Flyers ready for physical battle against Kings

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Flyers ready for physical battle against Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- They were still talking about how well they played in Anaheim and came away with nothing Thursday when they deserved a point.

That's how this three-game, six-day West Coast romp began and now the Flyers are facing an L.A. Kings squad that is in worse shape, having won just three of its last 10 games.

“Like I told my players, yeah we played good enough, but in the end it wasn’t enough,” Craig Berube said after Friday's practice that was largely devoted to the power play in which puck passing and protection was atop the focus.

That's because the Ducks scored a late shorthanded goal that turned out to be decisive in Thursday's 5-3 win.

“We have to keep that in perspective against L.A. -- it’s about winning,” Berube said. “They are a physical, dangerous team that plays hard.”

On the same sheet of ice two hours earlier, Kings coach Darryl Sutter ran his four lines over and over in shooting drills. They’re having trouble scoring goals.

Sutter has been juggling his lines. On Friday, he had Mike Richards centering Justin Williams and Matt Fratin. Jeff Carter was on Anze Kopitar’s line with Tyler Toffoli.

Berube has no changes planned for the Kings, but said he was impressed enough with how Michael Raffl played between Zac Rinaldo and Adam Hall to keep the Austrian there. Berube wants more speed down the middle on the fourth line.

Saturday's rare afternoon match at Staples Center will be the first time Wayne Simmonds has played in the building since joining the Flyers.

Friday was also his first visit to his old practice facility.

“Everything still looks the same,” Simmonds said. “I talked to the trainers this morning. It’s nice to talk to guys I have not seen in a while. They kind of renovated the place. This place is amazing.”

Simmonds said he thought the loss to Anaheim was the “hardest” physical battle the Flyers put up this season.

“It was a physical game -- those are type of games I love to play,” he said. “Unfortunately, we came out of it with nothing. We got to draw from the negatives and take it on [Saturday]. The Kings are a big, physical team, kind of the same mold as Anaheim.

“Big bodies. I’ve been watching them lately. They haven’t scored any goals, but that can change on any given night and we’ve got to focus on ourselves.”

There were 46 hits in the Flyers-Ducks game. Yeah, it was physical.

“It’s going to happen where you have great games and don’t get points and the opposite is you play brutal and get a bounce or a break or the goalie stands on his head,” Scott Hartnell said.

“It’s frustrating. We had a lot of chances, a lot of zone time. We were physical -- one of our best games of the year and to come out it with nothing leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Tomorrow, you will have two hungry teams going at it and both desperately need a win.”

Kopitar has points in eight of his last 12 games. Carter has goals in four of his last nine games. Richards has five points in his last eight games.

Incredibly, goalie Jonathan Quick went into Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh with a 1.66 goals-against average and .934 save percentage over his previous 12 games.

Yet, Quick was yanked in the first period against the Penguins after giving up three goals on the first seven shots.

“They’re not doing well either and it’s a dangerous game,” Berube said. “We’ve got to be prepared to compete like we did [against Anaheim]. It comes down to clean hockey.”

By that, Berube means mistake-free -- not penalties. The Flyers had a couple of breakdowns -- a goal allowed with 35.1 seconds left in the first period and a shorthanded goal in the third period. That cost them the game. Those plays, he said, were not “clean.”

Especially, the shorthanded goal.

“From a faceoff in the offensive zone, it shouldn’t happen and it did,” Berube said. “If we had done that (played clean), we would have won the game. Has nothing to do with work ethic or competiveness. Just make it clean.”

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Different teams meet outdoors at Heinz Field

Flyers (28-25-7) at Penguins (37-14-8)
8 p.m. on NBC, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

It’s time for some outdoor fun.

The anticipated Flyers-Penguins Stadium Series game has arrived, as the two rivals clash Saturday night at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Let’s get you ready for it all with five things to know.

1. Eye on the ice
The one caveat of playing ice hockey outdoors is, of course, the weather.

The forecast is calling for rain showers from morning until noon with temperatures in the low-to-mid 50s. The precipitation is expected to taper off and temperatures are expected to dip into the high-30s for puck drop.

The ice can still be playable with some rain. Both teams are expected to have their morning skates indoors. No matter what, the game ice will certainly be a bit different than playing in a concealed arena.

“I'm sure they will do the best they can to have it ready,” Michael Del Zotto said this week (see story). “Unless it is really cold, the ice is always going to be chippy playing outdoors.

“It doesn’t matter what the ice conditions are because both teams are playing with it. It’s not an advantage or disadvantage for either team. Both have to deal with it.”

Ultimately, players are ready for anything weather-wise -- with the wind being just as big of a concern as the ice (see story).

2. Two directions
The Flyers and Penguins are in contrasting spots.

Pittsburgh is built for another Cup run.

The Flyers are not yet. Instead, they are fighting simply for their postseason lives.

The orange and black have lost seven of their last 10 games. Since the 10-game winning streak, they are 9-15-4 with the NHL’s second-fewest points at 22.

When the Flyers won 10 straight, they had a plus-14 goal differential over that span. In the 28 games since, they have scored an NHL-low 48 markers and own a minus-36 goal differential.

So, like last season, the Flyers have a mighty mountain to climb for a playoff berth (see story). They are now five points back of the Islanders, who currently hold the second wild-card spot with 68 points. The Flyers, at 63 points, also trail the Bruins (68) and Panthers (66), while the Sabres (62) and Lighting (62) are right there in the mix.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Penguins are third in the NHL with 82 points and first with 3.47 goals per game, spearheaded by Sidney Crosby’s league-best 33 scores.

3. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Brayden Schenn is on a three-game goal streak and ranks No. 1 in hockey with 14 man-advantage tallies. Since Jan. 8, he is tied with Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers’ lead in goals at eight. He also owns eight goals and eight assists in 23 career games against Pittsburgh.

Penguins: Right winger Patric Hornqvist, who plays alongside Crosby, was super active in the first meeting with the Flyers, recording two assists, five shots on goal, three hits and three blocked shots. The 30-year-old has 17 goals, 18 assists and a plus-19 rating, while the Penguins are 12-3-0 when he scores a goal.

4. This and that
• Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth is making his sixth straight start and ninth in the last 10 games. He is 2-2-2 with a 2.23 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and two shutouts in seven lifetime matchups with Pittsburgh.

• Penguins goalie Matt Murray is 5-1-2 in his last eight games with a .940 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average. In two career games (one start) against the Flyers, the 22-year-old is 1-0-0 and has stopped 39 of 41 shots faced.

• Pittsburgh has won four of the last five meetings with the Flyers. This is Game 2 of the four-game regular-season series between the teams. The Penguins won the first matchup, 5-4, on Oct. 29 at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Penguins defensemen Justin Schultz (upper body) and Kris Letang (upper body) will be game-time decisions. Schultz is a team-best plus-31 on the season, while Letang is a two-time All-Star.

• Jakub Voracek has 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 29 career games against Pittsburgh.

5. The rivalry
Relive some great moments from the Flyers-Penguins rivalry with these terrific pieces from CSN’s Orange Line.

Danny Briere recalls brawl in Pittsburgh

The origin of Philly’s hatred for Crosby

Reliving Flyers’ five-overtime playoff win

Mario Lemieux returns to form in first game back

Top Flyers-Penguins moments