Flyers-Lightning: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Lightning: 5 things you need to know

Wednesday night’s game is sure to be an emotional one for Vinny Lecavalier.

After being bought out by Tampa Bay this past offseason, Lecavalier will play the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in 1998 for the first time in his 15 NHL seasons when the Flyers (10-11-2) take on the Lightning (15-8-1) at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (CSN). Here are five things you need to know for the game:

1. Vinny’s return
Prior to signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers, Lecavalier had played every single game of his NHL career with the Lightning.

Over 14 seasons, the 33-year-old piled up 383 goals, 491 assists and 746 penalty minutes for Tampa. He served as team captain two separate times and was instrumental in helping the Lightning win their first and only Stanley Cup championship in 2004.

So how is he approaching his return to Tampa?

“I am excited to go back,” Lecavalier said on Tuesday (see story). “It’s not something I have really thought of. I’m just happy to go back and play against them and hope to play a great game there. I’m excited to go back and see my old teammates and buddies and play hard against them.”

The Flyers, as we all know, got off to a rough start this season, but Lecavalier has been consistent in his first season in orange and black. Despite suffering two injuries in the early going, which cost him four games, Lecavalier enters Wednesday tied with Matt Read for the team-lead in goals with eight.

2. No Stamkos
Tampa’s record would indicate that the Lightning haven’t really missed Lecavalier this season. But right now, they probably wish they could have a center of his caliber in the lineup with Steven Stamkos out for the foreseeable future.

Stamkos remains sidelined indefinitely with a broken right tibia. The high-scoring centerman suffered the injury after he got tied up with Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton and crashed into Boston’s right post on Nov. 11.

It’s nearly impossible to replace the numbers that Stamkos is capable of putting up -- he had 14 goals and nine assists in 17 games before going down -- and the Lightning have struggled at times with him out of the lineup.

Over the last seven games, Tampa has gone 3-3-1 without Stamkos and has failed to score three goals or more in four of those contests. Players like Martin St. Louis and Valtteri Flippula will have to pick up the scoring slack if the Lightning want to remain toward the top of the Eastern Conference.

St. Louis passed Stamkos for the team lead in scoring (24 points) with a three-point performance in Tampa’s 5-0 win over the New York Rangers on Monday. Filppula had two helpers and currently ranks third on the Lightning with 18 points.

3. Bounce back
The Flyers are probably anxious to put their disappointing performance against the Florida Panthers behind them.

Entering Monday 6-0-1 in their last seven, the Flyers severely underestimated the lowly Panthers and missed an opportunity to grab two easy points in the standings.

Florida entered the game the second-worst club in the East but came away with a 3-1 victory. Poor execution, especially in the neutral zone, is what ultimately cost the Flyers.

“We were lackadaisical a little bit,” head coach Craig Berube said after the loss (see story).

The Flyers failed to do the little things that they had done so well during their seven-game point streak. If they want to come away with a victory against the Lightning, they’ll have to get back to slowing things down, winning battles along the boards and coveting the puck.

4.  Injuries
Stamkos, who has been walking without crutches for two days, isn’t the only key Lightning member with an injury. Defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Brian Lee are on injured reserve and also out indefinitely with knee ailments.

Forward Ryan Malone (lower body) and defenseman Radko Gudas (upper body) did not play against the Rangers but are listed as day-to-day. Forward Tom Pyatt (collarbone) returned to practice Saturday and defenseman Keith Aulie (upper body) participated in full-contact drills on Sunday.  

The Flyers enter Wednesday a healthy bunch.

5. This and that
• Wednesday is the first of three meetings between these two clubs this season. The Lightning won two of three games against the Flyers in 2013.

• A pair of former Flyers led the team offensively against Tampa last year. Max Talbot had a goal and two assists in three games, and Tom Sesisto scored both markers in a 2-1 win on Feb. 5 at Wells Fargo Center.

• St. Louis has 19 points during the Lightning’s current 8-2-1 run against the Flyers.

• The Flyers have dropped four straight in Tampa by a 16-5 score.

• Lightning netminder Ben Bishop has won six straight starts at home. He’s allowed just nine goals in his last five games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top-two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?