Flyers-Maple Leafs: 5 things you need to know


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.

Brandon Manning-Ivan Provorov pair to get another shot after strong showing

Brandon Manning-Ivan Provorov pair to get another shot after strong showing

VOORHEES, N.J. – Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol hasn’t had much consistency in his lines early on this season thanks to an array of injuries and suspensions. On the back end, though, the pairings have remained mostly constant through the first five games.

Yet, Hakstol decided to mix things up a bit and put the suddenly productive and confident Brandon Manning with the heralded rookie Ivan Provorov for Saturday’s game with Carolina.

Turns out, that pairing jelled and made an impact in the Flyers' 6-3 victory over the 'Canes.

“I thought they were pretty efficient as a pair,” Hakstol said following Sunday’s practice. “They defended well, they moved pucks out of the zone well and they added to the offense. It was a solid night for that pair.”

Provorov contributed a pair of assists while Manning scored on what Hakstol called “the play of the game," a dazzling goal that saw Manning get 'Canes goalie Eddie Lack down on the ice with a deke and then tuck it home as he skated around the net. Provorov logged 19:36 of ice time with his new partner recording a season-high 18:41.

“I thought we did well as a pairing,” Provorov said. “It was easy, shift after shift, just trying to keep the momentum going.”

The two were together again on Sunday and are expected to team up for their second straight game when the Flyers begin the week with a trip to Montreal to face the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

In their first outing as defensive partners, it was pretty evident the two worked well together, with both picking their spots to attack on offense with the other laying back. They each have a solid two-way game, as well, proving to complement to one another.

“He’s an easy guy to play with,” Manning said of the 19-year-old Russian rookie. “His English is great. I think he’s just going to keep getting better and better.”

Provorov returned the sentiment, adding that whomever he lines up next to, the goal is to get the most out of each other. He felt that’s exactly what they did Saturday against Carolina.

After five games, Manning (four points - one goal and three assists) and Provorov (three points, all assists) rank second and third in defensive scoring behind Shayne Gostisbehere’s five points (one goal and an assist).

With Radko Gudas set to return to the lineup on Tuesday night against Buffalo as just one more game remains on his six-game suspension and Michael Del Zotto nearing a return, Hakstol will once again be shuffling his defensive pairs in the near future.

Considering how much Gudas and Del Zotto played together last year, they’ll likely return as a pair, meaning another strong showing from the newly formed Provorov-Manning pair against Montreal could cement the two together once the Flyers' have their full arsenal of blue liners available.  

Future Flyers Report: Carter Hart named to Team WHL

Future Flyers Report: Carter Hart named to Team WHL

The Flyers’ season is in full force, with four games on the slate this week beginning Monday in Montreal in the first of a back-to-back set with the Canadiens and Sabres.

Before the puck drops to start the Flyers' week, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we feature a goalie general manager Ron Hextall is high on, another making his pro debut and head overseas to check in on a red-hot Swedish winger.

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
The highlight of the week for Hart came Thursday, when the Flyers’ 2016 second-round pick was named to Team WHL for the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series, which begins Nov. 7 in Prince George, British Columbia. Hart will share the net with Kamloops netminder Connor Ingram, a 2016 third-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It was an up-and-down week for Hart with the Silvertips, however, the week ended with his best performance of the season in a 3-1 win over Victoria on Saturday night. The 18-year-old stopped 37 of 38 shots, making 20 saves in the third period as the Royals went full throttle in an attempt to come back. (Victoria outshot Everett, 38-13, for the game.) Hart was solid Tuesday, turning aside 21 of 23 shots in a 2-1 loss to Spokane, but was pulled after yielding two goals on five shots in the Silvertips’ 4-3 overtime loss to Kelowna on Wednesday night. It’s been a strong start of the season, though, as he’s 6-2-1 with a 2.08 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and one shutout.

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/201, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
The Yale product had a rough professional debut Saturday night, a 5-4 overtime loss to Hartford, but to be fair, it wasn’t a great night for the Phantoms’ defense, either. Lyon surrendered five goals on 34 shots against, but did show glimpses of promise. He faced 18 shots in the second period and stopped 16 of them. He held the fort down in the third period, allowing the Phantoms to tie the game and force overtime. As the AHL schedule ramps up, it’ll be interesting to see how Lehigh Valley head coach Scott Gordon splits time between Lyon and Anthony Stolarz. After the game, Lyon said, via Highland Park Hockey’s Tony Androckitis, about the AHL, “It’s a little bit different (than college). The mood in here after is different. In college, you only get 30 games. Every time you lose a game, you want to sit in for the next 48 hours. Obviously feel it out, get a little bit better.”

Travis Sanheim, D, 6-4/202, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Sanheim, another first-year pro, picked up his second assist of the season Friday night in Lehigh Valley’s 5-2 loss to the Sound Tigers, picking up a secondary helper on veteran Colin McDonald’s second-period marker. On Saturday, however, Sanheim had a bumpy performance against the Wolf Pack. With his partner, Robert Hagg, the pair combined for six penalty minutes and quite a few turnovers. Sanheim was whistled for two stick infractions, and two failed clears on one sequence led to Hagg getting caught for a cross check. Rough night.

Oskar Lindblom, LW/RW, 6-1/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
If it appears we’re highlighting Lindblom a lot this season, it’s because we are. The 20-year-old continued his scorching start to his campaign last week with a goal and an assist. After 11 games, Lindblom is third on Brynäs IF with 10 points. Last week, Lindblom potted his fifth goal of the season in a 4-2 loss to Karlskrona on Thursday, and then added his fifth assist of the year in a season-high 17:13 during his team’s 5-3 defeat at the hands of Malmö on Saturday. Another productive week for the 2014 fifth-round pick.

Tanner Laczynski, C, 6-0/174, Ohio State (NCAA)
It’s been a pretty impressive start to Laczynski's freshman campaign with the Buckeyes. Laczynski had himself a four-point weekend against Bowling Green, racking up a goal and an assist in each of Friday and Saturday’s games, respectively. He has six points in five games with Ohio State. Laczynski is another curious story. He was eligible for the 2015 draft, but went undrafted. This past June, the Flyers plucked him in the sixth round. He impressed during the World Junior evaluation camp for Team USA in August, and is a candidate to make the team for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. It’ll be fun to track his development at OSU, too.

Quick hits
• It was a tough week for goalie Felix Sandstrom, who surrendered four goals in his only game last week for Brynäs IF, a 4-2 loss to Karlskrona.

Mark Friedman picked up two assists in Bowling Green’s 5-4 loss to No. 19 Ohio State on Friday night.

• Djurgårdens IF defenseman David Bernhardt enjoyed his best week of his young SHL career, scoring his first career goal Friday in a 5-4 loss to Linkoping and picking up an assist Wednesday against in a 3-2 shootout loss to Färjestad.

German Rubtsov had two goals and two assists in three of the Russian Knights’ games last week. He did not play last Monday. He was 42.1 percent in the faceoff circle.

David Kase was pointless in two games last week. He had registered seven points in his previous eight games entering the week.

Connor Bunnaman added a goal and two assists in three games last week for Kitchener. Bunnaman now has seven goals and 11 points in 10 games this season.

• It was a big week for Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri, who had a hat trick and an assist Thursday against Peterborough and an assist the next night against Oshawa.