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 free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.