Flyers open road trip with shutout win over Sens

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Flyers open road trip with shutout win over Sens

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA -- Bobby Ryan said earlier on Tuesday that he had a feeling Claude Giroux had left his funk behind and was about to get it going.

Giroux and his linemates -- Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek -- were the fireplugs for the Flyers in their 5-0 rout of the Senators (see Instant Replay).

That line had 13 shots, two goals and five points.

Giroux had four shots himself for the second game in succession -- a season first. He looked relaxed, too.

“The way we’re playing, we’re playing as a team and the way we should be playing and working hard,” Giroux said. “When you have Steve Mason behind you, it’s easy to play with confidence,” (see story).

The confidence they showed on the ice had a relaxing trickle-down effect on everyone. Even better, Giroux's line led the way on the backcheck with sticks in the lane, denying rushes and allowing the Flyers’ offensive chances off defensive transition.

That’s winning hockey.

“They played strong at start of the game to the end,” coach Craig Berube said. “I’m really impressed with the system play and the skating.

“It starts in the offensive zone where you’re not waiting. You are reloading already, getting back and putting pressure on them. Our defense can be aggressive and have good gaps because they know [the forwards] are getting back and make the play before they get into your own end. That’s the key.”

That defense fed the offense in this game. Even the power play scored twice.

“We buried our chances,” said Voracek, who had two goals (see story). “The last two games, we did that and it made the difference. It takes off some of the pressure from others.

“G wants to make a difference every game. When he doesn’t, he’s very hard on himself. Getting that monkey off his back really helped him a lot. We can play with a little less pressure ... we got to do it every night.”

Berube didn’t necessarily agree that having the top line scoring takes pressure off other lines but ... Brayden Schenn, Matt Read and Vinny Lecavalier all scored.

“Your top lines have to score -- that’s the way it is,” Berube said. “They are starting to produce now and getting results because of it. I don’t think it relieves pressure from anybody. We got lots of people who put the puck in the net, but their job is to play two-way hockey.”

Which is what the Flyers did on both sides of the puck.

“Since the coaching change, that’s the one thing they have preached to us -- have good sticks out there,” Read said.

“If you have the stick in the passing lane, they’re not going to make the play. They are going to try something and that’s how you create turnovers. That’s one thing we have to keep working hard at.”

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”

Flyers GM Ron Hextall on trade deadline: 'We're not buying'

Flyers GM Ron Hextall on trade deadline: 'We're not buying'

PITTSBURGH -- When asked Friday night at Heinz Field whether the Flyers would be buyers or sellers at next Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline, Ron Hextall didn’t flinch.
 
He was adamant he won’t be a buyer. He also intimated he’s looking to sell and that these next two games before the deadline could impact that decision.
 
“We’ll see,” Hextall said. “We’re not buying. I’ve said that for a while now. We’re not buying. We’ll see where we’re at in a couple days. Like I said, tomorrow’s a big game. I have ideas and we’ll execute them depending.
 
“We’ll be making calls and getting calls and we’ll see what’s out there and see where we’re at as a team in the standings and make the appropriate moves.”
 
The Flyers also play Colorado on Tuesday, the day before the deadline.

“It could have some effect, it could,” Hextall said on whether the next two games will impact his decision-making at the deadline. “We’ll watch the standings closely and what we’re doing tomorrow night.”

Hextall made his comments Friday night while the Flyers practiced on the outdoor ice at Heinz Field for Saturday’s Stadium Series game against the Penguins.
 
The most obvious candidates for the Flyers to move at the deadline are defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto and goalie Michal Neuvirth.
 
More than 10 NHL clubs have been scouting the Flyers regularly over the past month, home and away (see story).
 
Hextall has been saying for months he doesn’t like to make decisions based on “small samples.” Yet the Flyers have been very inconsistent the entire season, save for a 10-game win streak between November and mid-December.
 
They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Of those seven losses, they have scored one or no goals six times. What does that say?
 
“It tells me we have to be more consistent,” Hextall replied. “It tells me what we’re capable of and at times we’re not playing anywhere near to that level. That’s been frustrating.
 
“I like our team. We’ve got some good players, but the consistency part, we have to level that out for sure, especially from now to the end of the year.”
 
Some NHL clubs -- Pittsburgh last season and Chicago this season -- have promoted scores of younger players onto their roster. The Flyers promoted Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny this season.
 
Why not promote some players from the Phantoms right now?

“Not to make us a worse team,” Hextall said. “If we make something happen and if we can bring someone up and we take a lateral move, yeah, that’s kind of where you want to get to.

“That’s why you don’t want to bring kids up, 20-year-olds that aren’t ready to play. You mentioned Pitt there, their guys that helped them last year are all 23 now except for the goalie. Keep that in mind. They were kids, but 23-year-old kids.”

The Phantoms are having a good season. They could go far in the AHL playoffs. Hextall said that wouldn’t prevent him from bringing players up, even if it hurt the Phantoms’ chances.

“Is it a factor? I guess at the bottom,” Hextall said. “My job is to do what’s best for the Flyers. Part of what’s best for the Flyers is having the best team down there that we can have to grow kids in a winning environment.
 
“That’s part of it. I wouldn’t not bring a kid up that’s ready to play because he’d be leaving the Phantoms, assuming you have a roster spot and cap space and the things that come along with that.”
 
Loose pucks
Jordan Weal (concussion symptoms) could play Saturday Hextall said. ... Konecny (ankle and knee) is ahead of schedule and could be back in four weeks or less instead of six weeks. He skated at least four times this week on his own.