Flyers-Rangers: What you need to know

030413_bradrichardswaynesimmondsusa.jpg

Flyers-Rangers: What you need to know

Flyers at Rangers – 7:30 p.m., CSN
Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

Records
Flyers: 11-11-1 (Third in Atlantic Division, Eighth in Eastern Conference)

Rangers: 10-8-2 (Fourth in Atlantic Division, Ninth in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
In the last matchup between these two division rivals, Ilya Bryzgalov made 26 saves but it wasn’t enough in the Flyers’ 2-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 29. Kimmo Timonen tallied the Flyers’ lone marker and Danny Briere fired 10 shots on Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 26 shots. Michael Del Zotto and Ryan Callahan each scored for New York.

Tuesday will mark the third of five meetings between these two clubs this season. The Flyers and Rangers have split the first two contests, each by a score of 2-1.

Previous games
Led by the strong play of Bryzgalov in net, the Flyers came away with a scrappy 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Bryzgalov earned his 11th victory of the year after turning aside 33 Ottawa shots on goal. Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek each recorded their ninth goals of the season to help the Flyers finally reach the .500 mark.

Rick Nash had a goal and assist and also scored in the shootout to help the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. Lundqvist made 28 saves and Derek Stephen tallied the Rangers’ other goal in regulation. The win was the second in a row for New York, which sits one point behind the Flyers with three games in hand for the final playoff spot in the East.

Who's hot
Ever since unveiling his Star Wars-themed mask two games ago, the force has been strong in Bryzgalov. The Flyers’ netminder has stopped 56 of 58 shots in those contests -- both victories. He has started all but two games for the orange and black this season, going 11-9-1 with a 2.61 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

For the Rangers, Nash has proved to be the key to New York’s success. In his first 16 games with the Blueshirts, he has collected five goals and 11 assists -- including two tallies and two helpers in his past two contests. Nash suffered an undisclosed injury and missed four games a few weeks ago and the Rangers went 0-3-1 without him.

Who's not
Before recording an assist in Saturday’s win over the Sens, Ruslan Fedotenko failed to register a point in his previous seven games. The veteran forward has just one goal, six assists and 16 shots on net in 23 games with the Flyers this season.

Brad Richards is off to a poor start for New York. The Rangers’ first-line center has tallied just two goals and 13 points through the first 20 games of the season.

Keep an eye on ...
New York’s big three of Marian Gaborik, Nash and Richards have not been much of a factor against the Flyers. The orange and black have limited the three stars to just two assists in their first two meetings versus the Rangers this season.

Voracek has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers so far this year. He is leading the club with 25 points in 23 games and has collected six goals and 11 assists over his past 10 games. He also has a goal and an assist against the Blueshirts this season.

Lundqvist has put up some eye-popping stats against the Flyers in his career. The Rangers’ netminder is 23-11-3 with four shutouts, a .914 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average in 39 starts versus the Flyers.

No Harry Zolnierczyk in this game. The Flyers forward was suspended four games for charging Ottawa’s Mike Lundin on Saturday. Lundin, who is concussed, left the game and did not return. Mike Knuble is expected to fill Zolnierczyk’s void in the Flyers’ lineup.

Did you know?
The Flyers are 1-8 in their last nine games against the Rangers and have lost five straight at Madison Square Garden.

Injuries
Flyers: Matt Read (torn rib cage muscles), Tye McGinn (right orbital surgery), Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) and Jody Shelley (left hip surgery) are all on injured reserve and remain sidelined.

Rangers: According to the New York Daily News, Brad Richards (undisclosed injury) will likely be out of New York's lineup against the Flyers. The 32-year-old center was hit from behind by Buffalo's Patrik Kaleta on Sunday. Richards stayed on the ice for a few minutes but would later return to the game. Kaleta, who was given a boarding penalty on the play, was suspended five games by the NHL for the hit. 

Matt Gilroy (flu) and former Flyer Arron Asham (back spasms) are listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Flyers.

Michael Sauer is on injured reserve with concussion-like symptoms and is out indefinitely.

Sound off
After their matchup with the Rangers, the Flyers will have completed 50 percent of their schedule. How many games do you think they will win in the second half of this lockout-shortened season?

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

Flyers Skate Update: Power play shakeup seems to be working

VOORHEES, N.J. — They had taken another “0-for” on the power play on the road and lost a game in which they deserved to at least get a point.

Dave Hakstol had seen enough. Numbers don’t always tell a story. Yet, in the Flyers' case, they did: 4 for 42 on the power play over 12 games, including that 3-1 loss at Calgary.

The next morning in Edmonton, Hakstol met privately with Jakub Voracek to discuss, among other things, the power play. That night, Hakstol moved Voracek off the first unit power play and replaced him with Ivan Provorov.

He then told Shayne Gostisbehere to change his location on the power play on the half wall and let Provorov, the Russian rookie, worry about the blue line.

In the two games since, the power play is 3 for 6 and has the Flyers back up to ninth in the NHL after falling to 13th during that 12-game span of utter futility.

How the power play goes tonight against the Washington Capitals is critical if the Flyers have any shot of taking points away from the top club in the league.

“It’s a little bit different look,” Hakstol said. “We’re comfortable with either of the setups we have there. Whether it’s with Jake on the flank of the [Claude] Giroux unit or having Ghost there.

“Both are effective. Within the game, we can go back and forth with the other. We’ve had some pretty good play out of the other unit, regardless of the setup.”

Provorov has a very accurate point shot. Gostisbehere has the hardest shot of any on the top unit. The rest of the first unit – Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds – hasn’t changed.

“We can’t score,” Provorov said bluntly. “We needed to change something up to spark the scoring. It definitely helped us. Now the two units have a different setup in the zone.

“Just a little different. It took us first game to get used to. We did pretty good in the second game [Vancouver].”

Ghost has never played the half-wall. He thinks this will help him snap a 32-game goal drought. He had three assists – two on the power play – against the Canucks on Sunday.

“It’s completely different,” Gostisbehere said. “I’ve always been at the top [blue line]. It’s definitely a different perspective from that view. I think I’ll get a lot more shots and plays that can be made.”

Voracek watches him when that unit is on the ice and offers advice after the shift.

“I have been talking to Jake a ton for pointers,” Gostisbehere said. “When I am out there, if you see something I could have done, please tell me. He is such an easy guy to talk to. He will give you the pointers right away.”

Hakstol said moving Ghost closer to the net has a payoff.

“He is in a pure one-timer side there if he gets himself in the right position,” Hakstol said. “But there is still some work we have to do there in terms of his overall positioning in that spot.

“He brings a different element than Jake does in that spot. Both of them were very, very effective in that spot. They just have different weapons.”

Even though there have been changes, Voracek still rotates back to the first unit if Provorov is on the ice the previous shift before the power play begins.

Because of Travis Konecny’s knee and ankle injuries, Sean Couturier’s second unit has changed the most. Mark Streit anchors from the point with Coots, Nick Cousins and Matt Read below the blue line and Voracek on the right-wall.

That unit has more player rotation on the ice than the top unit.

Hakstol doesn’t buy the argument the Flyers' power play crashed because it became too predictable. 

“In the game now, there’s not much hidden,” Hakstol said. “Everyone knows what the other team is trying to do, regardless of 5-on-5 or special teams.

“For us, it was a good time to make a small change that changes the look for our guys on the ice.”

Loose pucks
• A dozen players showed up for the optional morning skate at Skate Zone, more than half of what was expected. 

• Michal Neuvirth will start in goal tonight against Washington. 

• On Tuesday, Voracek got hit with a puck below the belt, during a tip drill in which Voracek tipped a shot into himself. “Feeling better,” he said today. 

• This morning was goalie Steve Mason’s turn to get hit. He took a point shot from Andrew MacDonald in the mask. Mason was temporarily shaken but no damage to either him or his mask.  

Lineup
F:
Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek
Raffl-Cousins-Read
VandeVelde-Bellemare-Lyubimov

D: Provorov-Manning
Gostisbehere-Streit
Del Zotto-Gudas

G: Neuvirth

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: Washington on ridiculous roll into Wells Fargo Center

Flyers (28-24-7) vs. Capitals (39-12-7)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

After finding some offense to finish up a 1-2-0 road trip, the Flyers return home for a not-so-glorious welcome when they host the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

We’ll get into that and more with five things to know:

1. Capping things off
What’s the Flyers’ reward for salvaging the final game of a road swing through Canada? A date with the Capitals, who are the NHL’s hottest team since New Year’s Eve, and by a landslide.

Just how dominant has Washington been?

Dating back to Dec. 31, the Capitals are 19-3-2 and have scored an incomprehensible 104 goals in those 24 games. That’s 4.33 goals per game, while yielding only 50 markers over that stretch.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have scored an NHL-low 40 goals since New Year’s Eve and allowed 62 for an Eastern Conference-worst goal differential of minus-22.

Washington, coming off its first back-to-back defeats since Dec. 27-29, has lost three straight games only once this season.

2. A Ghost sighting
On Sunday, for the first time in close to four months, we saw the Shayne Gostisbehere from the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up season last year.

The sophomore blueliner delivered his first three-point game of his career to ignite the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks.

Although Gostisbehere has made it clear he’s focused on his defensive game, the Flyers are a different animal when he’s generating offensive chances at 5-on-5 and the power play.

“He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere’s performance Sunday.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbelievable skill. He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

3. Good cage match
This one makes for an intriguing goalie matchup between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby, who were once battling for the net in Washington.

Holtby is having another stud season after winning the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy (top goalie). Among all netminders, he is tied for first in goals-against average (2.01) and shutouts (seven), while he hasn’t been beaten in regulation since Dec. 27.

The 27-year-old blanked the Flyers twice in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and stopped 149 of 154 shots over the first-round series that the Capitals won in six games.

Neuvirth hasn’t been too shabby himself, starting eight of the Flyers’ last 10 games. Aside from a bad showing in a 6-3 loss to the Oilers, Neuvirth has not surrendered more than two goals in any other outing during that span.

A 2006 second-round pick of Washington, Neuvirth was brilliant last postseason against his former club, making 103 saves on 105 shots faced to get the Flyers two victories.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare can be crucial in these types of games. The fourth-line forward often sees work against the opposition’s top offensive threats and is the Flyers’ most important piece to the penalty kill. Bellemare has played 16-plus minutes in both meetings with the Capitals this season, while the PK is 15 for 17 in February and tied for the NHL’s third-fewest goals against this month.

Capitals: T.J. Oshie is such an underrated asset for Washington. The right winger, who played his college hockey at North Dakota under Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, leads the NHL with a 22.8 shooting percentage, a big reason why the Capitals are scoring 3.34 goals per game, good for second most in hockey. Oshie has 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in his past 22 games and is a plus-24 on the season.

5. This and that
• Neuvirth has just two career regular-season matchups against the Capitals, going 1-0-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

• Holtby is 6-4-7 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 18 lifetime matchups with the Flyers.

• The Flyers are three points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, trailing the Panthers, Bruins and Islanders, all of whom have 66 points.

• Simmonds has four goals in his last five games.

• Claude Giroux has two points (one goal, one assist) in his previous 10 games.

• Washington ranks first in the NHL with a plus-69 goal differential.

• Jordan Weal (upper-body injury) is expected to miss his second straight game.