Flyers-Lightning: 5 things you need to know


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.

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday might be a good time for the slow-starting Flyers to meet their cross-state archnemesis.
The Pittsburgh Penguins often bring out the best in the Flyers.
They’re sitting atop the Metro Division with 11 points and their veteran leaders, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are having an impact.
“Stanley Cup champs, it’s going to be emotional,” Jakub Voracek understated. “Something has to change tomorrow. That team is very fast. If we’re gonna have a slow start, they’ll jump out 2-0 or 3-0 and it will be hard to come back. We can’t afford to do that tomorrow.”
The Flyers had been living off comebacks lately, but fell short against the Coyotes in Thursday's 5-4 loss.
Since 2014, the Flyers are 4-1-0 against the Penguins at Wells Fargo Center. That’s the good news. 
The bad news is the Flyers have given up 30 goals this season — tied for worst in the league — and they’re meeting an offensive machine.
“These are always intense games with a fun atmosphere and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said goalie Steve Mason, whose slot has been under siege with uncontested shots lately. “We don’t want to take them lightly and get off on the wrong foot like we did [against Arizona]. 
“We've got to take the play to them and not sit back and let them dictate things. They’re too good for that.”
Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers’ poor first-period performance against the Coyotes that it shouldn’t matter who they face next, they simply need to start faster. It’s been a problem most of this season and haunted them early last fall, as well.
“They’re a team that comes out hard and it’s as good a challenge as any for us,” Hakstol said. “After the loss in our building, it shouldn’t matter who we’re playing at the start of the hockey game.”
Interestingly, Mason said following that loss that the Flyers seem hellbent on trying to outscore their opponents without taking care of their defensive responsibilities. 
Given the influx of speed and some new offensive talent, perhaps the emphasis has switched to offense at the expense of defense.
Offensively, Claude Giroux (9 points) and Voracek (8) are among the top 10 in NHL scoring. Giroux leads the league in three areas: nine assists, six power play assists and six power play points.
Rookie Travis Konecny is tied for fifth with six assists. Wayne Simmonds’ four power play goals rank first with Matt Moulson (Buffalo). 
Lotta offense behind the Flyers' 28 goals scored.
“It’s a good question,” Voracek said. “It’s tough to say. It’s still early, but if you’re going to get scored on so many goals a game, you’re obviously doing something wrong. Might be the case. It’s hard to answer. 
“We have to make sure even if we have talented players offensively ... we have to be responsible defensively. In today’s hockey, everybody can play defense.” 
You never know which direction these games against Pittsburgh will go. They can be very physical and low-scoring. Or they can be wide-open, pond hockey with a goal fest. 
“Bluntly, last year, they played a fast, pressure-type game and I didn’t think we dealt very well with it,” Hakstol said. “That won’t be any different tomorrow. 
“They’ll play a fast, pressure-type game and we have to be ready to deal with it and take advantage of it. That will be a challenge for us.”
Defensive pairs
Hakstol changed his defensive pairs in practice. 
Brandon Manning worked with Radko Gudas; Ivan Provorov worked with Mark Streit; and Nick Schultz was with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Why the changes?
“They weren’t very good [against Arizona],” Hakstol replied. “It’s not all on the D-pairs, that’s for sure. There is some thought process behind ... switching the pairs. But ultimately, the goal is to have a more competitive group of six back there playing below the top of our circles.”
Andrew MacDonald, who had several turnovers/miscues this week, will sit against the Penguins.
Hakstol didn’t mince words when asked why he was reinserting Schultz into the lineup.
“Absolute, competitive, prideful defender,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
As for the lines, it would appear Nick Cousins will be scratched because he centered Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton in practice and both are injury-scratches right now.

Taking in return, Ryan White moves on but will always remember Flyers

Taking in return, Ryan White moves on but will always remember Flyers

Ryan White was whisking by to the visiting locker room when he had to stop.
With huge delight, the long-haired forward hugged a Flyers employee in bright orange athletic gear standing outside the laundry room. 
The two exchanged hellos and good wishes before White’s path was impeded again.
None of this was a nuisance. This is what he loved.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I miss here in Philly is the people around the rink are great,” White said late Thursday night inside the Wells Fargo Center. “The guys from the locker room attendants to the security guys to people taking care of my girlfriend and stuff like that. It’s a special place to play and I always felt like I was welcomed here.”
White had just scored his first goal of the 2016-17 season. All offseason, he hoped and planned for the occasion to be in a Flyers sweater. He talked about his endearment for the organization trumping the worth of money elsewhere.
But on Thursday night, he was wearing an Arizona Coyote uniform and, what he called, “putting the final nail in the coffin” of a 5-4 loss for the Flyers.
“It feels good scoring here,” he said.
Not at all how he pictured it.
Playing fourth-line minutes (8:09), White somehow snuck a shot past Steve Mason from a nasty side angle with 4:19 remaining in regulation, making it 5-3 and virtually snuffing another Flyers comeback bid.
“Any time you’re coming back playing your old club, you want to make sure you get a win. … I loved playing as a Flyer, it was a lot of fun playing here,” White said. “Guys over there are a great group of guys, good coaching staff, good people in the organization. It’s just a special place to play.”
It’s where White wanted to be but he holds no ill will towards general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers. Hextall liked and expressed interest in re-signing White, a role-playing fourth-liner, but went out and inked free-agent right winger Dale Weise (four-year, $9.4 million deal), more of a third-line player with similar attributes.
That signaled White’s end with the Flyers after two seasons.
“I think I’d be crazy if I didn’t want to come back here, it just didn’t work out,” White said. “I’m just happy I’ve gotten a chance to play in Phoenix and it’s been pretty good so far.”
White on Wednesday night caught up with former Flyers teammates Radko Gudas and Michal Neuvirth. While with the Flyers, he lived in the same building as the two. They all had dinner and White got to visit Gudas’ baby daughter.
On the ice, White, gritty and physical-minded, made his presence felt. He was penalized in the second period for charging Nick Cousins. He was also called for a delay of game penalty in the final two minutes for closing his hand on the puck. The Flyers scored on the power play, ironically turning White’s goal into the gamer-winner.
“He told me he just wanted the winning goal,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said with a laugh. “So that’s all that counts.”
White enjoyed the rough-and-tough nature against his old friends. 
“All those guys play hard, they know how the game goes,” he said. “I had a little conversation with Gudy last night at dinner and he said, ‘You’re going to be running around out there.’ I figured it would be no other way. You’ve got to expect that coming from those guys, they’re a hard group over there.
“Those guys know how I play and they all play the same way, too, so it was fun.”
He also appreciated seeing the Flyers Heritage Night pregame ceremony honoring the organization’s legends, led by late founder Ed Snider. White kept tabs on the Flyers’ home opener last week when a banner commemorating Snider was raised to the rafters.
“I even heard about the first game coming back, it was pretty emotional in here,” he said. “It was a pretty special time playing here with Mr. Snider around. I think he’ll obviously be forever missed and like I said, it was just special to be a part of it.”
White wasn’t sure what to expect in his return. In the end, he wasn’t surprised.
“It’s funny, I thought maybe coming back here, it would be a little bit different,” White said. “But they’re a pretty welcoming group and it’s nice to be here.”
Even if it’s just for one game.