Flyers-Kings: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Kings: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (26-23-6) continue their California trip today against the Kings (30-20-6).

Puck drop is set for 4 p.m. at Staples Center (CSN).

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Drier Island?
We know all about it, so going in depth is redundant.

Bottom line: The Flyers' decision to trade Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in order to sign Ilya Bryzgalov has proven to be the worst decision this franchise has ever made.

On Saturday, Richards and Carter will face the Flyers as teammates for the first time since being traded.

It will be the first time Carter has faced his former team, and the second time for Richards.

Carter leads the Kings with 20 goals, though he's in the midst of a five-game goalless drought. He has 67 goals total since being traded from the Flyers.

Like Carter, Richards is in the middle of a goalless drought. His is seven games, and Richie hasn't had a point in five games.

On the season, Richards has seven goals and 35 points. But anyone with any hockey knowledge knows there is more than the stat sheet when evaluating a hockey player.

Richards was never a goal scorer, or a prolific point-getter. He's above average offensively, but one of the top two-way players in the game. What he brings is invaluable.

Say what you want about the trade, the Flyers still haven't replaced Carter's goal scoring and they still miss Richards' leadership.

2. Real D please stand up
This game will tell you exactly how bad the Flyers' defense actually is, as the Kings enter today's contest 29th in the NHL in scoring.

Only the Sabres score fewer goals than the Kings and they have 15 fewer wins than L.A.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have allowed 23 goals in their last six games. While some of that can be pinned on Steve Mason, the defense has been brutal.

Whether it's missing assignments, turning the puck over or being caught flatfooted, the defense has been exposed badly.

With trade freeze looming at the Olympic break and the trade deadline only days after the NHL resumes, today's game will serve as a good test for GM Paul Holmgren to judge his roster.

3. G-lifornia dreamin'
In five career games, Claude Giroux has no goals against the Kings.

But today might be the day that snaps, as Giroux has been racking up points recently.

The Flyers' captain has six points in his last five games and has 16 goals this season. Giroux finished January with 13 points in 15 games.

Playing against Carter, who some believe took Giroux's spot on Team Canada, will provide some extra motivation for the 26-year-old.

4. Both struggling
Today's matchup features two teams struggling to win games.

The Flyers are 1-4-1 in their last six games. They lost 5-3 to Anaheim on Thursday and have allowed 23 goals in the five losses. Their only win was a 5-0 shutout over a depleted Detroit team.

Los Angeles is 1-6-1 in its last eight games. The Kings have just three goals in their last five games and have been shut out twice.

5. This and that

• Vinny Lecavalier has three goals in his last 22 games and hasn't had an even-strength goal since Jan. 14.

• The Flyers have a power-play goal in five straight games. It's the second time this year they have had a PP goal in at least five consecutive games.

• The Flyers are 6-1-1 all-time at Staples Center.

• Jonathan Quick is 1-5-1 in his last seven games with a 2.14 goals-against average.

• The Kings and Flyers are tied as the ninth-best penalty-kill unit in the NHL (83.6 percent).

• Former Flyer Justin Williams has played 186 consecutive games, the longest on the Kings.

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

End to End: What adjustment would you make on Flyers' defense?

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

With the Flyers on their bye week, let’s discuss a few topics.

Going End to End this week are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

Today’s question: What adjustment would you make on the Flyers' defense?

Dougherty
There is not much in Dave Hakstol’s arsenal to significantly improve the team defense with a lineup change. Sure, scratching Andrew MacDonald could be a positive step, but that does not solve the problem here. We can point fingers at the defensive group because the Flyers have allowed the league’s second-most goals at 144. They’re part of the problem.

What is plaguing the Flyers is not just the play of their six defensemen on any given night; it’s their overall team defense. Some forwards are quitting on the backcheck, and not providing enough support in their own zone, missing their own assignments.

The Flyers, I believe, are struggling with the lack of practice time. And while it is true that every team is dealing with the same compact schedule as the Flyers, Hakstol has to maximize the little practice time he gets going forward and preach team defense. Gaps have been a major issue with the current group of blueliners, and that is an area assistant coach Gord Murphy has to fix. Hakstol has singled out the team’s rush defense as an issue, and that’s another area the team has to work on, too.

A lot of the same issues that were appearing in the beginning of the season when the Flyers were struggling are reappearing in their game now. They were able to make adjustments earlier in the season to hone their game defensively. More film study and more coaching are just a couple of the adjustments I’d make with the current options.

Hall
Sometimes it takes a fresh face, some new blood to spark change.

If anything, it sends a bit of a message.

The Flyers have options at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule anything out last Sunday.

But, of course, given the Flyers’ salary cap conundrum, it’s not as simple as just calling up a player.

So, the easiest thing that can be done is change within the current personnel. That means scratching MacDonald from time to time, just how Hakstol has done so with Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto, Radko Gudas and many Flyers forwards.

MacDonald hasn’t been as bad as some may think. Oftentimes, his mistakes are magnified more than others. But too frequently do we see him out of position or misreading a play on a goal against. And that’s been true for all Flyers defensemen, yet MacDonald seems to be one of the only spared of the consequences.

Benching MacDonald isn’t a drastic fix and it may not do much at all, but it’s something we haven’t seen since Nov. 19.

Paone
This a really tough question because, to be quite frank, there is no easy solution here to fixing a Flyers defense that has been mired in a state of miserable play and has played a large part in the team's allowing 3.50 goals per game in the 14 contests since the 10-game win streak ended in mid-December. 

It's not like Hakstol or Hextall can push some magic button here and have things fixed in a matter of moments. The Flyers have salary cap and roster issues, so it's going to be tough to bring in a player via trade to help fix things on the back end. Same goes for bringing up a prospect because space on the roster would have to be made first.

This situation leaves the Flyers to fix the problem from within with the defensemen they currently have at the NHL level. They're going to have to play their way out of this. And that's why I'm interested in focusing on the younger defensemen like Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov right now. We know what the veteran defensemen on this team are and they've been through this sort of thing before. This will not be the last team-wide rut the younger defensemen will play through in their careers. It will happen again. They're going to have to learn how to play through this and not let it affect their individual play. That's why I didn't agree with Ghost's benching in Boston last weekend.  Sure, he has not played well this season and the warts to his game have been evident. And there are times when sitting back, taking a breather and watching can be beneficial. But I'm a believer that a young player has to play through his growing pains and grow from them.

This isn't going to be an answer most of you will like to hear, but with the way the Flyers' hands are tied, they're just going to have to play their way out of these defensive struggles with what they have.

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

Best of NHL: Matt Murray, Penguins cruise past Habs

MONTREAL -- Eric Fehr and Jake Guentzel scored in the second period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday night.

Defensemen Ian Cole and Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its second game in a row after a three-game skid.

Sven Andrighetto scored for Montreal, which lost its second straight and has only two wins in its last six games. The Canadiens' offense remained in a rut coming off a 1-0 loss Monday in Detroit.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back in form after Monday's wild 8-7 win over Washington, making 19 saves. But Carey Price's woes continued as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 26-20. Price allowed three or more goals for the eighth time in 10 games (see full recap).

Vanek, Nielsen lead Wings over Bruins
DETROIT -- Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen scored in a shootout, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a comeback 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

The Red Wings rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits in the first period, and with 3:04 remaining in regulation, Gustav Nyquist scored to pull them into a tie.

In the shootout, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek stopped the first shots they faced before Vanek scored for the Red Wings and Brad Marchand countered with a goal for the Bruins. Nielsen, who like Vanek joined the team last summer as a free agent, scored on the team's third attempt and Vatrano missed the net with a chance to extend the 1-on-1 duels.

The Bruins were dominant early before blowing a chance to keep Detroit at a distance in the Atlantic Division standings (see full recap).

Burns, Pavelski push Sharks past Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored in the San Jose Sharks' seventh win at Staples Center in their last eight trips, 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

Joe Thornton had two assists and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the defending Western Conference champion Sharks, who wrapped up their regular-season series against their biggest rivals with three victories in five games.

After Burns scored his 19th goal in the opening minutes, San Jose hung on through a scoreless third period to continue its recent domination in downtown Los Angeles, including three victories in last season's first-round playoff series.

Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings, who ended a seven-game homestand with four defeats (see full recap).

McDavid scores in OT, Oilers edge Panthers
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored the winning goal in overtime as the Edmonton Oilers won their fourth game in a row, 4-3 over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

McDavid, who also had two assists in the game, got a breakaway late in overtime and got the puck away with 2.6 seconds left. Florida's James Reimer made the glove save, but the puck was ruled to be across the line via video review.

Zack Kassian, Mark Letestu and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Oilers, who have their longest winning streak since December 2015.

Vincent Trocheck, Michael Sgarbossa and Greg McKegg had goals for the Panthers, who have lost two straight (see full recap).