Flyers-Rangers: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Rangers: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers, who are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and off to the worst start in team history, are finally back in action Thursday night after a six-day break.

Coming to town are the reeling New York Rangers (2-5-0), who will play the eighth game of a nine-game road trip and are tied with the Flyers (1-7-0) for the fewest goals in the NHL this season with 11.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center (CSN), here are five things you need to know:

1) Lecavalier's new line
After missing three games with a lower-body injury, it appears Vinny Lecavalier is on track to make his return to the Flyers Thursday night.

In an attempt to get the offense going, head coach Craig Berube moved Lecavalier, who has been practicing with the team since Sunday, from his customary center position to the wing on Claude Giroux's line with Michael Raffl -- not Jakub Voracek -- during practice this week.

Lecavalier has played wing before as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Berube is hoping Lecavalier will spark the Flyers' top line, especially Giroux, who has yet to score a goal this season.

In his first five games in orange and black, Lecavalier had a goal and two assists and was one of the few players consistently generating scoring chances.

The 33-year-old should also boost the Flyers' struggling power play, which has scored just three goals on 33 chances this season. Both of Lecavalier's assists in the early going have come on the man advantage.

2) Switching it up
As mentioned above, the Flyers' power-play units have not been getting the job done.

If things stay the way they've been in practice this week, the Flyers' top unit will have Giroux, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds on offense with Mark Streit and Lecavalier on the point.

That means Kimmo Timonen, who has quarterbacked the club's top unit since coming over from Nashville in 2007, has been demoted for the first time in his Flyers career (see story).

Timonen had the third-most power-play points among defensemen a year ago with 17, but has failed to register a single point through eight games this season.

“I was just looking for a different setup,” Berube said after practice Wednesday (see story). “I wanted to get the ice times [down] with Kimmo. I want more 5-on-5 and penalty-kill minutes [for him] and [to] find more ice time for Streit on the power play. That is my thinking.”

3) Depleted Rangers
This is a game the Flyers have to capitalize on. The Rangers will be without arguably one of the best netminders in the world and three of their top forwards.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is listed as day to day with what the Rangers are calling a "minor issue." He allowed four goals on just 19 shots in his last start -- a 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils -- and aggravated an injury that caused him to miss practice time this week.

The Flyers should be happy to see Lundqvist sidelined, as the former Vezina winner has posted a 25-12-3-3 record with a 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 42 career regular-season games against the orange and black.

Also out for New York are captain Ryan Callahan (thumb), sniper Rick Nash (head) and speedster Carl Hagelin (shoulder).

The Flyers still need to keep an eye on forward Brad Richards, who has stepped up offensively after being a healthy scratch in parts of the playoffs last season. Richards is leading the Rangers in points (seven) and has four of the team's 11 goals.

4) Meet Cam Talbot
With Lundqvist out, rookie goaltender Cam Talbot will make his first-ever NHL start Thursday night.

The Rangers signed Talbot as a free agent back in 2010, but the netminder has spent most of his time in the AHL with the Connecticut Whale -- and now Hartford Wolfpack -- over the past few seasons.

After waiving former Flyer Martin Biron last week, the Rangers brought up Talbot to serve as Lundqvist's new backup.

The 26-year-old Talbot was impressive in the few games he played in the AHL this season, posting a 4-0-1 record, 2.49 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

Since Lundqvist won't dress, the Rangers are expected to recall Jason Missiaen to backup Talbot on Thursday.

5) This and that
• The Flyers went 2-3-0 against the Rangers last season, but won two out of three contests held at the Wells Fargo Center. Overall, New York has won 11 of the last 13 meetings between the two clubs.

• Voracek led the Flyers offensively against the Rangers last season, posting four goals and three assists in five games. Simmonds added three goals and three assists of his own.

• Derek Stepan had seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games against the Flyers last season.

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

Changes coming? Ron Hextall says Flyers 'not very happy right now'

WASHINGTON — As the Flyers filed into the visiting locker room of the Verizon Center, no temper tantrums were thrown, nor were any chairs.
 
In the end, “What good does that do?” head coach Dave Hakstol asked.
 
Instead, the Flyers’ dressing area Sunday felt like a morgue. Players quietly and somberly stuffed their gear away. Once all dispersed, in walked Ron Hextall — and none too pleased.
 
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks for us,” he said softly, “and quite honestly, we’re not very happy right now.”
 
For a man that loathes losing more than anyone, nobody expected him to be. That much was already understood during the third-period catastrophe of his team’s demoralizing 5-0 defeat to the Capitals.
 
What wasn’t known was what follows? The Flyers have gone from 10 consecutive victories — the franchise’s longest winning streak in 31 years — to 11 losses over the following 14 games and a state of dismay.
 
As the Flyers limp into their NHL mandated five-day bye week, do players sense an imminent shakeup within the roster?
 
“It’s a good question,” Claude Giroux said, “but I don’t know.”
 
Despite never losing his sense of prudence, Hextall ruled nothing out.
 
“Obviously we always keep an eye on the big club and the Phantoms, as well,” Hextall said. “Right now, we’re going to stick with what we’ve got here and move forward. But on a day-to-day basis, I always look at how we can make our club better and, if there’s something that we think makes our club better, we’ll do it."
 
If Hextall wants to add some fresh blood from within, the organization is not lacking for young and spry prospects full of energy down at Lehigh Valley, where the Phantoms are 24-10-2 and third among the entire AHL entering Monday.
 
For the Flyers, who have surrendered a league-worst 144 goals, could defensemen T.J. Brennan, Travis Sanheim or Robert Hagg be options? Brennan owns NHL experience, has 30 points and is a plus-10 with Lehigh Valley. Sanheim, a big and touted prospect, is also a plus-10 to go along with seven goals and 11 assists. And Hagg, a seasoned 21-year-old, is “just about NHL-ready,” according to Flyers assistant general manager Chris Pryor, via ESPN’s Craig Custance (see Future Flyers Report).
 
“The worst thing you can do is overreact when things aren’t going right and that’s not going to happen,” Hextall said. “But if we can find a way to make ourselves better, we will.”
 
Hextall’s biggest gripe with his current team is its dearth of mental fortitude.
 
“Right now we’re making a lot of mental mistakes and it’s killing us,” he said.
 
And then it snowballs, Hextall said, which good teams prevent from happening.
 
“When things are going wrong, all of a sudden something happens and things tend to really go wrong,” he said. “That’s where we have to get better. Mentally we have to be better, have to be better. If something goes wrong, let’s move on. It happened a lot earlier in the year where things go wrong and we fought through it. Right now, the negative energy seems to be a landslide.”
 
Following the meltdown in Washington, players didn’t question the effort.
 
“We care,” Michael Del Zotto said. “No one likes losing. It’s not fun for anyone. But sometimes effort's not enough. Everyone wants to win in this league. It's a matter of execution. Whether it's offensively or defensively in all situations, we're not doing it.”
 
Hextall believes the effort has been “sufficient.”
 
“Again, the mental mistakes,” he said. “It seems like when something goes against us, it goes against us hard and that’s something we’ve got to battle through. You can’t let a little bit of adversity turn into a lot of adversity. You’ve got to nip it in the bud and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
 
As for the leadership structure and coaching, Hextall defended both.
 
“Our leaders haven’t been good enough. Neither have our lesser guys,” Hextall said. “Nobody’s been good enough right now. You don’t win 10 and then go through a stretch like this without responsibility being everywhere.
 
“Line changes, different D combinations, flipping [Steve Mason] and [Michal Neuvirth]. Everything that’s there, Hak has tried. In the end, it comes down to our whole group just being better and not reacting the way we do when something negative happens. That’s the game of sports, right?”
 
The game goes away for the Flyers this week (see 10 observations). When it returns, who knows which team we’ll see.
 
“We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror, hold ourselves accountable,” Del Zotto said. “As far as changes and personnel moves, that's out of our control.”
 
That, of course, is up to Hextall.
 
“We’ve got to keep our heads now,” the GM said. “Nobody’s going to get us out of this. It’s the whole group. This isn’t about one thing or one move or one player not playing or one player playing. This is about our whole group.”