Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Oilers
7 p.m., CSN

After a horrid two-game stop in Florida, the Flyers (4-5-2) will open a four-game homestand at the Wells Fargo Center when they battle the Edmonton Oilers (4-6-1) Tuesday evening.

Here’s what you need to know for the game:

1. The new guy
Newcomer Carlo Colaiacovo is expected to make his Flyers debut Tuesday night. The 31-year-old signed a two-way contract with the club last week and has been working hard to get himself back into game shape (see story).

Colaiacovo, who has spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings in his NHL career, was paired with Luke Schenn during practice Monday afternoon. Flyers head coach Craig Berube also had Colaiacovo penciled in with the second power-play unit.

Though injury-prone, Colaiacovo is a solid puck-moving defender and rarely gets beat one-on-one because of his strong skating ability. Berube plans to ease Colaiacovo into the lineup. He’ll monitor the veteran’s minutes against the Oilers as his conditioning level may not be up to par just yet.

2. Coburn improving
It appears defenseman Braydon Coburn could be back sooner than the Flyers expected.

Coburn, who hasn’t played since the season opener because of a lower-body injury, practiced for the first time on Monday since Oct. 21 and said he was pain free after stepping off the ice.

“It was good to get back out there and ease into it,” Coburn said (see story). “There is definitely improvement and it felt good.”

Nick Schultz, who signed as the Flyers’ seventh defenseman this past summer, has been a pleasant surprise on the back end with Coburn and Andrew MacDonald (lower-body) sidelined. Schultz has picked up three assists to go along with a plus-3 rating in 10 games this season.

As mentioned above, Colaiacovo will be paired with Schenn versus Edmonton. Schultz will continue to play with Michael Del Zotto, and Mark Streit will skate with Nicklas Grossmann. That means Brandon Manning is the odd man out for Tuesday’s tilt.

3. Oil spill
Edmonton will be without two key leaders on Tuesday.

Andrew Ference, the Oilers’ captain, was suspended by the NHL for three games after delivering an illegal check to the head of Canucks forward Zack Kassian. The nasty collision occurred in the second period of Edmonton’s 3-2 loss to Vancouver on Saturday. Here’s the video, courtesy of ProHockeyTalk.

The Oilers will also be without star forward Taylor Hall, who leads the team with six goals and 10 points in 11 games. The 22-year-old sprained his medial collateral ligament in his right knee when he crashed into Vancouver’s net during Saturday’s loss. He’s expected to miss two to four weeks.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let’s go with Vinny Lecavalier. The veteran forward returned to the Flyers’ lineup against Florida and scored the team’s lone goal. He’s posted two goals and two assists in four games this season, but hasn’t yet found his place. Lecavalier’s line with Wayne Simmonds and R.J. Umberger didn’t look particularly strong on Saturday, but the rest of the team looked flat as well. Simmonds is better suited to play with a speedy centerman and Umberger has been almost invisible in the offensive zone so far. If Lecavalier can’t get something going, expect more line changes in the near future.

Oilers: With Hall sidelined for the next few weeks, Edmonton is going to rely heavily on Jordan Eberle to contribute on a nightly basis. The 24-year-old ranks second on the team in scoring with eight points (three goals) in 10 games and has shown he’s more than capable of putting up solid numbers (220 points in 285 career games). He has an accurate shot and is an underrated setup man. But his size (5-11, 180) makes it hard for him to win puck battles in the corners.

5. This and that
• The Flyers won both matchups against the Oilers last season. Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek each registered three points in the season series.

• Voracek has collected at least one point in 10 of the Flyers’ 11 games this season and 13 of his 16 points have been earned at even-strength (see weekly observations).

• Talk about streaky. Edmonton began the season with a five-game winless streak before reeling off four consecutive victories. Now, the Oilers enter Tuesday having dropped two in a row.

• Lecavalier has produced six goals and four assists in his last eight games against Edmonton.

• The Oilers are 0-2-1 on the road with 17 goals against, but are a perfect 4-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents this season.

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

Best of NHL: Lightning capture OT win over Red Wings

DETROIT -- Nikita Kucherov scored 3:28 into overtime to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 on Friday night.

Situated on the edge of the crease, Kucherov redirected a hard pass from Brayden Point into the net.

The Lightning are one point behind the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild card.

Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring 8:03 into the second period. Taking a backhand pass from Gustav Nyquist, Zetterberg flipped a knuckling wrist shot toward the goal and over the stick-side shoulder of goalie Andrei Vasilievskiy, who struggled to find the puck through the screen of teammate Point (see full recap).

Islanders notch shootout win over Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- John Tavares and Anthony Beauvillier scored in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.

Beauvillier opened the shootout with a goal, and Tavares snapped a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury in the next round. Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout for Pittsburgh, but Jaroslav Halak, making his first start since Dec. 29, stopped Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino.

Anders Lee scored his 28th goal of the season, while Brock Nelson got his 17th and Casey Cizikas his eighth for the Islanders, who moved into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. New York is tied with Boston at 82 points, but the Islanders have a game in hand on the Bruins. The Islanders have 18 wins in 31 games since Doug Weight was named interim coach on Jan. 17, replacing Jack Capuano.

Halak, a former All-Star, made 37 saves (see full recap).

Cracknell nets first hat trick in Stars' win
DALLAS -- Adam Cracknell got his first hat trick in seven NHL seasons and the Dallas Stars handed the San Jose Sharks their fifth straight loss, 6-1 on Friday night.

Cracknell opened the scoring in the first period, capped a three-goal flurry in the second and beat goalie Aaron Dell on a short-handed breakaway in the third for his career-high 10th goal of the season.

The Sharks entered two points ahead of Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division despite their longest losing streak of the season. San Jose has been outscored 16-5 during the stretch.

Brett Ritchie, Jamie Benn and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars.

Joe Thornton scored for San Jose on the power play in the second period. Dell had 23 saves.

Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 20 saves four nights after shutting out San Jose (see full recap).

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

Flyers-Wild 10 observations: Sean Couturier shows flash, Matt Read answers call & more

You know Dave Hakstol has reached crisis measures when he takes a skill player in Travis Konecny and throws him onto the fourth line while promoting Matt Read to the top line.

This was risk-taking at its craziest to generate some enthusiasm and life into a Flyers squad that didn't show much of a pulse a few nights earlier in Winnipeg.

Guess what?

It worked during a 3-1 victory on Thursday, the Flyers' fifth straight win over the Wild going back a few years (see Instant Replay).

Their playoff hopes still flicker.

As much as the fan base hated the lineup moves, consider this: general manager Ron Hextall was very explicit this week in saying that the roster Hakstol has right now is what it is. Hextall is not going to promote any young Phantoms into a bad situation when they are headed for what could be a decent playoff run in the AHL.

Therefore, as my former colleague Bill Lyon would say, here are 10 things I think, I think …

1. The Flyers began the game as they have so often this season with yet another turnover and scoring chance against them. Rinse and repeat. The Flyers had three turnovers in less than five minutes to start the game.

2. Minutes later, Steve Mason coughed up a bad rebound off his stick and Zach Parise burned him with a gimme goal for a 1-0 lead. Mason had issues in this one with rebounds that were looking like grenades, but he settled down with a strong final two periods with 24 saves. This was Mason's 100th win as a Flyer (see game story).

3. You had to see it to believe it. Sean Couturier with a nice backhand shot through Devan Dubnyk's five-hole to make it a 1-1 game near the end of the opening period (see feature highlight). I haven't seen that kind of offensive move from Couturier in quite some time. Question is, why can't he do that nightly instead of semiannually? That's the offensive spark you know Couturier is capable of providing.

4. The Wild were very aggressive in this one as they were trying to clinch a playoff spot, so the Flyers had to match that intensity. The Flyers more than matched it. This was far, far better than what Hakstol's team brought to the ice in Winnipeg. Not even close, as the Flyers dominated.

5. Matt Read had a quick stick -- no other way to explain it -- on his goal in the second period off a series of Wild turnovers that came about because of a play set up by Jakub Voracek. That goal seemingly stunned Dubnyk. It was Read's second goal in the last two games. He was all over the ice in this one. Many nights this season, Read was invisible. Not this game.

6. The Flyers had some genuine scoring chances in this game. You had to wonder where this desire to skate, create and score was all through the month of February and into March. The Flyers had strong forecheck pressure and a rebound-attack mentality the entire second period. If that had happened with regularity down the stretch, this team would be sitting in the wild card right now.

7. While the shake-up of the lines obviously benefited Read, it did little for Konecny and actually set him back. He was invisible. No shots. No hits. Invisible with little ice time. Really can't figure this move out but obviously, Hakstol is upset with him for some reason.

8. Minnesota went all in at the NHL trade deadline to get Martin Hanzal and Ryan White, forking over four draft picks, including a first-rounder. The Wild were leading the Central Division before losing six straight (and eight of nine) that allowed Chicago to regain the top spot in the division. The Wild don't look like the same confident, surging team it was a month ago in the Western Conference.

9. Minnesota had a strong push in the final five minutes and the Flyers had some initial difficulty answering that until the final minute when Wayne Simmonds picked up his 300th point as a Flyer on Voracek's empty-net goal to seal the deal. A nice way to finish off a complete effort by everyone involved.

10. The Flyers picked up two points on Boston, which lost to Tampa Bay, and are six behind the Bruins in the wild card. They still remain a l-o-n-g shot to make the playoffs, given the sheer number of teams ahead of them that they need to climb over.