Flyers-Red Wings: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Red Wings: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (12-13-2) will try for a rare win at Joe Louis Arena when they continue their six-game road trip with a matchup against the depleted Detroit Red Wings (14-7-7) on Wednesday evening.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be featured on NBCSN’s Rivalry Night. It also can be streamed on NBCSports.com.

Here are a few things you need to know:

1. Huge break
Obviously the big storyline for this game is that the Red Wings will be without their dynamic duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The two forwards have combined for 23 goals and 30 assists this season, but will watch Detroit take on the Flyers from the press box.

The Wings have won all four of their games since Datsyuk went down with a head injury, but are now presented a whole new challenge with Zetterberg out for an extended period of time. Red Wings GM Ken Holland announced Tuesday that Zetterberg, Detroit’s captain, will miss at least two weeks with a small herniated disc.

This is a huge break for the Flyers, but they should know better than to underestimate a shorthanded opponent. The Flyers have already lost to the Alexander Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals and the Steven Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning this year.

“Detroit is playing well lately at home, playing a lot better,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said Tuesday (see story). “They’re skating well. It will be a tough game. They skate well, they come at you.”

The Wings are also missing top-six forward Todd Bertuzzi (bruised shoulder) and a key blueliner in Danny DeKeyser (separated left shoulder).

The Flyers blew a chance to get over .500 and move into third place in the Metropolitan Division with a 2-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Monday. They need to cash in on this opportunity.

2. Lecavalier questionable
Vinny Lecavalier missed practice for the second day in a row on Tuesday. The Flyers’ big offseason acquisition is hampered by back spasms and is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

One of the bigger concerns when the Flyers handed Lecavalier a five-year, $22.5 million contract in July was that the forward has been injury-prone over the past few seasons.

Lecavalier has already missed five games this season because of three separate injuries. He said he’s never experienced back spasms in his 14-year NHL career, but is working closely with trainers to get through it.

The 33-year-old has been productive when in the lineup for the Flyers. His nine goals lead the team and he’s collected 14 points through 22 games.

If Lecavalier can’t go against Detroit, Brayden Schenn will likely remain at center on the second line. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl were on his wings in the loss to Minnesota.  

3. Wingin’ it
If you’re wondering why the Red Wings have been able to succeed without Datsyuk in the lineup, look no further than 40-year-old Daniel Alfredsson and hard-hitting defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

In four games since returning from a groin injury, Alfredsson has potted four goals and assisted on three more. The first-year Red Wing has had a smooth transition to the Motor City. He already has 21 points in 23 games this season.  

As for Kronwall, there may not be a hotter defenseman in the NHL right now. The 32-year-old, who is better known for his devastating body checks, has picked up two markers and seven helpers during a six-game point streak.

4. House of horrors
To say the Flyers have struggled at Joe Louis Arena would be a severe understatement.

Dating back to Nov. 1, 1989, the orange and black have just one win, 16 losses and two ties at “The Joe” in 19 regular-season contests. They also dropped two games there during the 1997 Stanley Cup Final, when the Red Wings swept the Flyers in four games. Ouch, that still stings.

In their last trip to Detroit, the Flyers dominated -- for two periods at least -- before collapsing in a 5-2 loss on Oct. 12. Erik Gustafsson and Tye McGinn scored for the Flyers. The Wings had four players register three points -- Zetterberg (two goals, one assist), Datsyuk (one goal, two assists), Kronwall (one goal, two assists) and Alfredsson (three assists).

5. This and that
• Jakub Voracek has not scored a goal in 10 straight games. He has just three this season after collecting a career-high 22 in last year’s lockout-shortened campaign.

• The Red Wings burned the Flyers for three power-play goals in the last meeting between these two teams. The Flyers took seven penalties in that game.

• The Flyers have scored two or fewer goals in 21 of their 27 games.

• Detroit has outscored its opponents 18-4 during its current four-game winning streak.

• Steve Mason is 6-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average in his last eight games.

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere was right: Let's not forget the big picture

Shayne Gostisbehere spoiled us.

In 64 games, we were spoiled by his 17 goals, most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf scored 20 over a full 82 in 2005-06.

Spoiled by a historic 15-game point streak, the longest ever for a first-year blueliner.

And spoiled by four overtime winners, an NHL rookie single-season record.

With it all, Gostisbehere created a mighty and somewhat unfair challenge. He exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and perhaps made for even greater ones as an encore.

So, naturally, questions and doubts have swirled around his quiet sophomore season. Speaking to reporters last week after a 4-1 loss in Buffalo, Gostisbehere, for the first time, expressed just a hint of frustration. In the midst of his current 22-game goal drought, he wanted to make a point.

“I’m doing my job,” he said. “I mean, I’m a defenseman, I’m not a goal scorer.”

It served as a reminder of what many wanted to see improve in Gostisbehere’s second NHL go-round — a more sound game in his own end by honing in on the defensive skills to his position.

Yes, the 23-year-old can change a game offensively, but could he be reliable and responsible defensively?

After all, Gostisbehere is a defenseman, like he said. We’ve already seen the offensive potential. From the onset, defensive growth is what head coach Dave Hakstol wanted to see.

“Consistency every day,” Hakstol said in early October. “Just be an everyday worker who is pushing hard to really improve himself as an NHL defenseman.”

Now, not only is Gostisbehere in a malaise offensively with four goals and 15 assists through 43 games, but he also hasn’t been sharp or consistent defensively. That certainly is a part of the concern permeating through the Delaware Valley. The 2015-16 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up has been benched twice because of it and is a team-worst minus-17 on the season.

However, the positive here is he’s focused on it. Forget scoring goals for a moment. Even with Gostisbehere’s struggles, Flyers defensemen have provided offense among the league’s best. And for a stretch of 20 games following his first healthy scratch on Nov. 17, Gostisbehere was cleaner and more active with 17 giveaways and 24 blocked shots just partially telling the story. In the 17 games prior, he had 19 giveaways and only 20 blocked shots.

“I’m here to help the team in any way possible,” Gostisbehere said last Sunday. “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.”

Even some of the all-time great defensemen went through the proverbial sophomore slump. Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom went from 60 points and a plus-36 rating as a rookie to 41 and a plus-7 in his second season. Brian Leetch, also in the Hall of Fame, saw a dip in production across the board in Year 2 after winning the Calder Trophy.

But let’s not draw crazy comparisons. Let’s just understand the important thing here, which is Gostisbehere’s understanding that defense is paramount. He’s learning through his lumps, starting at the end of his breakout rookie campaign in which he looked spent from the NHL grind. He underwent minor offseason surgeries on his hip and lower abdominal, suffered a nasty face cut in the season opener, then a bone bruise on his right hand in December.

We’re just over halfway through the 2016-17 schedule. Gostisbehere is only 23 years old, a 2012 third-round pick with a cap hit less than 16 other Flyers in a season that looks more like a continued rebuild than a jump to contention.

Really, Shayne Gostisbehere should be some of the least of our worries.

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).