lightning (vs. Red Wings) with 83. The Islanders come to Philadelphia with 82 points, while the Hurricanes (vs. Blue Jackets) also have 82.

And one more team to follow: the Maple Leafs (at Predators), who lead the Bruins by only one point for third place in Atlantic Division.

2. Time to streak?
With all the inconsistency, the Flyers are looking to win three games in a row for the first time since Jan. 22-25.

The final six contests for the Flyers are no cakewalks because every single one is against the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers are 9-13-2 in divisional play and have a record of 6-9-1 against the remaining clubs on the schedule.

They still have to play the Blue Jackets and Rangers, two top-five NHL teams.

And they also get the Devils twice more, a team that has won the first three meetings between the two by a combined score of 14-3.

We'll see if the Flyers can flip the script and make things interesting.

"We're not going to quit until the end of the season," Travis Konecny said Tuesday. "That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us."

3. Weal's turning
Jordan Weal has provided a legitimate jolt to the Flyers, who desperately needed offense.

He'll see more and more ice time if he continues to perform the way he has in the past two games, putting up two goals and an assist.

Dave Hakstol has liked the early chemistry on the new second line of Weal, Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

"I think right now, Wayne Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year in terms of a power forward game," Hakstol said Tuesday. "He is just a straight forward, power forward right now. He is very tough to handle down low and I think that is adding an element for Fil and Weal there."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has looked like his old self offensively the past two games in which he has one goal and two assists. He's been active with nine shots, while his point blast looks sharp. The Flyers will need more of that the rest of the way.

Islanders: It has to be John Tavares, who does so much for the Islanders. The captain has 28 goals and 37 assists this season. Twelve of his 65 points have come in the previous 12 games. He also has put up 15 goals and 14 assists in 37 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
* Steve Mason will make his 14th start in the last 16 games. Over his past 13 outings, Mason is 8-4-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.

* Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss has been tough on the Flyers in two starts this season, going 1-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.

* New York has lost two straight games and six of its last nine.

* Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk is likely to return from a foot injury that has sidelined him since March 5.

Flyers taking 'never die' approach to final playoff push

Flyers taking 'never die' approach to final playoff push

Nothing has changed for the Flyers as they enter Thursday night's game against the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
They remain six points behind Boston for the wild card. They still have four teams to leapfrog over to claim the second wild card spot.
 
Their Tragic Number remains 6 points -- points the Bruins need to eliminate them or points the Flyers need to lose to eliminate themselves.
 
The only difference tonight is the Flyers are playing head-to-head against a team in front of them in the chase.
 
The Islanders absolutely feel they're in this thing even after losing to the Bruins this week. So if they think like that, why not the Flyers?
 
"Obviously a team that is in the race with us," said Flyers captain Claude Giroux. "But, in general, we know we pretty much have to win every game. Our focus is on the Islanders. The big picture is not a picture we like to see.
 
"But at the end of the day, we have to worry about the New York Islanders. It's the only thing we can control now. We can't control future games or other teams."
 
There was genuine euphoria after the Flyers' comeback, 3-2 shootout win over Ottawa on Tuesday. Some of that excitement was immediately tempered when the players realized Boston had won as well.
 
Yet there is a noticeable difference in the Flyers dressing room right now. Guys are looser and more relaxed after three wins in their last four games.
 
"We keep doing what we keep doing," coach Dave Hakstol said. "Guys keep showing up. We're playing hard for each other and taking care of business. We've been real focused on doing that, day after day and night after night."
 
Several players said this week that the games right now are "fun" to play, despite the obvious pressure to gain a playoff spot that is virtually impossible to attain at this point because the numbers overwhelmingly favor clubs ahead of the Flyers.
 
Have games become "fun" because the players are resigned that it's out of their hands and they are now content to allow the chips to fall where they may be?
 
"No, I'll be honest, I think we are seeing some results," Hakstol said. "When you play hard and don't get results it's not fun. But we've continued to play hard and are getting some of the results right now.
 
"We all know the reality of our situation and don't have to revisit it day-in, day-out. We know that for us the most important thing is take care of our own business. That's the single-minded focus of our group right now.
 
"Come to the rink, playing hard together and winning becomes fun. We got to just turn the page, come out and play hard again."
 
Among those Flyers who believe the impossible is doable is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.
 
"Our motto is ‘Never die,'" Gostisbehere said. "We know what's against us here. We're just taking it game by game and we're just trying to win every game.
 
"I think you can tell it's a little looser in this locker room, but we’re still going out there putting our best foot forward and trying to win games."
 
The Flyers are 2-1 against the Isles this season.
 
Lineup:
 
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Schenn
Vandevelde-Bellemare-Konecny
 
D: Provorov-MacDonald
Del Zotto-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas
 
G: Mason; Neuvirth