Flyers-Predators: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Predators: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Predators
1 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (24-23-11) welcome the NHL-best Nashville Predators (39-13-6) to the Wells Fargo Center for the first of back-to-back matinees.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. New look
After Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres, Flyers head coach Craig Berube decide to debut a new set of lines at Friday's practice.

And for the first time this season, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will not start a game on the same line.

Voracek will begin Saturday's tilt against the Predators with Sean Couturier and Matt Read, while Giroux will center Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds.

Since the All-Star break, Voracek has only two points in five games, with a goal against the Sabres on Thursday. He entered the break leading the NHL in scoring, but now sits tied in third with Alex Ovechkin, who the Flyers will see Sunday, with 61 points. As for Giroux, the captain still remains without an even-strength goal at the Wells Fargo Center this season — he has seven power-play goals at home. He has just one point since the break, an assist in the Flyers' 4-3 overtime loss in Columbus on Feb. 13.

"With the two games upcoming here (against Nashville and Washington), it will loosen one of them up against some checking, to be honest," Berube said. “There’s real good defense the next two games. They’re a little cold right now.”

(Berube also made a change on the blue line: Andrew MacDonald in, Luke Schenn out.)

2. Missing Mase
The Flyers come into Saturday getting points in 11 of their last 13 games. They've clawed their way back into playoff contention with six points behind the Bruins, who lost Friday.

But it's not all good for the orange and black. Since Steve Mason went down against the Caps on Feb. 8, the Flyers have only won once, which came against the Sabres. They've lost their last three home games. They're 1-1-3 in their last five games. They've given up 35 goals in their last 15 games. Ray Emery has a career 3.47 goals-against average and .858 save percentage against the Preds, including yielding three goals in a 4-1 loss in Nashville on Dec. 27.

And on Saturday, they're tasked with playing a team that is 15-6-1 against the Eastern Conference this season.

3. Lavy's way
Nashville is known for its defense and its goaltending. It always has been. Mostly its defense. It's very good. The Predators have always produced quality NHL defenders (hello Kimmo Timonen). But this season, in his first season as head coach, Peter Laviolette has scratched some offense out of his club.

The Predators enter Saturday seventh in the NHL with 172 goals, potting 2.97 goals per game. James Neal has 21 goals. Filip Forsberg has 20 goals. They could have four 20-goal scorers by the end of the week, as Colin Wilson has 18 and Craig Smith has 17. They have eight players with double-digit goals. Sound familiar? It should. Laviolette's teams do this.

Laviolette's system produces goals. It did with the Flyers, and it's doing so with the Preds. Nashville leads the NHL with 84 points for a reason. It has a perfect blend of offense, defense and goaltending. If Laviolette had half of the defense he does in Nashville with the Flyers, he'd most likely still be here and the Flyers could have won a Stanley Cup.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: For the first time in his career, Ryan White enters riding a three-game point streak. Against the Sabres on Thursday, White was the team's most effective forward. He created scoring chances and brought energy to a team that was lacking it against the Sabres, and he's done so since he was called up to the team on Jan. 26. White will play with R.J. Umberger and Brayden Schenn, as he did Thursday. Let's see if White's energy can raise Schenn and Umberger's play. It would be a welcomed jolt for the Flyers.

Predators: How good has Pekka Rinne been this season? The 32-year-old is second to Montreal's Carey Price with a 2.01 GAA and .934 save percentage, and leads the league with 34 wins. Rinne has bounced back big time after an injury-riddled 2013-14 season. He's back in the Vezina Trophy chatter, and has the Predators atop the NHL. The Preds are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Nashville is playing back-to-back contests, so Rinne might get Saturday's game off. If he does, watch Shea Weber. Here are 108.5 (mph) reasons why.

5. This and that
• Via Associated Press, the Flyers have 20 second-period power-play goals this season, which is impressive, but 20 power-play tallies combined in the first and third period.

• Since joining the Preds in the 2011, Mike Fisher has three goals and three assists against the Flyers. Want more on Fisher? Google "Mike Fisher, Carrie Underwood and Hilary Duff."

• Wayne Simmonds is on a six-game point streak. He has eight points during the span. In his last 10 games, he has six goals and 12 points.

• James Neal has four goals in his last five games, and four goals in his last five trips to Philadelphia. He became the first ever player to be fined for diving this season. Flyers fans remember him mostly for this.

• Defenseman Cody Franson and center Mike Santorelli, both acquired from Toronto for Olli Jokinen-plus, will make their Predators debut against the Flyers. Franson had six goals and 31 points with the Leafs and Santorelli recorded 11 and 18, respectively.

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier know Flyers by now, ready for anything at NHL draft

Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier know Flyers by now, ready for anything at NHL draft

CHICAGO — Nico Hischier was nervous, swaying a bit as he spoke to the media, admitting he had some jitters as this NHL draft approaches on Friday.

About 60 feet away, Nolan Patrick leaned on a stick and said not only was he not nervous, he also really couldn't care less whether he's picked first overall Friday by New Jersey or second by the Flyers because his goal is just to get into the NHL.

"Doesn't matter to me," Patrick said Thursday. "A lot of guys will tell you what you want to hear. That they don't care, but deep down, they do.

"I don't care. It's not going to change my chances in the NHL if I go No. 1 or 4. I'm gonna take it. Where I go is not gonna help me any more. At the end of the day, I've got to work hard."

That said, Hischier is poised to become the highest-drafted Swiss player ever and if he went first overall …

"I would make history and that would make me proud," Hischier beamed. "Really happy, for sure."

Both players participated in Thursday's ball-hockey clinic in a parking lot just across the street from United Center where one of them will go to the Devils and one to the Flyers on Friday night.

"Yeah, I little bit nervous," Hischier admitted. "It's not up to me. I just have to enjoy it."

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall took both players out to dinner separately in Buffalo, New York, earlier this month at the NHL Scouting Combine to try and get a peek behind their personalities (see story).

"We talked about Philadelphia, talked about the club, the goals, what's important for them," Hischier said. "It was good dinner and went well."

Patrick, who is from Winnipeg, Manitoba, said he was impressed with the steakhouse and said what he liked best about the meal was getting into arguments with fellow Manitoban, Hextall, who is from Brandon.

"He's a really nice guy," Patrick said. "It was a fancy steakhouse. I'll take those dinners any day. He knows what he is doing in Philly. If I were lucky enough to go there, I'd be happy.

"I know all about him. He's a Brandon Wheat King. Us Manitobans always going at each other. We got into a few arguments about some of his guys. Manitoba is the best place in the world."

Right now, for a couple hundred hockey players, Chicago is the best place in the world because this is the NHL draft and what happens Friday and Saturday will impact their lives forever.

Which is why Hischier brought his older brother, Luca, here. He plays for Bern in Switzerland where Hischier also was before transferring to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to play for Halifax this past season.

"My idol is my brother," Nico said. "He is playing pro in Bern. We have a good relationship. I'm happy he is here because I can ask him everything, on and off the ice."

Both players have some Flyers familiarity.

Hischier skated with Mark Streit last summer but hasn't talked to him since.

"Last summer, I skated with Streit, [Roman] Josi, [Shea] Weber and those guys," Hischier said. "It was fun."

Patrick played with Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov two years ago in Brandon.

"Talked to Provy two weeks ago," Patrick said. "I was talking to Brayden Schenn the last couple days. Provy works out 10 hours a day."

A few weeks from now, one of these guys will be at the Flyers' developmental camp working out in Skate Zone.

"It's not up to me," Hischier said. "I don't focus on expectations, I don't focus on teams. Everything can happen.

"I'm going to be open for everything and happy, for sure. If it's No. 2 or 3, I'm gonna be happy anyway."

Flyers begin 2017-18 season out West, face Vegas for 1st time in February

Flyers begin 2017-18 season out West, face Vegas for 1st time in February

For the second straight year, the Flyers are beginning the season out West.

The NHL on Thursday released its 2017-18 schedule and as reported Wednesday, the Flyers open the season in San Jose on Oct. 4 as part of a four-game road trip that includes games in Los Angeles, Anaheim and concludes in Nashville on Oct. 10.

They'll return home on Oct. 14 for their home opener against the Washington Capitals that kickstarts a five-game homestand (see story). The Flyers will host the Islanders on Black Friday.

Flyers fans will have to wait a while for their first taste of the Vegas Golden Knights. The Flyers will face the Golden Knights for the first time on Feb. 11 in Vegas.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and the Golden Knights come to Philadelphia on March 12.

The Flyers will end the season at home against the New York Rangers.

You can see the Flyers' full schedule here (and buy tickets here).