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' outdoor game vs. Pens different because of football stadium

Flyers' outdoor game vs. Pens different because of football stadium

VOORHEES, N.J. -- He grew up as a youngster in Judique, Nova Scotia, as a Toronto Blue Jays fan even though the Boston Red Sox were closer geographically.

“My brother was the Red Sox fan,” Andrew MacDonald said.

While hockey was his passion, MacDonald loved to watch baseball. Joe Carter’s walk-off home run in the 1993 World Series clinched it for Mac, then a 7-year-old.

“Didn’t see it for a while though because we only had two TV channels,” MacDonald laughed.

“Yeah, I was Blue Jays fan from Canada.”

On Saturday, the Flyers visit Heinz Field for an outdoor game against their most bitter rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stadium Series.

MacDonald was a starter for the Islanders during the 2014 Stadium Series game held at the new Yankee Stadium against the Rangers. He likes outdoor games in baseball stadiums even though that is not where this game will take place.

“When I had been to New York, I had gone to a few Yankee games at Yankee Stadium,” MacDonald said. “Obviously, I got to take in the experience of being a fan there. It’s a pretty great stadium. To be on the field, although it’s a different sport and setting, it was pretty special.”

Michal Neuvirth was the backup goalie for Washington in the 2011 Winter Classic held at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s just as big as if you played inside for two points,” Neuvirth said. “I just backed up that game there but it was awesome. The big crowd and we won the game with Washington. A good feeling afterward.”

MacDonald said his experience at Yankee Stadium was similar.

“It was great,” he said of the Bronx affair. “Not everyone gets to play in one of those games, so it was special. Just being in that outdoor environment and the capacity of the crowd.  Really like a center stage, special experience.”

In both previous Winter Classics involving the Flyers, they were held in baseball stadiums -- Fenway Park in 2010 and Citizens Bank Park two years later. Incidentally, Claude Giroux is the only Flyer to have played in both of the franchise's two Winter Classics.

This “Stadium Series” game will offer a different “look” for players and fans because it occurs in the Steelers’ football stadium.

“Obviously, the setup of the ice surface will be right in the middle of the field as a rectangular field as opposed to baseball where it’s kinda on a different angle,” MacDonald said.

“It’s good. We’ll get a good skate in. A family skate. Yeah, I hope [weather cooperates]. It might not be the best ice, but hopefully, it goes according to plan and go off without a hitch.”

Hot temperatures Friday followed by heavy rain on Saturday could make things difficult.

“Tough to say as to what to expect,” said Neuvirth, who will start in goal. “For me, I am going to prepare myself for 8 o’clock and play my game.”

The most unusual thing players say that affects them during outdoor games is not having fans on the glass. They’re far away in the stands.

Yet in a baseball stadium, some of those fans are a lot closer to the ice than the setup in a football stadium.

“Yeah, it was kinda unique and took a while to get used to,” MacDonald said. “There’s no fans on the glass. You are kinda isolated by yourself there on the middle of the field.

“It’s not until the TV timeout where you can look around and take it all in. It’s almost has a practice type mentality when you are first on the ice and then you get acclimated.

“Obviously, once the puck drops you are ready to go and know what to do. It’s definitely a unique experience once you get going.”

When he play at Fenway Park as a freshman at Union College, Shayne Gostisbehere said his only regret was not taking time out to just stop and absorb what was happening around him.

He was so focused on the game against Harvard that day in 2012, he forget to cherish the moment.

MacDonald said that is something NHL players sometimes forget to do, as well. Take it all in because it night never occur again.

“Everyone is a little different,” he said. “You do have to play it as if it’s like every other game. There is a little adjustment period there with the fans so far away.

“That being said, you have an opportunity to embrace the moment. At the same time, you have to focus on what we’re trying to accomplish out there. Try to get the win like any other time.”

Loose pucks
• Flyers forward Jakub Voracek left the ice early with a slight limp. He was not available after practice but general manager Ron Hextall confirmed Voracek is fine and will play Saturday. The Flyers' leading scorer was hit with a deflected puck earlier this week in practice in his groin area but played without incident during Wednesday's game against Washington. 

• Flyers left for Pittsburgh this afternoon.

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

It was just pouring out of Flyers swing forward Dale Weise after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

A disallowed goal because of him.

A strong game in every respect from his teammates.

A realization that things never seem to change for Dave Hakstol’s club.

“We come out with a great start,” Weise said. “Get on the forecheck. The building is lively. We score what we think is a first goal which we haven’t done a lot this year.

“I’m not going to say it’s a game-changer. Whatever it was, it didn’t end the game. But that’s a pretty big part of the game.” 

Weise ended up grabbing Caps goalie Braden Holtby. He said he did so for support or he would have knocked him over since he was trying to position his stick.

Funny things is, Holtby apparently never felt the contact. When the Caps challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal on the first shift of the game, it was overturned.

“Yeah, I obviously didn’t see the interference part I just kind of followed the puck and next thing I know it was kind of out of the play so a little fortunate, a great call by our video coaches,” Holtby said.

Weise wasn’t sure what he did amounted to much because it happened before Voracek’s shot and not during the act of shooting that would have prevented Holtby from getting position.

“To be really honest with you I don’t think I really touched him that hard,” Weise said.

Goals are so hard to come by these days for the Flyers. To score one a half-minute into play in a huge rivalry game, with them so desperate for points, and then to lose the goal and the momentum early, it becomes a significant event in the overall outcome.

The Caps made the most of their chances. Just like Calgary did last week.

“Winning and losing is so thin in this league and when you’re playing a team like that who just has loads of offensive talent, you give them one, two opportunities and they score on it,” Weise said.

“For a team like us that doesn’t score very often, that’s tough. We are playing behind the eight ball every night. It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie and say it’s not in our head when we get down because you can see the way we play.

“We’re gripping the sticks. I really liked our effort though. I thought we played hard the whole night. Full marks to our team but it’s just kind of the same story every night.”

It’s trite but the term “snake bit” has been used a lot lately in talking about the Flyers since their 10-game win streak ended.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Weise said. “Look at that one there. Touch the goalie, goal disallowed. [Ivan Provorov] hits the cross bar. We had a couple other chances in tight. Snake bitten, I don’t even know if there’s a word for how I feel right now.”

It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with the Flyers' playing in their first outdoor game in five seasons.

Another even more bitter rival: the Penguins at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Saturday night. Taking two from the Pens will require a supreme effort and maybe a little luck for a change. The Flyers have been real short on luck all season.

The Flyers' dressing room after games, of late, has the feel of a morgue sometimes. Over the last 10 games, the Flyers have seven losses (including overtime). In six of those losses, they have scored one goal or no goals.

“We got a pretty positive group in here,” Weise said. “We try our best to come in every day and be positive. It’s a tough situation right now. Every day we’re fighting for our playoff life so that’s in the back of everyone’s mind.

“It makes it more frustrating when you’re playing, so well. I thought we played a pretty good game tonight. That goal disallowed we come right back. They make it two nothing on the power play.

“We kept going. We played well. We had a lot of chances. Good start to the second period again. We came out strong but we just can’t seem to finish.”

Veteran defenseman Mark Streit said they're playing well, but losing doesn’t make up ground in the standings. The Flyers remain three points out of the wild card going into the weekend.

Of their remaining 22 games, 19 are against the Eastern Conference, so mathematically, they have a chance to recoup points.

“We keep telling that we’ve been playing pretty well but lose a lot of hockey games,” Streit said. “We just got to find a way ...

“We have to find a way to turn it around, to get the bounces, just to get a little bit lucky out there, and to get the ugly goal. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. But it’s also the bloody truth.”