Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

On paper, it looked like it would be a tough week for the Flyers. The Senators had won three in a row and the Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins had a three-day break, but the orange and black took care of business and came away with two big wins in back-to-back nights.

Now, the Flyers (7-10-1) will try for their fourth consecutive victory when they conclude a three-game road trip against the Winnipeg Jets (9-9-2), who have also won three straight, on Thursday night.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. at MTS Centre and the game will be televised on The Comcast Network. Here are five things you should know:

1. The new-look Flyers
If you feel like you’ve been watching a different Flyers team over the past week, it’s because you have.

After netting just 22 goals in their first 15 games, the Flyers have found the back of the net 11 times during their current three-game win streak. More importantly, they’re controlling the puck and playing sound defensively.

In their last two games, the Flyers have turned the puck over just five times while their opponents have had 30 combined giveaways. That’s a big step for a team that had its fair share of bad turnovers in the early going, but are the Flyers actually turning a corner?

“Yeah,” Ray Emery said after the Flyers’ win over Pittsburgh (see story). “I think the last couple weeks, the boys scored more goals, had a great night in Ottawa [Tuesday], and a tough back-to-back against one of our rivals and a really good team in Pittsburgh. Getting a good road win, they’re all steps in the right direction.”

For what it’s worth, the Flyers are now .500 under head coach Craig Berube. They’ve gone 7-7-1 since a 0-3-0 start cost Peter Laviolette his job.

2. Redemp-Schenn
After a rough start to the season, the Flyers have been getting some great performances from the Schenn brothers as of late.

Defenseman Luke Schenn, who was a healthy scratch for three games earlier this month, has looked a lot more comfortable in Berube’s system since returning to the lineup.

The older Schenn was a minus-7 through the first 15 games before he found himself watching from the sidelines. In his last three contests, the 24-year-old is plus-2 with three blocked shots and four hits.

Forward Brayden Schenn has been red-hot. The 22-year-old scored both goals in Wednesday’s win over the Pens and has collected three markers and two helpers in his last three games overall.

It’s an important year for the younger Schenn. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but has said his contract situation isn’t a concern and is focused on being more consistent. It’s shown on the ice, as he is second on the Flyers in goals with six, one behind Vinny Lecavalier, and leads the team in points with 12.

3. Power surge
The man advantage has been an area of weakness for the Flyers most of this season.

However, the Flyers have scored on three of their last five opportunities on the power play and have increased their effectiveness to 13 percent (9 for 69).

They’ll be facing a Jets' penalty-killing unit that ranks 14th in the NHL. Winnipeg has struggled while shorthanded over the past few games, allowing four goals in the last 10 times its been a man down.

4. Jet fueled
There always seems to be one or two players on each team that lights up the Flyers. For the Jets, it’s captain Andrew Ladd and forward Evander Kane.

In his last seven games against the Flyers, Ladd has recorded six goals and two assists. His 10 career goals vs. the orange and black are his second-most against any opponent.

As for Kane, the speedy 22-year-old has five tallies and seven helpers during a nine-game point streak against the Flyers. Kane had four points (two goals) in last season’s three-game season series.

5. This and that
• The Flyers won two out of three games against the Jets last season. In the most recent matchup between the two clubs, Winnipeg came away with a 4-1 win on April 6 at MTS Centre.  

• Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn led the Flyers offensively against the Jets last season. Voracek had five assists while Schenn collected three goals and four points. Blake Wheeler had five helpers for the Jets in the three games.

• Michael Raffl has recovered from the flu and is available to play against the Jets. Winnipeg will be without forward Jim Slater (sports hernia) and defensemen Jacob Trouba (upper body), Paul Postma (blood clot) and Mark Stuart (hip).

• Winnipeg’s Bryan Little is off to a marvelous start. He already has more goals (11) in 20 games this season than he did all last season (seven).  

• The Jets are 1 for 47 on the power play in their last 15 games and have not converted on 17 chances over their last six.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.