Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know

flyers-oilers-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know

It’s been a rough week for the Flyers.

They suffered an overtime loss Tuesday to a Carolina Hurricanes team that had dropped five straight entering the game. The orange and black followed that up with a 3-0 loss Thursday to the New Jersey Devils, who had been shut out in their previous two contests.

Now, the Flyers (4-10-1) are set to face the Edmonton Oilers (4-11-2), who have just one win in their last seven games and agreed to sign Ilya Bryzgalov on Friday. Puck drop is set for 1 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center (CSN), and here are five things you need to know:

1. Still no offense
At this point, you can’t even say the Flyers’ offense is struggling. It’s non-existent.

The Flyers enter Saturday as the NHL’s worst team offensively. They are averaging just 1.47 goals per game and have scored more than twice just once in 15 contests this season.  

It’s pretty easy to figure out why the Flyers aren’t finding the back of the net. They can’t keep possession of the puck. They’re not getting pucks deep and forechecking. They’re not testing opposing goaltenders. Heck, they’re not even moving their feet.  

What’s the solution? Get back to basics. Yes, easier said than done, but the Flyers need to master the little things -- breakouts, offensive-zone entry, puck battles etc. -- if they want to get back into the win column consistently.

Head coach Craig Berube has repeatedly talked about his players needing to think and react quicker. When the Flyers start doing that, they will be able to enter the offensive zone easier, get pucks deep, win more battles along the boards and create more scoring chances. It’s all about fundamentals, folks.

2. Long time, no G
Hard times have fallen on Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

It’s been 21 games since the Flyers’ franchise player last scored a goal. He’s a team-worst minus-11 so far this season. He was so frustrated Thursday that he left the Wells Fargo Center without talking the media. This is not the 93-point Giroux that we saw two seasons ago.

The 25-year-old has been lackadaisical at times this season. Giroux blew his coverage on Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal in the final minute of regulation that led to the game-tying goal Tuesday. He was also on the ice when Carolina scored in OT.

In other games, Giroux has shown plenty of effort. Against the Devils on Thursday, he won 11 of the 16 faceoffs he took and recorded five hits.

Where the Flyers need to see Giroux’s name on the scoresheet, however, is in the goal and assist column. He has just seven helpers in 15 games. Sure, the Flyers need other players to step up, but a high-scoring Giroux can go a long way for a team lacking confidence.
 
3. More changes
Berube has again shuffled up the Flyers’ lines.

At practice on Friday, Giroux skated with Brayden Schenn and Matt Read on the top line. Vinny Lecavalier was given Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds on his wings, leaving Sean Couturier to center Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek on the third line (see story).

“Just trying to find some life and some spark offensively, and moving it around a bit,” Berube said. “Still got guys playing together that have been together for a while, though. Just trying to find some combinations that get some offense going.”

You can’t blame Berube for continuing to mix and match players in an attempt to find some chemistry. The Flyers have been outscored 12-2 over their past five games and have been shut out in their past two games at the Wells Fargo Center.

This is a game the Flyers’ anemic offense needs to capitalize on. The Oilers are allowing an NHL-worst 3.82 goals per game. This is the perfect opportunity for the orange and black to bust out of their scoring slump.

4. Injury report
Steve Downie participated in his first full practice Friday since sustaining a concussion on Nov. 1, his first game with the Flyers this season. He won’t play against Edmonton and is considered day to day.

For the Oilers, forwards Steve MacIntyre (knee), Corey Potter (back), Ryan Hamilton (knee) and Tyler Pitlick (knee), defensemen Justin Schultz (groin) and Anton Belov (lower body) and goaltender Richard Bachman (lower body) are on injured reserve and will not play against the Flyers. Forward Jesse Joensuu is listed as questionable.

Edmonton, however, is expected to get a key forward back Saturday. Former Blues winger David Perron, who has missed the past four games with a neck injury, could return to play against the Flyers. He practiced Friday on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

5. This and that
• The last time these two clubs met, Devan Dubnyk registered 35 saves to give the Oilers a 2-0 win over the Flyers in Edmonton on Feb. 23, 2012.

• Dating back to the 2003-04 season, Edmonton has gone 6-1-0 against the Flyers. Three of those victories came via shutout.

• Lecavalier, who hasn’t had a point in three games, has five goals and four assists during his current six-game scoring streak against the Oilers.

• The Oilers have lost 26 straight when scoring two or fewer goals, dating back to Feb. 25 of last season.

• The Flyers are 2-7-0 at home this season and have totaled just 11 goals at the Wells Fargo Center.

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

Best of NHL: Red Wings' 25-year playoff streak snapped in loss

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Lee Stempniak and Joakim Nordstrom scored about five minutes apart in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Tuesday night in the teams' second meeting in two nights.

Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm also scored for Carolina and Cam Ward stopped 21 shots. The Hurricanes have earned a point in 12 straight games (8-0-4) to move four points out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

The Red Wings beat the Hurricanes on Monday in a makeup game rescheduled from Dec. 19 when a Freon leak at PNC Arena made for unplayable ice. Tuesday's contest was regularly scheduled.

The postponement resulted in three games in the three days for the Red Wings. They won the first two but visibly struggled with their energy in the finale to snap a four-game point streak.

Tomas Nosek scored his first NHL goal and Jimmy Howard made 28 saves for Detroit (see full recap).

Rask backstops Bruins to important win over Predators
BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in his return from a one-game absence and the Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Tuesday night, boosting their playoff chances.

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Noel Acciari and David Backes scored for the Bruins, who moved three points ahead of idle Tampa Bay for the second Eastern Conference wild card with six games remaining. Boston began the night a point behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Rask was sidelined with a lower-body injury for Boston's 2-1 road win against the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Bergeron's goal was his 18th of the season, and Krejci got his 22nd. Acciari scored his first career goal in 43 NHL games, Backes netted his 17th of the season and Zdeno Chara earned his 600th NHL point with an assist on Boston's first goal (see full recap).

Matthews sets rookie scoring mark in Leafs' win
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews broke Wendel Clark's 31-year-old franchise rookie record with his 35th goal of the season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs earned a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

The victory kept Toronto (87 points) one point up on the Boston Bruins (86) for the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four up on the Tampa Bay Lightning (83).

Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves to earn the win for the Leafs. Leo Komarov and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto.

James Reimer allowed two goals on 14 shots for Florida before he was knocked from the game with an injury and replaced by Reto Berra, who made 10 saves. Reilly Smith and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Panthers (see full recap).

Oshie's OT goal for Caps beats Wild after Ovi hat trick
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- T.J. Oshie scored his second goal of the game 1:42 into overtime to bookend Alex Ovechkin's hat trick, Braden Holtby earned his 40th win and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth straight victory.

After Eric Staal's goal for the Wild tied the game with 26.6 seconds left in regulation, Oshie took a pass in the left circle from Marcus Johansson and beat struggling Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk with a wrist shot. Johansson had four assists.

Martin Hanzal and Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist apiece, but the Wild lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell to 3-11-1 in March after forward Zach Parise exited early with an injury (see full recap).

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

Flyers win game over Senators, but fail to gain ground in wild-card race

BOX SCORE

It was a special night as 24-year-old Jordan Weal hoisted his team upon his young shoulders, saving the Flyers in regulation and then winning for them in the shootout.
 
Yet in the end, even though the Flyers defeated Ottawa 3-2, they still lost (see Instant Replay).
 
Lost where it counts most -- in the wild-card standings.
 
Boston's 4-1 win over Nashville kept the Flyers six points behind in the wild card, but more significantly, reduced the Flyers' tragic number to six.
 
Six Bruins points or six points lost by the Flyers moving forward will eliminate Dave Hakstol's club from the playoffs.
 
"The last five or six games, we've been playing pretty good," Wayne Simmonds said. "After I looked up and saw Boston win, it sucks."
 
These last four games -- including the loss to Columbus -- have seen the kind of consistency the Flyers have craved and not gotten enough of during the second half of the season.
 
Had they been playing this type of sound, focused hockey in late January through February, they'd own a playoff spot right now.
 
"Even before that, we were losing games we should have been winning," Michael Del Zotto said. "That's the beauty of the game: there's no easy games.
 
"Consistency is the biggest factor. The teams at the top of the standings have been consistent all year long … not stringing three or four losses in a row, which is tough to come back on, especially this year with our division playing so well."
 
These days, one Flyer playing with every-night consistency is Weal, the kid the LA Kings sent to the Flyers as part of the Vinny Lecavalier deal.
 
Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left on a goal that Steve Mason never saw through a thick screen. It was a deflating moment given how hard the Flyers worked defensively.
 
Two minutes later, Sens goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck from behind the net and Weal intercepted, then scored on empty net to tie, 2-2.
 
Ottawa challenged that Simmonds interfered at the net and lost. Simmonds skated to the post and effectively prevented Anderson from getting there in time.
 
"It's my ice. I got there before him. It doesn't matter so long as I'm not in the blue paint," Simmonds said. "He touched me. It's my ice. He ran into the back of me."
 
That set up overtime and a bunch of missed opportunities before Weal beat Anderson once more during the shootout to clinch it. He's 2 for 2 here in shootouts.
 
Weal has six goals in 18 games. He is playing aggressively above his 5-foot-8 or so height. He seems to have earned his keep for next season as a regular and not a call-up, which he's been since early February.
 
Asked if he felt he's cemented his position as a Flyer, Weal replied, "Not at all. No, this is one of the best leagues in the world. Nothing is given to you here. You've got to keep working all the time, year to year. Your position is never guaranteed."
 
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol likes what he has seen, but won't talk about Weal's future.
 
"He's earned everything he's got and continues to do that on a daily basis," Hakstol said. "I wouldn't say he's brought a different vibe or energy. He's brought energy in his own way and has been a good two-way player. He's scored some big goals for us. He's a reliable player, who generates and creates offensively."
 
Weal's play on Valterri Filppula's line with Simmonds has had a trickle-down effect on the lineup, creating better matchups for the Flyers. He's taken pressure off Claude Giroux's line, and particularly, Sean Couturier's unit with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn.
 
"They've been good together," Hakstol said of the Filppula unit. "Simmonds is playing some of his best hockey of the year, in terms of a power forward game.
 
"He's very tough to handle down low and that's adding an element for Fil and Wealer there. They seem to have chemistry here in the very short amount of time they've been together."
 
It's something for Flyer fans to look forward to next season. No one is talking about next season yet, but deep down inside, the players realize some of them need to make lasting impressions with the season running out on them.
 
The consistency in effort the Flyers have shown recently is exactly what they should have shown when it counted most -- right after the All-Star break.
 
"Yeah, you know we're competing hard," young Travis Konecny said. "We're not going to quit until the end of the season. That's the way we are. It's the character of our team. It's the things we've shown all year.
 
"Our games may not show it at times, our scores, but I think each and every night we always compete, we always battle. I think things are starting to happen for us. Pucks are starting to bounce the right ways for us and we're getting on the score sheet and it's helping us a lot."
 
What's not helping is all those teams ahead of them, especially Boston, are posting wins. Every two points Boston gets puts another dagger in the Flyers' side.
 
"Watching what other teams are doing is more stressful," Mason said. "Teams are going to win, teams are going to lose. But we obviously have to win and that's really all that matters."