Flyers Notes: Simmonds stoned on penalty shot

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Flyers Notes: Simmonds stoned on penalty shot

One game into the season, the Flyers are 0 for 1 on penalty shots.
 
Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier stoned ex-teammate Wayne Simmonds at the end of the second period in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Flyers (see story).
 
The game was 1-1 when Simmonds got his chance. He took a weaving route to the net and tried to go five-hole with backhand/forehand.
 
“Bernier played well, real well,” Simmonds said.
 
Anything he would have recognized or remembered from your days with the L.A. Kings?
 
“I don’t know,” Simmonds said. “You shoot on a goalie a lot of times, you change your move a bunch of times, he probably knows some of my moves, I don’t know if that went into it. It doesn’t make a difference now. It’s over.”
 
“When you get to a penalty shot situation, it’s one-on-one. He got the better of me this time.”
 
Hartnell-Giroux-Schenn
Coach Peter Laviolette has proved during his more than four seasons with the Flyers that he’s not afraid to tinker with his lines.
 
But that longstanding top line of Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux seemed untouchable.
 
Not so, as it turns out.
 
On Wednesday, Laviolette moved Voracek off the top line and onto the third line with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot. In his place, Laviolette stuck Brayden Schenn.
 
Schenn had practiced in that combination for a couple days, so when it was time for an actual game, he felt at home.
 
“Yeah, I feel good [on that line],” Schenn said. “Obviously, when you get a chance with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell, you want to make the most of it. Both those guys, Hartsy obviously goes real hard and G’s real nifty with the puck. So, just try to get open and make the most of every opportunity you get there.”
 
As for why he made the decision? Laviolette said it was all about balance.
 
“We’re trying to get a balance on scoring throughout,” he said. “… I think having Brayden up there, trying to get him going, I thought he played a good game on that line, and that line was able to generate some chances, but again, you’d like to see one or two of them drop in on the five-on-five.
 
“Matt Read going with Vinny (Lecavalier), I thought that was the best Vinny’s line looked yet with having Matt on that line.”
 
Schenn, it should be noted, was the Flyers’ sole goal-scorer of the night, though that marker came on the power play and was assisted on by Lecavalier.
 
Mason ‘honored’
It wasn’t the outcome he wanted -- personally, or for his team -- but Steve Mason was ecstatic to have started in net for the Flyers’ season opener.
 
“It’s huge,” he said. “I had a great meeting with Lavy a few days ago when he told me I would play. It’s a huge honor to get the opening-night start, and Razor (Ray Emery) could have been in there just as easily as I was.
 
“It was a great honor to have it, and unfortunately we didn’t get the win.”
 
Mason looked particularly sharp through the first half of the game, no more so than when he made a stellar kick save on Leafs winger Phil Kessel. The defensive breakdowns in front of him kept him on his toes right from the first puck drop, but Mason remained calm and composed, communicating fluidly with the blueliners beside him.
 
“He did well,” Giroux said. “He kept us in the game, made some big saves for us. Anytime your goalie does that for you, you’re going to have a chance to win.”
 
Captains
Kimmo Timonen continues as the associate captain and Hartnell was named alternate captain.
 
Honored guests
The list for this one: United States Army 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Vorsky from the Striker Army Reserves in Trenton, NJ; United States Army Master SGT Robert Harris from Brooklawn, NJ; United States Air Force Master Sergeant Thomas Maxwell from Levittown, Pa.
 
Giroux’s Crew
The Flyers' captain treated kids from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation to the game in a club suite.
 
Loose pucks
Sugar House Casino will be the presenting sponsor of the Flyers all season. ... The Flyers had an intermission game that will likely become a hit. Human bowling ball off a giant slingshot into giant bowling pins for prizes. People sit on a sled and get shot into the pins. Can’t wait to see Chris “Bundy” Therien slingshot Tim Saunders. ... Former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is reportedly negotiating a deal with Las Vegas in the ECHL, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. ... Giroux played a whopping 26:02 because of the seven power plays. Of that total, 9:34 were power-play minutes. The only other player close to him in minutes was Mark Streit (22:42).

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers (33-31-8) at Wild (44-22-6)
8 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7:30

A four-game road trip takes a daunting turn Thursday night when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Hazardous road
You thought things were already ugly?

It looks like it could get much, much worse.

The Flyers now visit three of the NHL's top five clubs, starting with the Wild, followed by the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.

Those three are a combined 137-58-21 overall and 79-24-5 at home.

And it's safe to say the Flyers don't have any momentum heading into this gauntlet. They're coming off a 3-2 loss to the Jets, a non-contender decimated by injuries, and are 4-15-3 on the road since Dec. 19 with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We need to have a better effort," Steve Mason said postgame Tuesday. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it."

2. Hole gets deeper
With a win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs moved past the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, making Boston the current leader for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 82 points.

The Flyers, with 74 points, trail the Bruins, Islanders (80), Lightning (77) and Hurricanes (75), who have a game in hand, as well. Oh, and the Panthers are just one point behind the Flyers.

Ten regular-season games remain and Dave Hakstol's group needs a miracle.

In search of some type of spark, the Flyers will strut out a different look against the Wild.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Matt Read said Wednesday. "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."

3. A look at the Wild
Minnesota, which went 30-6-3 from the start of December to the end of February, has cooled off a bit but is still one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

The Wild are 3-8-0 in March. For the season, however, they rank among the league's top 10 in goals per game (3.22 -- second), goals against per game (2.47 -- tied for sixth), power-play percentage (21.3 -- ninth) and penalty-kill percentage (83.8 -- seventh).

Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have 20 or more goals, while netminder Devan Dubnyk has been a top-five goalie at 37-18-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Jakub Voracek has no goals and an assist in his last six games for a minus-5 rating. When he's not providing offense, the Flyers predictably struggle. The good thing: Voracek owns 16 points in 18 career games against Minnesota.

Wild: Ryan Suter has been a stud for the Wild. The defenseman leads the NHL as a plus-34 and is third with 27:07 of ice time per game. The 32-year-old is Minnesota's backbone and the Wild are 21-6-1 in games that he has at least one point.

5. This and that
• Mason will make his 11th start in the last 12 games. He is 7-6-1 lifetime against Minnesota with a 2.59 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

• Dubnyk is 2-4-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Brandon Manning is back in the lineup for Michael Del Zotto (see Skate Update). Manning missed the last fives games with a shoulder injury.

• Former Flyer Ryan White is out for the Wild with an illness.

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Facing a critical road game in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Flyers will welcome back a key defenseman to their lineup.

Brandon Manning, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, will return and pair with Radko Gudas on the blue line.

“We’re playing a heavy team tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re a heavy team down low. So, we’ll need that pair to play that way. They’ve got to be an abrasive pair and they have to be on the heavy side defensively.”

Michael Del Zotto will be the odd man out as the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen again. Manning, with three goals and seven assists in 57 games this season, said he’s not worried about conditioning or the injury.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. Did some contact a few days ago and not even thinking about it.”

Toronto’s win in Columbus on Tuesday night allowed the Maple Leafs to surpass Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins now hold the No. 8 spot in the playoff race with 82 points with nine games remaining. The Flyers are eight points back, with three teams in between, and 10 games left in the season.

Their play on the road is one big reason why the Flyers are out of a playoff spot. They are 12-20-4 on the road this season, tied for the second-fewest road wins among Eastern Conference teams. They’re winless in their last six road games (0-5-1) as they play the second game of a four-game trip.

“I don’t think there’s panic,” Manning said. “I think the focus is on each and every night, not really looking too far down the road. Obviously, the last couple weeks, we’ve probably given up points we don’t want to give up and put ourselves in a pretty tough spot. But we got a good group of guys in here, and guys that have played pro hockey long enough that know what it’s like.”

With Del Zotto's being scratched for Manning, Nick Schultz will play what could be his final game in the Xcel Energy Center, where he spent 10 seasons with the Wild. Schultz, a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, ranks second in franchise history with 743 games played.

Hakstol said Schultz’s history wasn’t a factor in keeping the defenseman in the lineup.

“He’s filled his role well the last few games,” Hakstol said. “He’s been good in that role with Ghost. So, he’s staying in for that reason.”

Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 11th time in 12 games. He has a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his last 10 games.

Lineup
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmons
Schenn-Couturier-Weise
Konecny-Bellemare-VandeVelde

D: Provorov-MacDonald
Schultz-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas

G: Mason