Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know


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.

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

Rival Penguins may be what Flyers need to get off to fast start

VOORHEES, N.J. — Saturday might be a good time for the slow-starting Flyers to meet their cross-state archnemesis.
The Pittsburgh Penguins often bring out the best in the Flyers.
They’re sitting atop the Metro Division with 11 points and their veteran leaders, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel are having an impact.
“Stanley Cup champs, it’s going to be emotional,” Jakub Voracek understated. “Something has to change tomorrow. That team is very fast. If we’re gonna have a slow start, they’ll jump out 2-0 or 3-0 and it will be hard to come back. We can’t afford to do that tomorrow.”
The Flyers had been living off comebacks lately, but fell short against the Coyotes in Thursday's 5-4 loss.
Since 2014, the Flyers are 4-1-0 against the Penguins at Wells Fargo Center. That’s the good news. 
The bad news is the Flyers have given up 30 goals this season — tied for worst in the league — and they’re meeting an offensive machine.
“These are always intense games with a fun atmosphere and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said goalie Steve Mason, whose slot has been under siege with uncontested shots lately. “We don’t want to take them lightly and get off on the wrong foot like we did [against Arizona]. 
“We've got to take the play to them and not sit back and let them dictate things. They’re too good for that.”
Dave Hakstol said after the Flyers’ poor first-period performance against the Coyotes that it shouldn’t matter who they face next, they simply need to start faster. It’s been a problem most of this season and haunted them early last fall, as well.
“They’re a team that comes out hard and it’s as good a challenge as any for us,” Hakstol said. “After the loss in our building, it shouldn’t matter who we’re playing at the start of the hockey game.”
Interestingly, Mason said following that loss that the Flyers seem hellbent on trying to outscore their opponents without taking care of their defensive responsibilities. 
Given the influx of speed and some new offensive talent, perhaps the emphasis has switched to offense at the expense of defense.
Offensively, Claude Giroux (9 points) and Voracek (8) are among the top 10 in NHL scoring. Giroux leads the league in three areas: nine assists, six power play assists and six power play points.
Rookie Travis Konecny is tied for fifth with six assists. Wayne Simmonds’ four power play goals rank first with Matt Moulson (Buffalo). 
Lotta offense behind the Flyers' 28 goals scored.
“It’s a good question,” Voracek said. “It’s tough to say. It’s still early, but if you’re going to get scored on so many goals a game, you’re obviously doing something wrong. Might be the case. It’s hard to answer. 
“We have to make sure even if we have talented players offensively ... we have to be responsible defensively. In today’s hockey, everybody can play defense.” 
You never know which direction these games against Pittsburgh will go. They can be very physical and low-scoring. Or they can be wide-open, pond hockey with a goal fest. 
“Bluntly, last year, they played a fast, pressure-type game and I didn’t think we dealt very well with it,” Hakstol said. “That won’t be any different tomorrow. 
“They’ll play a fast, pressure-type game and we have to be ready to deal with it and take advantage of it. That will be a challenge for us.”
Defensive pairs
Hakstol changed his defensive pairs in practice. 
Brandon Manning worked with Radko Gudas; Ivan Provorov worked with Mark Streit; and Nick Schultz was with Shayne Gostisbehere.
Why the changes?
“They weren’t very good [against Arizona],” Hakstol replied. “It’s not all on the D-pairs, that’s for sure. There is some thought process behind ... switching the pairs. But ultimately, the goal is to have a more competitive group of six back there playing below the top of our circles.”
Andrew MacDonald, who had several turnovers/miscues this week, will sit against the Penguins.
Hakstol didn’t mince words when asked why he was reinserting Schultz into the lineup.
“Absolute, competitive, prideful defender,” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
As for the lines, it would appear Nick Cousins will be scratched because he centered Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton in practice and both are injury-scratches right now.

Taking in return, Ryan White moves on but will always remember Flyers

Taking in return, Ryan White moves on but will always remember Flyers

Ryan White was whisking by to the visiting locker room when he had to stop.
With huge delight, the long-haired forward hugged a Flyers employee in bright orange athletic gear standing outside the laundry room. 
The two exchanged hellos and good wishes before White’s path was impeded again.
None of this was a nuisance. This is what he loved.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I miss here in Philly is the people around the rink are great,” White said late Thursday night inside the Wells Fargo Center. “The guys from the locker room attendants to the security guys to people taking care of my girlfriend and stuff like that. It’s a special place to play and I always felt like I was welcomed here.”
White had just scored his first goal of the 2016-17 season. All offseason, he hoped and planned for the occasion to be in a Flyers sweater. He talked about his endearment for the organization trumping the worth of money elsewhere.
But on Thursday night, he was wearing an Arizona Coyote uniform and, what he called, “putting the final nail in the coffin” of a 5-4 loss for the Flyers.
“It feels good scoring here,” he said.
Not at all how he pictured it.
Playing fourth-line minutes (8:09), White somehow snuck a shot past Steve Mason from a nasty side angle with 4:19 remaining in regulation, making it 5-3 and virtually snuffing another Flyers comeback bid.
“Any time you’re coming back playing your old club, you want to make sure you get a win. … I loved playing as a Flyer, it was a lot of fun playing here,” White said. “Guys over there are a great group of guys, good coaching staff, good people in the organization. It’s just a special place to play.”
It’s where White wanted to be but he holds no ill will towards general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers. Hextall liked and expressed interest in re-signing White, a role-playing fourth-liner, but went out and inked free-agent right winger Dale Weise (four-year, $9.4 million deal), more of a third-line player with similar attributes.
That signaled White’s end with the Flyers after two seasons.
“I think I’d be crazy if I didn’t want to come back here, it just didn’t work out,” White said. “I’m just happy I’ve gotten a chance to play in Phoenix and it’s been pretty good so far.”
White on Wednesday night caught up with former Flyers teammates Radko Gudas and Michal Neuvirth. While with the Flyers, he lived in the same building as the two. They all had dinner and White got to visit Gudas’ baby daughter.
On the ice, White, gritty and physical-minded, made his presence felt. He was penalized in the second period for charging Nick Cousins. He was also called for a delay of game penalty in the final two minutes for closing his hand on the puck. The Flyers scored on the power play, ironically turning White’s goal into the gamer-winner.
“He told me he just wanted the winning goal,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said with a laugh. “So that’s all that counts.”
White enjoyed the rough-and-tough nature against his old friends. 
“All those guys play hard, they know how the game goes,” he said. “I had a little conversation with Gudy last night at dinner and he said, ‘You’re going to be running around out there.’ I figured it would be no other way. You’ve got to expect that coming from those guys, they’re a hard group over there.
“Those guys know how I play and they all play the same way, too, so it was fun.”
He also appreciated seeing the Flyers Heritage Night pregame ceremony honoring the organization’s legends, led by late founder Ed Snider. White kept tabs on the Flyers’ home opener last week when a banner commemorating Snider was raised to the rafters.
“I even heard about the first game coming back, it was pretty emotional in here,” he said. “It was a pretty special time playing here with Mr. Snider around. I think he’ll obviously be forever missed and like I said, it was just special to be a part of it.”
White wasn’t sure what to expect in his return. In the end, he wasn’t surprised.
“It’s funny, I thought maybe coming back here, it would be a little bit different,” White said. “But they’re a pretty welcoming group and it’s nice to be here.”
Even if it’s just for one game.