Flyers-Penguins: 5 things you need to know


Flyers-Penguins: 5 things you need to know

It's the game hockey fans of Pennsylvania have been waiting for.

The Flyers (1-6-0) welcome Sidney Crosby and the Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins (5-1-0) to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time this season on Thursday night.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. (CSN), so here are five things you need to know before the Flyers and Penguins renew one of the best rivalries in the NHL:

1) Dynamic duo
If there's one thing the Flyers have learned over the past few seasons when playing the Penguins, it's not to give Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin time to work their magic.

Crosby has eye-popping stats against the Flyers in his career. The Penguins' captain has collected 28 goals, 43 assists and a plus-seven rating in 43 regular-season games against the orange and black.

Now in his ninth NHL season, Crosby is off to an incredible start. No. 87 has an NHL-best 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and has registered at least one point in each of Pittsburgh's first six games.

If Crosby wasn't enough, the Flyers also have to keep an eye on Malkin. In 39 regular-season games against the Flyers, the Russian has scored 21 goals and assisted 34 more.

Malkin didn't score until the Penguins' fourth game of the season, but he is back at a point-per-game pace after earning two goals and three assists in his last four contests.

2) Stepping up
In just two games this season, Tye McGinn has accounted for 30 percent of the Flyers' goals. Sure, the Flyers have just 10 markers in seven games, but McGinn has done much more in his short time with the big club.

McGinn has provided the Flyers with a ton of energy since being called up from the Adirondack Phantoms. The 23-year-old has been throwing his body around, driving the net hard and, most importantly, putting the puck in the net.

With injuries to Vinny Lecavalier (lower body) and Scott Hartnell (upper body), McGinn has also sparked the Flyers' top line. Since McGinn's promotion, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have combined for four assists.

Lecavalier shouldn't be out of the lineup much longer, but Hartnell is still a few weeks away from returning.

If McGinn continues to contribute, it's going to be hard for general manager Paul Holmgren to send the forward back down. It's also worth noting that McGinn has six goals in just 20 career NHL games.

3) Don't worry about Read
Matt Read may not have a point this season, but the 27-year-old has been one of the best forwards for the Flyers in the early going.

Read, who signed a four-year, $14.5 million contract extension this past offseason, has been thrust into a much different role since Craig Berube took over as head coach.

Now skating on a line with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot, Read is being relied on for a more defensive-minded game, mostly playing against the opposing team's top line.  

That hasn't stopped Read from generating scoring chances. He has a team-high 23 shots on goal through seven games.

If he continues to fire the puck, the goals will come. You may not see his name on the scoresheet, but that doesn't mean he isn't making an impact.

4) Powerless
The Penguins shouldn't be concerned if they go a man down on Thursday night.

The Flyers have not scored a power-play goal in 17 straight chances. On the season, the orange and black have converted just two of their 29 attempts on the man advantage.

In case you were wondering, Pittsburgh has successfully killed off 14 of its 18 penalties through six games.

5) This and that
• The Penguins have scored at least three goals in every game this season. In comparison, the Flyers have failed to score more than two goals in a single game through seven contests.

• Pittsburgh will be without Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defenseman Kris Letang (lower body) and forwards Matt D'Agostini (lower body), James Neal (upper body) and Beau Bennett (lower body) for Tuesday's game.

• The Flyers went 1-2-1 against the Penguins last season. They were outscored 15-12 in those games.

• Pittsburgh's leading scorer against the Flyers in last season's series was ... defenseman Paul Martin (one goal, five assists). Crosby (one goal, four assists) and Chris Kunitz (three goals, one assist) were both minus-4.

• Voracek netted five goals and assisted one more in four games against the Pens last season. Giroux, who has a 10-game point streak against the Pens, added two markers and three helpers in the same number of contests. 

Don't expect Brandon Manning to lose his role when Radko Gudas returns

Don't expect Brandon Manning to lose his role when Radko Gudas returns

MONTREAL — It figures to be the hardest decision that Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has to make, but if Radko Gudas is to enter the lineup Tuesday against Buffalo, someone has to come out.
And what happens with the Flyers tonight in Montreal could impact that.
A year ago, in the blink of an eye, people would suggest Brandon Manning as the obvious pick to exit the lineup.
Yet since the preseason, the guy they call “Man Dog” — sometimes Hakstol refers to him as “Mad Dog” — has been the Flyers' best two-way defenseman. And he’s done it despite suffering a left shoulder injury in training camp.
Hakstol has so much faith in Manning that he switched up rookie Ivan Provorov so the 26-year-old Manning could settle the 19-year-old down. Given the ages here, that’s saying something.
Manning admits he felt honored being asked to be a mentor.
“As a young player, I’ve been in the same situation,” he said. “Obviously, last year being my rookie season, it was different.
“But just being a little older, having a lot of experience in the American League, I just wanted to make him comfortable out there. Make it as easy as possible for him.”
Through five games, Manning has a goal and four points and is a team-high plus-5. While the Flyers may have missed Gudas' physical edge, there’s no way Manning will be the odd man out “if” Hakstol makes a lineup change against the Sabres.
Even if he does make a move, Manning is supremely confident he’s earned his keep. He has been defensively sound without the puck, challenging entries at the blue line, handling his man down low and generating offense when he has a chance.
The Flyers gave him a two-year, $1.95 million contract in July to avoid an arbitration hearing.
“My attitude after I got the new contract was I wanted to present myself as a top-six D-man,” Manning said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘He’s a seven or eight,’ but I don’t listen to that stuff.
“Coming into the season, I saw myself as a top-six guy, I felt good in the playoffs ... just continue to get better and grow.”
Hakstol says he’s seen significant growth in Manning’s game.
“Steady improvement,” Hakstol said. “Last year was the first time he was able to get into a stretch of games. He knows he is in the lineup and what his role is.
“You got to be careful about reading into the last couple months of last season because sometimes that doesn’t carry over. But we see continued, confident, reliable, two-way play out of Mad Dog. He continued that again the other night [against Carolina].”
Hakstol said he liked the result of moving Mark Streit back with his old partner, Nick Schultz, and giving Manning a rookie to school a bit.

“They were a solid pair,” he said.
The Flyers' lineup tonight against Les Canadiens is unchanged from Carolina.
Manning says he has seen the biggest improvement in his play when compared to two years ago. Playing consistently in the lineup since last season has allowed his game to evolve a bit.
Manning came here in the fall of 2010 as an undrafted free agent and had already played more than three seasons in the Western Hockey League, where he began his pro career. By 2011, he was with the Phantoms. There were Flyer call-ups here and there but nothing of substance until last season, when he played 56 games in the NHL, largely because of injuries across Hakstol’s blue line. He and Gudas were a strong pairing from early-February to season’s end.
“The finish last year gave me a lot of confidence,” Manning said. “This year, more ice time, a little 4-on-4, playing on the penalty kill allows you to become more involved in the game.
“I’ve taken that on and tried to build off it. If you look at my career from junior, I’ve gotten better every single year.”
As for the nickname, it was one of the few lasting treasures left behind by Harry Zolnierczyk during the Peter Laviolette era. Except some people still call him Mad Dog, which is why Manning wears an undergarment that says “Man Dog.”
“Last year, Hak and Lappy started called me Mad Dog and then sometimes it’s Man Dog,” Manning. “I think he should know. It’s on my shirt.”
Hakstol is aware.
“He has a nickname and I have mine [for him],” Hakstol laughed.
Dale Weise’s three-game suspension won’t end until after the Buffalo game. He still has declined to talk about it.
His previous suspension was in 2013, when he was in Vancouver and had an illegal hit on Taylor Hall during an exhibition game.
Weise admits he badly wanted to play tonight against his former club.
“I look forward to playing here but we play here [again] in two weeks,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t come here twice a year.
“If it had been the end of the year, I would have been a little upset. It’s nice to come back in two weeks.”
F: Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
D: MacDonald-Gostisbehere
G: Mason

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

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

The Flyers’ mettle will be tested this week with a stretch of five games in seven days.

That’s a lot of pucks.

It starts Monday night when the Flyers (2-2-1) visit the hot-starting Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1) at the Bell Centre.

Let’s get you set with five things to know for the matchup:

1. Goals, goals, goals
There should be an abundance of them Monday night.

The Canadiens are scoring an NHL-most 4.00 goals per game while the Flyers, coming off a six-goal outburst, are third at 3.80.

Montreal has been scary good through five games. Not only are the Canadiens lighting the lamp at a league-best clip, but they’re also allowing the fewest goals per game at 1.60 a night. They have hockey’s No. 1 goal differential (plus-11) and No. 8 penalty kill, having thwarted 23 of 25 opponents' power plays (92.0 percent).

The Canadiens' offseason additions of defenseman Shea Weber and backup goalie Al Montoya have paid instant dividends. Weber, acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent P.K. Subban to the Predators, has one goal, four assists and leads all NHL blueliners with a plus-8 rating. Montoya, who filled in early for a flu-stricken Carey Price, is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. Price, the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy winner (NHL MVP), looks in form after playing just 12 games last season because of a knee injury.

2. A fresher Ghost
Shayne Gostisbehere went off for three points (one goal, two assists) in the Flyers’ 6-3 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, his biggest output of the season.

It just so happened to come in a game in which Gostisbehere registered his lowest ice time of the season at 16:45, a significant drop from his previous low of 20:57. Before the defenseman’s three-point game, Gostisbehere played an average of 23:14 over the prior three games while totaling one point and a minus-3 rating.

Is it a coincidence Gostisbehere’s best game yet was in far less ice time? Maybe, but the 23-year-old is playing the Flyers’ most minutes (21:29 per game) after undergoing offseason surgery and finishing the longest year of his hockey life.

Defensemen Mark Streit (22:45), Nick Schultz (19:44) and Brandon Manning (18:41) all played season highs in minutes on Saturday, and there’s no way that was by mistake.

If head coach Dave Hakstol can manage Gostisbehere’s ice time and not rely so heavily on the second-year blueliner, it can only help the Flyers. A more rested Gostisbehere is a better Gostisbehere — and we all know how vital the 2015-16 Calder Trophy runner-up is to the Flyers’ power-play success, as well as defensive coverage.

3. Stop and start
Speaking of defensive coverage, while the Flyers are scoring quite a bit, they’re not stopping anyone. The orange and black are surrendering 3.80 goals per game — tied for fifth-most in the NHL — which is exactly what they score on average.

The Flyers can’t consistently bank on winning goal-fests.

Starting fast will be critical against the Canadiens, who close games as well as anyone. Montreal is outscoring its opposition 17-6 through the second and third periods. The Flyers have just one goal in the first period.

Facing this Habs team, it’ll be problematic if the Flyers fail to get going early.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Matt Read, why not? With five goals, the 30-year-old is astoundingly tied for second in the NHL with Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews. Last season, it took Read 29 games to score five goals. The previous season, he needed 56 games. This year, just five. Until he comes back to Earth, Read will be worth watching as much as any other Flyer.

Canadiens: The 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk racked up career highs last season in goals (30) and points (56). To start this season, the 2012 No. 3 overall pick has a goal and four assists in five games. Young and offensive-minded, Galchenyuk has given the Flyers trouble in the past with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 career games against them.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason has played in the Flyers’ last four games with three starts and one relief appearance. Michal Neuvirth has not played since last Tuesday. He is 6-4-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 13 lifetime games against Montreal.

• Price is 11-9-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .916 save percentage in 21 career games against the Flyers.

• Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in points with seven but is third in the NHL in penalty minutes with 24.

• The Canadiens have won three straight games by a combined score of 13-4.

• Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee) and forward Scott Laughton (knee) returned to practice on Sunday.