Flyers-Oilers: 5 things you need to know


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.

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Flyers Skate Update: Ivan Provorov has a new partner

Ivan Provorov has a new partner.

Provorov will be paired with Brandon Manning on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, a changeup from the first four games of the season. Mark Streit drops to the third pair with Nick Schultz, a tandem that worked together most of last season.

"We're going to change them up," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said after the team's morning skate. "We're going to look at a couple of different things. Some of the combinations are some familiar ones, such as Streiter-Schultz. They played a lot of minutes together last year. It's a move that we want to take a look at."

The Provorov-Manning pair is an interesting one. It should allow the 19-year-old to activate more in the offensive zone with Manning playing positionally sound. Manning has played with an extra edge thus far, showcasing a far more aggressive brand of hockey than he's shown previously with the orange and black.

With Streit, an offensive-minded blueliner, Provorov had to cover for his partner. Provorov also ran into some tough luck situations, too. Now with Manning, Provorov has the handcuffs off a little bit. Manning plays well positionally and while he has been more aggressive, he knows when to stay back, which will help Provorov.

It's another adjustment for the rookie. Through four games, he said, there haven't been any surprises in terms of his expectations for how the NHL game plays.

"I think what I expected is what I got," Provorov said. "It's the best league in the world, you expect all four lines to be great, you expect fast pace, physical game and that's what I got. I'm still learning, but I'm trying to do better as the games go on."

Provorov has one assist this season and enters Saturday as a minus-5, largely because of the Chicago game Tuesday. Hakstol praised Provorov's maturity level and ability to self-evaluate. What he hasn't done with Provorov is talk about numbers.

"There are some meaning in stats and we take the meaningful areas and apply those," Hakstol said. "But I haven't talked to any of the young guys about their statistics. We're four games in. I don't make too much of statistics right now. We're evaluating day-to-day play and looking at areas that we can use as strengths and areas individually we can improve."

Starting slow
If there has been one common theme through the first four games, it's the Flyers' poor starts. In first periods this season, they've been outscored, 6-1 (see game notes).

On Thursday night, the Flyers again came out of the gates slow. It was their first game back after a season-opening road trip out West, which Jakub Voracek said was a factor.

Voracek, who has four assists, said the burden falls on the individual player to focus on the small details and avoid committing mistakes.

"As a player, if you don't have that extra step, you just have to keep it simple," he said. "It's going to come around. The first 10 minutes, you have to make sure you don't make mistakes and I think that we were trying to do too much if we weren't feeling right. It showed last game against Anaheim. We were a half-a-step slower."

Four games isn't a large enough sample size for Hakstol to make a definite statement on the Flyers' first-period woes. The second-year coach said he'll have a better understanding where his team is at after the Carolina game.

"I think we'll answer that question after the start tonight," Hakstol said. "I think we'll get a fair evaluation of our starts after our start tonight, and if we have a problem, we'll know it after tonight. If we don't, we'll know that as well.

"Pretty clear, crystal clear, black and white in my mind. Tonight should tell else what type of team we are at the start of the hockey game."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Brayden Schenn-Claude Giroux-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Nick Cousins-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde-Boyd Gordon-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning

Nick Schultz-Mark Streit

G: Steve Mason

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Avoiding another bad 1st period

Flyers vs. Hurricanes
7 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30

Another season, another slow start for the Flyers.

After dropping their home opener Thursday, the Flyers (1-2-1) welcome the Hurricanes (1-1-2) to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night looking to snap a three-game losing skid.

Here are five things to know for Game 5 of 82.

1. Slow starts
Through four games, there are a few areas behind the Flyers' lousy start.

The defense continuing to abandon the goaltending and the lackluster power play are near the top of the list, but look no further than the first period of games.

The Flyers have been outscored, 6-1, in first periods through four games. Only Tampa Bay and Vancouver have scored fewer first-period markers with zero. The six first-period goals allowed are tied for the second most in the NHL. Only Calgary has more with seven.

It was an issue last season as well. In 2015-16, the Flyers were outscored, 62-50, in first periods, and the 50 goals ranked in the bottom five of the league. We've talked about slow starts in terms of wins-losses, but this issue extends to first periods too.

While the Flyers have exerted far greater efforts in second periods — leading the league with eight second-period tallies — getting behind so early results in playing from behind, and while resiliency is a trait of winning teams, it's ultimately cost them thus far.

On Saturday night, it doesn't get any easier for the Flyers, either. Carolina is an improved club from last season, which it, too, struggled scoring in opening periods.

That hasn't been the case this season. The 'Canes have outscored opponents, 5-2, in first periods, so it'll be important for the Flyers to come out of the gate with more authority.

2. Read-emption Song
One of the highlights of the early season for the Flyers has been the play of Matt Read.

Read scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season during the Flyers' 3-2 loss to the Ducks on Thursday, dusting off a play that brought back memories of years past.

The 30-year-old got behind the Anaheim defense on the backhand, drove to the net and deposited the puck into the net past John Gibson for a go-ahead score. It was very much a play we saw Read make a few years ago, but has been missing the last two seasons. Read came into training camp early this season hungrier than the previous two seasons, and on Wednesday, general manager Ron Hextall said Read knew he had to get back to the brand of hockey he was playing in 2013-14.

After the game Thursday, Read said his self-evaluation this offseason resulted in him realizing he has to get into the greasy areas to score and avoid playing the outside.

"I think that's something the last two years, I kind of faded away from, I was a perimeter player," Read said Thursday. "It's easy to be a perimeter player if you're going to be making plays and stuff like that. But if you want to score goals, you've got to get into those tough areas, be nasty around the net and battle for loose pucks."

3. Not so special
Special teams so often decide hockey games and it should factor into Saturday's game, too. Carolina comes into the game with a power play and penalty kill both in the top five.

The Hurricanes' man advantage has found twine five times in 16 chances, and their penalty kill has killed off 15 of 16 power plays against. On the other hand, the Flyers have had their struggles on special teams in the early going.

On Thursday night, the Flyers’ PP played a huge role in their loss. They finished 1 for 7 on the man advantage against Anaheim but were 1 for 5 in the second period alone. With Anaheim asking to be beaten, the Flyers couldn’t make the Ducks pay. 

“I thought we had pretty good power plays, our first power play,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought we had a good power play during the second, scored a good goal. Had opportunities to stretch to 3-1. It’s disappointing we couldn’t.

“We had one poor power play at the end of the first, where we weren’t able to get set up at all. Our power play was OK. The bigger thing for me is the goal we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals that as a team we can’t give up.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: It hasn't been the smoothest transition to the NHL for Ivan Provorov, one of two 19-year-olds on the roster. Provorov has shown glimpses, but there have been hiccups, as expected. He had a nightmare of a game in Chicago on Tuesday, and followed it up with a not-so-great effort against Anaheim. But we have to remember he's a teenage rookie. Patience is important. Still, the spotlight should remain on him Saturday. How does he respond after a pair of games in which he's made visible mistakes?

Hurricanes: Carolina has a few young players that are a joy to watch, but let’s highlight defenseman Justin Faulk, who quarterbacks the power play. The 24-year-old has a goal and three assists in four games, with two of the helpers coming on the man advantage. An extremely gifted blueliner, Faulk has scored 15 and 16 goals, respectively, the last two seasons, but that wasn’t enough to get him on Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey. We all know how that panned out.

5. This and that
• Read has 14 points in 20 career games against the Hurricanes.

• Dale Weise was suspended three games for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim defenseman Korbinian Holzer. Roman Lyubimov will replace Weise in the lineup.

• Carolina has killed off its last 11 penalties and has scored at least one power-play goal in three of its four games and two power-play goals in two of its four games.