Flyers-Lightning: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Lightning: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (23-17-4) will try for an 11th straight victory at the Wells Fargo Center when they face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (26-14-4) on Saturday afternoon.

Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. (CSN) in South Philadelphia.

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

1.  If it ain’t broke ...
The Flyers look completely different from the team that got off to the worst start in franchise history. They’ve won nine of their last 11 games, have scored at least three goals in 11 of their last 12 and have reeled off 10 consecutive victories at home.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup with Tampa, the Flyers have a pair of skaters that could find their way back into the lineup soon. Earlier this week, general manager Paul Holmgren said Erik Gustafsson, who has been sidelined with a left knee sprain, should be available at some point this weekend.

Another player head coach Craig Berube could turn to is Tye McGinn. McGinn was called up on Friday after the Flyers placed Zac Rinaldo on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain.

Right now, it wouldn’t make much sense for Berube to mess around with the chemistry of his roster. If Gustafsson is re-inserted on the blue line, he would likely replace Andrej Meszaros, who is coming off a three-assist performance. As for McGinn, he would most likely serve in a fourth-line role if he dresses on Saturday.

Superstitious fans would say it would probably be best for Berube to leave Meszaros in the lineup and play Jay Rosehill with Chris VandeVelde and Adam Hall against the Lightning, considering the Flyers have been playing their best hockey in recent memory. You know how the old saying goes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

2. Bolt of energy
Martin St. Louis is a major reason why the Lightning are an Eastern Conference-best 9-2-1 against the Flyers since the 2010-11 season.

The Flyers simply can’t find a way to shut down the speedy forward. In 44 career games against the Orange and Black, St. Louis has scored 14 goals and assisted 43 more.

To add fuel to the fire, St. Louis, like Claude Giroux, was recently left off Team Canada’s roster for the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.

St. Louis has been playing with a chip on his shoulder, and that’s bad news for the Flyers. The Lightning captain has collected 22 points in his last 14 games against the Flyers.

Keep in mind, Steven Stamkos is still sidelined with a leg injury. Tampa’s offense has been revolving around St. Louis, although Valtteri Flippula and Teddy Purcell have helped pick up some of the slack as of late. The Flyers can’t afford to lose track of St. Louis, however. He’s leading the Lightning with 41 points (19 goals) this season.

3. Solving Lindback
Ben Bishop is still on the shelf with a sprained right wrist, so Tampa head coach Jon Cooper is starting Anders Lindback in goal against the Flyers.

If you took a quick glance at Lindback’s stat line this season -- 4-9-1 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .877 save percentage -- you would think it would be an ideal matchup for the Flyers.

You’re wrong.

Yes, Lindback has struggled over his last four games (3.63 GAA), but the netminder always seems to have his best stuff when facing the Flyers.

Lindback is 3-3-0 with a .917 save percentage in six career starts against the Flyers and owns a 1.76 GAA over his last four starts against them.

In the Flyers’ first meeting with Tampa this season -- a 4-2 loss on the road -- Lindback picked up the win after turning aside 19 of 21 shots fired his way.

4. Hot on the PK
It’s never a good thing to take a lot of penalties, but being a man down hasn’t been an issue for the Flyers as of late.

After killing off all four penalties they took against Montreal on Wednesday, the Flyers improved to 19 for 19 on the penalty kill over their past six games.

Assistant coach Ian Laperriere has down a superb job with the Flyers’ PK units. Entering the weekend, they had moved to seventh in the NHL at 84.6 percent.

5. This and that
• Matt Read (concussion-like symptoms) will not play this weekend.

• In addition to Bishop and Stamkos, the Lightning will also be without Keith Aulie (hand). J.T. Brown (upper body) and Radko Gudas (lower body) are questionable.

• The Flyers’ stretch of not allowing a power-play goal in six straight games is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the longest active streak in the NHL.

• Tampa has allowed multiple power-play goals in back-to-back games.

• Giroux and Jakub Voracek have combined for 27 points during the Flyers’ home winning streak.

Flyers extend qualifying offers to 7 restricted free agents

Flyers extend qualifying offers to 7 restricted free agents

As expected, the Flyers made qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents on Monday.

Goalie Anthony Stolarz, center Mike Vecchione, and forwards Roman Lyubimov and Taylor Leier, all of whom saw some duty at the NHL level last season received offers.

So did forwards Cole Bardreau, Scott Laughton and goalie Alex Lyon.

Flyers development camp is expected to open on Sunday, July 9 at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., which is undergoing extensive upper level renovations which is closed off from the general public.

Camp will be open to the public and admission is free.

Flyers free-agent goalie targets: Steve Mason

Flyers free-agent goalie targets: Steve Mason

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.

Steve Mason
Age: 29
Height: 6-4
Weight: 217
Last team: Philadelphia Flyers
2016-17 cap hit: $4.1 million 

Scouting report
Selected with the 69th overall pick in 2006 by Columbus, Mason spent his first five seasons in the NHL with the Blue Jackets before being traded to the Flyers in 2012-13.

Mason took the league by storm in his rookie season and took over the No. 1 job in Columbus. He posted a 33-20-7 record with a 2.29 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and 10 shutouts. He won the Calder Trophy and was a Vezina Trophy finalist.

However, Mason never regained his rookie success with the Blue Jackets. Over his next three seasons, he had a 3.16 GAA and .897 save percentage. Columbus traded him to the Flyers at the 2012-13 trade deadline, and he eventually regained his confidence in Philly.

Over four-plus seasons with the Flyers, Mason compiled 104 wins, a 2.47 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. His 104 wins are third most in franchise history, and his .918 save percentage is second best among goalies who started more than 50 games.

Last season, Mason struggled to find consistency in the first half of the season after having a strong preseason and training camp. He didn't start the season opener despite expecting to and it took a while to recover but he eventually put things back together. He finished the season 26-21-8 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save percentage.

In his final 20 games, Mason was 12-6-2 with three shutouts and a .927 save percentage. He proved himself as the No. 1 goalie after battling with Michal Neuvirth for the spot throughout the season. An injury to Neuvirth did help Mason's cause and he took control.

Still, the Flyers rewarded Neuvirth with a two-year contract extension in March, leaving Mason without a contract. After the Flyers didn't acquire a veteran goalie at the draft, GM Ron Hextall said Mason is "still in the mix." Mason is open to returning but not in a platoon.

Dougherty's projection
Mason is the Flyers' best option. He's the best goalie on the market. But with Neuvirth in the fold and how he was handled in Philly the last couple of seasons, I'm not so sure Mason would want to come back to the Flyers. With that said, I think it's more likely he'll be back with the team now than it was entering the offseason for a couple of reasons.

Opportunity being the biggest motivation. There aren't many teams in the market for goaltenders. At least starting jobs, which Mason would want. There's one team that comes into mind: Winnipeg. That's it. If the Jets don't go the Mason route, then the Flyers may be the best fit for him. Neuvirth's medical history suggests the other goalie here will get a decent amount of work. There may be more opportunity here than elsewhere for Mason.

For the Flyers, they know what they have in Mason. Sure, he's not keen to platooning, but his play can dictate that. Mason is the goalie I think the Flyers should have extended. It's a buyer's market at goaltender this summer and that will help GM Ron Hextall.

As much as this writer would like to see Mason back, the bridges are already burnt.

Hall's projection
We all know who Mason is.

He's a streaky goaltender and when he's on, he can carry a team. But when he's off, the poor performances tend to trickle into the next start.

I thought Mason made some terrific points at the end of the season about goaltending platoons. I think those points got through to Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol in their exit meeting with the goaltender.

However, there are too many differences in this situation for a re-signing to ultimately happen. 

The Flyers are looking for a term-friendly, placeholder-type deal — more of an insurance policy to place alongside Neuvirth while allowing the goalies of the future to receive further grooming. That's not exactly what Mason is vying for this offseason.

Speaking of Neuvirth, he will see playing time when healthy. Mason made himself clear about the importance of having defined roles in net from the start of a season. If he returned, he would have to accept a similar situation to the past two seasons.

Sure, between the pipes, there aren't many opportunities elsewhere — but with another team, Mason can at least find a fresh start and new chances at fighting for a No. 1 job. 

Mason is a sharp guy and his return should be strongly considered by the Flyers. I just don't see it happening. 

Paone's projection
While some fans may not think so, the bottom line is that Mason played well last season for the Flyers. Was he spectacular? No. But was he downright awful? No. He played well enough to give them chances to win games and deserved better fates than what he was handed on most nights. But such is life when you play behind a defense that struggled to get out of its own way, a penalty kill that lingered near the bottom of the league rankings most of the season and an offense that starved for goals in support of the goaltender.

In his exit interviews, Mason made it clear he does not want to be part of a platoon role he was in last season alongside Neuvirth. It's no surprise Mason's best stretches with the Flyers were when he didn't have to constantly look over his shoulder. He was at his best when he knew he was the guy. Remember when he put the Flyers on his back on their playoff push in 2015-16?

Well, the problem with being a clear-cut No. 1 here is that Neuvirth has his extension in hand and Mason is still wondering what the future is left to hold. This situation is a double-edged sword for Mason. He's the best goalie on a weak free-agent market this season. But the demand for goalies isn't all that high. Teams looking for goalies might include Buffalo, the Islanders, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Colorado. But still, Mason wouldn't be walking into any of those situations as the No. 1 option right away a la Ben Bishop in Dallas or Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas. He's going to have to compete for that No. 1 job he craves.

And while there's a competition here in Philadelphia that's open for the taking, why would Mason want to come back with how that competition went last season? It would be like skating in circles without the end he's looking for.

Nothing is impossible or out of the question, but this is a situation in which it's best for both parties to shake hands and move on to their respective next chapters.