Flyers-Maple Leafs: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Maple Leafs: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (33-24-6) will try to stay hot when they clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs (33-23-8) on Saturday night.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Follow the leaders
If you’re trying to figure out why the Flyers have won three in a row and seven of their last eight, look no further than the team’s top two offensive threats.

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek didn’t get off to a great start this season, but the Flyers’ leading-scoring tandem from a season ago has carried the team as of late.

Giroux has nine goals and nine assists over his last 11 games and is now over a point-per-game pace this season. The Flyers’ captain leads the team in goals (23), assists (41) and points (64), and has been a dominant presence in the offensive zone, consistently winning puck battles and creating quality chances.

Voracek seems to be finding his scoring touch after a bit of a dry spell. After registering just one goal during a 12-game stretch, the 24-year-old has found the back of the net three times in his last two contests. What’s even more encouraging is Voracek is shooting the puck more. He tends to a have a pass-first mindset at times, which isn’t always a bad thing, but the Flyers need him to fire away. Voracek is a natural goal scorer. The only way to prove that is to get shots on net.

If the Flyers want to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they’ll need Giroux and Voracek to continue to lead the way. They are 17-2-1 when Giroux scores and 10-2-2 when Voracek gets in the goal column.

2. Out for revenge
In the only previous meeting between these two clubs this season, the Maple Leafs walked out of Wells Fargo Center with a 3-1 win over the Flyers on Oct. 2.

Dave Bolland scored twice for the Leafs that night and Phil Kessel also beat Steve Mason, who made 22 saves in a losing effort. Brayden Schenn potted the Flyers’ lone marker on Jonathan Bernier, who turned aside 31 of 32 shots fired his way.

The Flyers will be searching for revenge north of the border. Toronto has taken three of its last four contests against the Flyers overall, but has lost six of seven to the orange and black on home ice.

The Leafs have also struggled on the man advantage as of late. They snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday, but failed to score a power-play goal for the seventh consecutive game.

That doesn’t mean the Flyers should take the Leafs lightly. Toronto is one of the NHL’s best teams on the PP, scoring on 21.0 percent of its chances. It’s also worth mentioning the Flyers allowed three goals while shorthanded in Wednesday’s 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals.

3. Catching up
Since the Flyers are playing the Leafs, the James van Riemsdyk-Luke Schenn trade is bound to come up at some point.

So how’s JVR doing up north? The Middletown, N.J. native has already hit career highs in goals (26) and assists (26) this season, and trails only Kessel for the team lead in points.

It’s hard to compare stats between forwards and defensemen, especially in this case. Everyone knows JVR has the ability to light the lamp, and Schenn is a physical, shutdown blueliner who will block shots and pile up hits.

Schenn has taken his lumps this season, but has rebounded as of late. He was paired with new Flyer Andrew MacDonald on Wednesday and had a strong game.

But nearly two seasons since the trade, it’s clear the Leafs have gotten more from van Riemsdyk than the Flyers have from Schenn. Let's leave it at that.

4. Injuries
Backup goalie Ray Emery remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. He hasn’t been able to play or practice since exiting the Flyers’ loss to the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 27. Emery did not travel with the team to Toronto, so Cal Heeter will continue to serve as Mason’s backup.

For Toronto, Bolland (ankle) is on injured reserve and remains out indefinitely. It’s been a difficult season for the first-year Maple Leaf. He’s been productive -- six goals and four assists -- but injuries have limited the centerman to just 15 games.

Enforcer Colton Orr, who has not played since Feb. 4 against the Florida Panthers, is questionable for Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

5. This and that
• The Flyers are 19-0-2 this season when scoring four or more goals.

• Kessel is averaging 1.09 points per game this season, which would be the highest by a Toronto player since Mats Sundin in 2005-06 (1.11).

• The Flyers have scored a power-play goal in 11 of their last 13 games.

• JVR has collected 44 goals and 84 points in 110 games since joining the Leafs.

• The Flyers are among the NHL’s best penalty-killing teams on the road at 15.5 percent.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.