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.

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).