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.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Jonathan Bernier

Each day this week until July 1, the day free agency begins, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile the five best goalie options for the Flyers on the open market and project their likelihood of signing.

Jonathan Bernier
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 184
Last team: Anaheim Ducks
2016-17 cap hit: $4.15 million

Scouting report
After being drafted 11th overall in 2006, Bernier was a highly-touted goaltender coming up in the Los Angeles Kings system and performed well in a backup role for five seasons in L.A.

But with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, Bernier was blocked from getting a viable opportunity to be a No. 1 with the Kings. In June 2013, they shipped him to Toronto.

Bernier did not capitalize on his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, however. He never established himself as a high-end starting goalie in three seasons despite a strong first year.

In 2013-14, Bernier was 26-19-7 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .923 save percentage with the Leafs but that save percentage continually dropped the next two years.

Toronto decided to cut ties with Bernier after the 2015-16 season and traded him to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick. He spent last season backing up John Gibson.

Appearing in 39 games last season for the Ducks, Bernier posted a 21-7-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

One note about Bernier: Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was an assistant GM in Los Angeles when the Kings drafted him in 2006, so there is a connection there.

Dougherty's projection
I don’t think Bernier is the best option available for the Flyers but the most likely. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the Hextall connection here, maybe not. We’ll see.

Bernier fits what the Flyers appear to want in a goalie going forward: a short-term veteran option who can share the net with Michal Neuvirth in a platoon situation.

Hextall isn’t looking for the Flyers’ goalie of the future this summer. He believes he has that in the system already but needs to bide time for Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom.

But he will be looking for a goalie who he can trust playing around 40 games or more next season and give the team quality in net. In that role, Bernier would be a solid fit.

He hasn’t panned out as projected and we could use him as one example of why we don’t see many goaltenders drafted high in the first round. They’re tough to project.

With that said, Bernier has found success in the past, including last season in Anaheim, in either a platoon or backup situation. He’ll come at a reasonable price, too.

A tandem of Neuvirth-Bernier would not be the worst thing in the world for the Flyers; it wouldn’t be the best, either. I think it would give them enough in net to compete.

If I had to predict which goaltender on the market will be here next season, it is Bernier.

Hall's projection
I see Bernier as one of the least realistic options for the Flyers.
 
The 2006 11th overall pick hasn't quite lived up to the hype, but he still has some cachet, probably too much for the Flyers in this spot.
 
He turns only 29 in August and in a backup role last season, his 2.50 goals-against average and .915 save percentage still ranked in the top 15 among NHL goalies that played 39 games or more.
 
The role and price in which the Flyers will offer shouldn't attract Bernier much. From the sound of Hextall, I expect him to be judicious in adding a goalie. This sounds much more like a stopgap, temporary position than anything future oriented.
 
There's a connection with the Flyers' GM here, but that might be it when it comes to the Bernier scenario.

Paone's projection
I find Bernier to be an intriguing option for the Flyers.

First and foremost, there is plenty of familiarity with Bernier within the Flyers' organization. Hextall and current Flyers goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh were both parts of the Kings' organization when Bernier was drafted in 2006 and worked with him during his development into an NHL goaltender. They not only know the type of player and competitor they'd be getting, they also know the type of person they'd be getting and that plays a role, too.

Bernier had a very strong campaign for the Ducks last season. That certainly makes him an attractive option for the Flyers. He did his best to prove he can be a reliable option again after things soured for him in Toronto. But, hey, a lot of things went sour in Toronto during those times.

But that strong campaign with Anaheim last season will have Bernier wanting opportunity and more of it. With Neuvirth entrenched here, how much opportunity would there actually be for Bernier here? Would the Flyers present the type of opportunity he's looking for after last year's showing with the Ducks? My guess is no. He'll likely want an opportunity to take on much more of a workload.

So while the option is intriguing for many reasons and it certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, I ultimately feel this is an option both he and the Flyers pass on.

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

Flyers re-sign defenseman Mark Alt to 1-year, 2-way deal

One day after extending qualifying offers to seven restricted free agents (see story), the Flyers re-signed Mark Alt, who was unrestricted.

The Phantoms' defenseman agreed to a one-year, two-way deal on Tuesday that will play him $125,000 in the AHL and $650,000 in the NHL.

The 25-year-old has played four years with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

He had one goal and 11 points last season in 40 AHL games.

Alt's only NHL appearance was his debut as a Flyer on March 28, 2015, at San Jose.

Alt has 68 points (12 goals) in 237 AHL games.