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.

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. William Meyers may have saved Nolan Patrick’s career June 13 when the 18-year-old NHL prospect elected to have corrective surgery on a core muscle injury that had been bothering him for the better part of the past year.

Prior to his initial visit to Philadelphia, Patrick believed he was fully healthy when he went through comprehensive testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in May, but his time on the ice told a much different story.

“I was probably 60 percent when I first started playing and maybe got up to 70, 75 tops,” Patrick said at development camp earlier this month. “I never had any wind during games. I’d lose my energy really quick because I’d lose it trying to skate with that injury. Probably 75 tops, I’d say.”

But what Patrick was completely unaware of, as are the many doctors who perform these core muscle surgeries, is the prevalence of how these complex injuries are misinterpreted. The Flyers' rookie should have had a typical four-to-six week recovery last summer, and any setback likely would have been avoided. 

Patrick’s first operation took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, by Dr. James Robinson who, according to Patrick’s agent Kevin Epp, came recommended from the Jets' organization.

“I don’t think it had time to heal,” Epp said Monday in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. “Nolan got the surgery to fix the injured area at the time. I don’t know if both sides needed repair. Through the course of rehab he may have aggravated the other side.” 

“It’s tough to explain but it’s a sharp, shooting pain in your lower stomach," Patrick said. “I had it on both sides for a while there. I got one side fixed and then was having issues on that side again."

Whether Patrick was misdiagnosed or the procedure and subsequent rehabilitation were mishandled is certainly open for debate.

In speaking with Meyers of the Vincera Institute, he could not discuss specifically Patrick’s injury or his surgery, but said he performs “on average 10 procedures during a regular clinical day” in which the original surgeon failed to correct the problem area and the result is either a re-aggravation or the development of another injury altogether.

“The number one cause is a failure to understand that the prevalent concepts of ‘hernias’ have nothing to do with these injuries,” Meyers said.

Meyers believes the reason why core muscle injuries aren’t performed correctly are three-fold:  

• A general failure to understand the whole concept of the core muscle region (the area from mid abdomen to mid thigh).  

• A lack of knowledge regarding the anatomy.

• Very little experience seeing a variety of core muscle injuries and correlating that with the imaging. 

Over the past 35 years, Meyers has dedicated his medical career to the complex field of core muscle injuries, and what he has witnessed is a very disturbing trend. He’s the pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of core muscle injuries, working primarily in his two-story complex at the Navy Yard. 

“The reason why I got into this area was so many hockey players in the 1980s were forced to retire too early because of these [core muscle] injuries," Meyers said. "It was, at that time, the number one reason why they retired.”

Perhaps the one popular Flyer whose career succumbed to persistent groin pain was Mikael Renberg, who retired in 2008 at the age of 35 after undergoing three separate groin procedures over a 12-year span.

Patrick saved himself the agony and was thoroughly convinced a corrective procedure performed by Meyers prior to the draft was vital to his career, regardless of who selected him.

The Flyers were also convinced. Patrick didn’t have an injury history, just history of an injury that never healed in the first place. 

Thankfully, they knew the one doctor who could get down to the core of the problem.

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.