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.

Future Flyers Report: Robert Hagg has 'made big strides,' AGM Chris Pryor says

Future Flyers Report: Robert Hagg has 'made big strides,' AGM Chris Pryor says

The Flyers are mercifully on their league-mandated five-day bye week after dropping back-to-back games last weekend by a combined score, 11-3. They need the time off.

As the bye week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we highlight a 2013 second-round pick whom the Flyers believe is on the brink of reaching the NHL and much more in this week’s Future Flyers Report.

Robert Hagg, D, 6-1/191, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Hagg has been an interesting prospect to follow this season, especially considering the down year he had last season in Lehigh Valley and that he often gets lost in the conversation when discussing Flyers’ defensive prospects. That should change.

The 21-year-old has “made big strides,” Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor told ESPN.com’s Craig Custance last week. Pryor had been the Flyers’ director of scouting since 2006 before earning the promotion to AGM this year and has been with the team since 1999. Pryor also told ESPN the Flyers believe Hagg is “just about NHL-ready.”

Pryor’s comments fall in line with what general manager Ron Hextall told Phantoms broadcaster Bob Rotruck Dec. 14 that Hagg has taken “the kind of step we were hoping he’d take last year.” The Flyers are high on the 2013 second-round draft pick.

In his third professional year, Hagg’s two-way style doesn’t garner much flash, but he does a lot of things well when he keeps his game simple and asserts himself. That has been the case this season, and his development has caught the eyes of Flyers’ front office.

During the Phantoms’ 6-4 loss to the Hershey Bears on Saturday night, Hagg snapped a five-game pointless streak in picking up his third assist of the season — fifth point. Hagg made a quick pass in the neutral zone to Greg Carey to keep the Phantoms’ pressure going, and Carey eventually deposited the puck into the Hershey net.

Often the forgotten defensive prospect, Hagg appears to pushing hard for an NHL spot sooner rather than later. With a few blueliners coming off the books after this season, Hagg is a legitimate candidate to be apart of the Flyers’ top-six in 2017-18.

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/201, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
With Anthony Stolarz back in the mix, Lyon understands it’s back to a healthy competition between the pipes for the Phantoms and he’s welcomed the battle.

Lyon told Highland Park Hockey last week that the playing time he’s acquired in the last month when Stolarz was with the Flyers gave him “a little bit of fuel for the fire.” Lyon went on to say the competition between the two will allow them to “push each other.”

Last week, the Phantoms decided to split the weekend with Lyon and Stolarz, who stopped 15 of 17 shots in Lehigh Valley’s 6-2 win over Hershey on Friday. Lyon got the nod Saturday, and the Bears scored five goals on 26 shots on the first-year pro.

Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon has a good problem to have — two strong goalies at the AHL level in Lyon and Stolarz. It’s similar to what the Flyers have at the NHL level with Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth, except the NHL goalies are struggling right now.

With Mason and Neuvirth both on the final years of their contracts, Stolarz figures to have a spot on the Flyers’ roster next season after he showed enough in his call-up last month. But don’t overlook Lyon, who is on a one-year contract and the Flyers like him.

Samuel Dove-McFalls, C, 6-2/207, Saint John’s (QMJHL)
A 2015 fourth-round pick, Dove-McFalls has been centering the Sea Dogs’ third line, and last week, in a 7-6 loss to Cape Breton, he picked up his ninth goal of the year, which knotted the game at five in the third period. Dove-McFalls won 15 of his 20 faceoffs against the Screaming Eagles. He has four points in his last six games, and goals in three of those six games. Overall, he has 31 points in 40 games for Saint John’s.

Quick hits
• Phantoms defenseman Travis Sanheim continues to tear apart the AHL, picking up two more goals in Lehigh Valley’s 6-4 loss to Hershey on Saturday. Sanheim has three goals in his last three games, and seven goals in his last 13 games.

• It might be time for AHL players to stop trying to pick fights with Sam Morin, who bloodied Hershey’s Garrett Mitchell in a fight on Saturday night.

• Rouyn-Noranda’s Philippe Myers remains out with a concussion, but did enough at the world juniors to impress TSN’s Bob McKenzie, who think Myers is NHL ready.

German Rubtsov has yet to suit up for a game with Chicoutimi. Rubtsov got out of his KHL contract last week, but did undergo surgery to repair a broken nose last Monday.

• Victoriaville’s Pascal Laberge had a goal and an assist in the Tigres’ 3-2 win over Halifax on Sunday. Laberge, who has dealt with some head injuries this season, has five goals and 17 points in 23 games with Victoriaville.

• In two games since returning to Everett from the world juniors, Carter Hart has pitched a shutout and was plastered for four goals. He made 22 saves in blanking Kamloops, 4-0, on Friday, but gave up four goals on 38 shots in a 4-3 loss to Seattle on Saturday.

•  Calgary traded Carsen Twarynski to the Kelowna Rockets at last week’s WHL trade deadline. Twarynski picked up an assist Friday, his second game with the Rockets.

 Felix Sandstrom made 15 saves and yielded two goals in his first game with Brynäs IF since returning from the world juniors, a 3-0 loss to Djurgårdens IF on Saturday.

• Michigan center Cooper Marody centered the Wolverines’ top line last week in back-to-back weekend losses No. 9 Minnesota. Marody was held pointless.

Tanner Laczynski picked up an assist in No. 10 Ohio State’s 6-1 win over Arizona State on Friday, his first game back since the world juniors. He was pointless Saturday.

• Clarkson defenseman Terrance Amorosa had his first two-assist game since the season opener in the Golden Knights’ 7-2 rout of Brown on Saturday night.

• Not the best week for Merrick Madsen, who was pulled in No. 2 Harvard’s 4-0 loss to Rensselaer on Friday after allowing four goals on 20 shots. He picked up another loss Saturday, when Harvard fell, 2-1, to No. 11 Union, but he was stronger with 20 saves.

• Western Michigan’s Wade Allison picked up his 10th collegiate goal in the No. 14-ranked Broncos’ 7-2 loss to No. Denver on Saturday night.

Flyers Notes: Shayne Gostisbehere upbeat, focused after second benching

Flyers Notes: Shayne Gostisbehere upbeat, focused after second benching

WASHINGTON – Shayne Gostisbehere was back in the Flyers' lineup on Sunday against the Capitals after his second benching this season Saturday afternoon in Boston.
 
He had two shots during a minus-2 showing in which he played 21:22.
 
While you can question some of Dave Hakstol’s benchings this season from the standpoint that certain players – Andrew MacDonald comes to mind – seem immune to punishment, it’s perhaps reassuring to find that it doesn’t seem to be hurting the confidence level of young players such as Ghost or even rookie Travis Konecny.
 
At least, from what you can see on the outside and from what they say themselves to the media.
 
Sunday’s 5-0 humiliation to the Capitals (see game recap) - the Flyers' fourth loss in five games - could call for a full team benching, but that’s another story.
 
As for Ghost, who sat out Saturday’s 6-3 loss in Boston, he didn’t seem scared by the benching.
 
“You could let it rattle you,” Gostisbehere said. “You could let it set you back, but I am going out there and gonna do whatever it takes to help the team. That’s the biggest thing. If that’s me being in the press box, then that’s me in the press box.
 
“I’m here to help the team in any way possible. Right now, it’s just getting back to work and doing the little things. It’s not going to come easy. That is something that me personally, and a lot of us have to look at.”
 
General manager Ron Hextall danced around the question of whether Hakstol’s benching of young players is a good or bad thing.
 
Hextall did say he thought that Konecny has been a “better” player since his benching, which came in San Jose on Dec. 30, a game in which the Flyers could have sorely used more offense during a 2-0 loss to the Sharks.
 
Gostisbehere echoed the thoughts of a number of Flyers, suggesting their five-day “bye” week which starts Monday would be a good time to look in the mirror, think about what has transpired recently, come back and be ready to go again with a fresh attitude and clean slate.
 
The Flyers can’t practice during this period. They will regroup at Skate Zone on Friday afternoon before hosting New Jersey on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center.
 
A good time for this break?
 
“Totally,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s huge for us, but it can work against you a little bit. We got to be smart about it obviously and come back hungry and ready to go.”
 
Gostisbehere correctly picked up on what has become a common thread in many of the Flyers' losses since their 10-game win streak ended.  One or two mistakes after a good period and things go completely awry.
 
“A relapse like that, the puck is in the back of our net,” he said. “It’s just repeatedly happening and something we have to fix. Something we have to focus on during the break and look into the mirror.
 
“Not just go back to work, but work hard. It doesn’t come to us. It’s something that were realizing. We got to get back to doing little things right.”
 
Shots
The Flyers held Washington to 10 shots in the first two periods on Sunday. That set a season low for shots allowed through 40 minutes. The previous low was 11 to Montreal through two periods on Nov. 5.
 
Shutouts
This was the fourth time this season the Flyers have been shut out this season. They also became the fourth team to be shut out by Washington since Dec. 31.
 
Over the Caps' current nine-game win streak, the Flyers are sixth team in which the Capitals scored five or more goals against. That includes a 6-0 win over Chicago and a 5-0 win over Columbus.