Flyers-Red Wings: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Red Wings: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Red Wings
7 p.m., CSN

After claiming four of six points on their three-game road trip, the Flyers (2-3-2) will return to the Wells Fargo Center for a matchup with the Detroit Red Wings (4-1-2) Saturday evening.

Here are five things you need to know for the game: 

1. The hurt locker
The Flyers’ much-maligned defensive corps took yet another major hit Friday. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald, who make up the team’s top defensive pair, will miss the next four weeks because of lower-body injuries.

"It’s tough, but there’s nothing I can do about it," Flyers coach Craig Berube said (see story). "We’re going to deal with it and go play. We’ve got capable guys to play. Coburn’s been out for a while anyhow. Everybody will pick up the slack. Like I said, we’ve got guys who can do the job."

Coburn hasn’t played since opening night. He attempted to return last Tuesday in Chicago, but didn’t feel like he was ready to play after taking warm-ups. MacDonald had appeared in all seven of the Flyers’ games. He is suspected to have a foot injury, though the Flyers would not confirm that.

The Flyers are also somewhat banged up on offense. Forwards Vinny Lecavalier (foot) and Zac Rinaldo (upper body) will miss Saturday’s game against Detroit. Lecavalier returned to practice Friday and said he is targeting either Tuesday’s game against Los Angeles or Thursday’s game in Tampa for his return. Hextall said he expects Rinaldo to miss just one game. 

Expect Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who scored his first career NHL goal Wednesday, to continue to fill in for Lecavalier on the team’s second line. Blair Jones will likely take Rinaldo’s spot on the fourth line with Chris VandeVelde and Jason Akeson.

2. Wheel of fortune
While the Flyers have had to battle through the early-season injury bug, the Red Wings are close to being back to full strength.

Star center Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder) returned to Detroit’s lineup in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Montreal and also skated in Thursday’s 4-3 win over Pittsburgh. He collected an assist in each game. 

The Red Wings could also get forward Johan Franzen, who has five points in four games, back soon. He’s eligible to be activated from injured reserve Saturday. Franzen, who is out with a lower-body injury, last played on Oct. 17, when he scored two goals in a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

3. Anybody home?
The Flyers are still searching for their first victory at the Wells Fargo Center.

In three games held in South Philly this season, the orange and black have been handed a regulation loss by the New Jersey Devils and have been bested in the shootout by the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks.

It marks only the third time the Flyers have lost their first three home contests, joining the 1999-00 and 2008-09 clubs. It should also be noted that the Flyers have never dropped their first four home games to start a season.

4. Keep an eye on …

Flyers: If there’s one player the Flyers know they can count on for consistency each game, it’s Matt Read. He forechecks hard, he kills penalties and he’s shown he’s more than capable of contributing on offense. If he didn’t have such tremendous chemistry with Sean Couturier, Read would probably get a chance to expand his offensive role on the Flyers’ top line. Read, who scored his first goal of the season against the Pens, has quietly gone about his business in the early going. While being relied on to shut down the opposition’s top lines on the checking line, which he’s been superb at, he’s still managed to pick up four points in seven games. He’s truly one of the most underrated forwards in the league.

Red Wings: When you look at Detroit’s scoring leaders, it should come as no surprise that Henrik Zetterberg is at the top of the list. He’s already collected 10 points (three goals) this season and enters Saturday riding a four-game point streak. He has an uncanny way of getting into openings and creating opportunities for himself and teammates. The Flyers can’t afford to give the Swede time and space. He burned them for two goals and an assist in his only game against the orange and black last season.

5. This and that

• The Flyers took two of three games against Detroit last season. Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell registered six points apiece in the season series. Daniel Alfredsson, who is currently a free agent with an ailing back, led the way for the Red Wings with four points.

• Detroit is the only team in the NHL that has not allowed a power-play goal this season (21 for 21 on the penalty kill).

• Dating back to the 1997-98 season, the Flyers have won eight straight home games against the Red Wings by a combined score of 33-13.

• Six of Detroit’s seven games this season have been decided by a single marker.

• After potting a goal and picking up two assists Wednesday, Sean Couturier now has two career three-point games in the regular season. He had two markers and two helpers against the Red Wings on Dec. 4, 2013.

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Top NHL draft prospects Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier get CHL awards

Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier, the projected top two picks in the 2017 NHL draft, on Saturday afternoon added some CHL hardware to their trophy case.

Patrick won the Sherwin-Williams Top Prospect Award, beating out Hischier and Windsor's Gabriel Vilardi, while Hischier edged Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi and Guelph's Ryan Merkley for the CCM Rookie of the Year Award.

Injuries forced Patrick to play just 33 games this season, but he still produced at a point-per-game pace for Brandon. He finished with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).

Hischier scored 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games with the Mooseheads, his first season in the QMJHL after coming over from Switzerland.

The Flyers have the No. 2 overall pick. If the draft goes as projected, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier, whoever the New Jersey Devils do not pick.

The 2017 NHL draft is June 23-24 in Chicago.

Missing history
Flyers prospect Carter Hart had a chance to become the first goalie in CHL history to win the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Year Award twice, but this year's award went elsewhere.

Owen Sound goalie Michael McNiven on Saturday afternoon took home the 2016-17 CHL Goaltender of the Year Award. McNiven was 41-9-4 for the Attack this season. He posted a 2.30 goals-against average and .915 save percentage with six shutouts.

McNiven led the Ontario Hockey League in save percentage, and his six shutouts were tied with Windsor's Michael DiPietro for the league lead. His 41 wins were tops in the OHL.

Hart, 18, posted a 32-11-6 record in 54 games with the Everett Silvertips in 2016-17. His 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and nine shutouts were all ranked No. 1 in the WHL.

Despite missing out on the CHL Goaltender of the Year Award this year, Hart previously did win the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL's Goaltender of the Year for the second straight season. He was twice named the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week and had a shutout streak of 193 minutes and 48 seconds during the regular season.

Hart was one of three second-round picks by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL draft.

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

End to End: Who will Flyers protect, lose in expansion draft?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The expansion draft, who to protect and best guesses at Vegas' selection.

Dougherty
We have and will continue to discuss in detail the entry draft, but we haven't talked much about the June 21 expansion draft. That's what we're doing today.

The expansion draft will affect the Flyers' plans this summer because they will be losing a player to Vegas, but the impact will be a minimum. They will not lose any core pieces.

How the expansion draft works: Teams have two options in protecting players. They can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters and one goalie. The expectation is the Flyers will protect seven forwards, three D-men and a goalie.

There are six forwards and two defensemen who are obvious protections: Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are exempt.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have decisions to make on who the seventh forward and third defenseman he protects. Then there is the goalie protection.

That leaves forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Nick Cousins, Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Jordan Weal and Dale Weise; and defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning.

Losing any of those six forwards would not be major blows to the Flyers. Now on the blue line, it gets interesting. My prediction is that the Flyers will choose to protect Manning with the hope Vegas takes MacDonald's contract.

Probably isn't going to happen.

Of the goalies, I don't think Vegas will have any interest in Anthony Stolarz, especially since he tore his right MCL in April. So that should cut the question here. That would mean the Flyers protect Michal Neuvirth, whom they signed to a two-year extension.

So what is my best guess at who Vegas plucks from the Flyers?

I think it will be a toss-up between Laughton and Raffl. I suspect the Flyers will re-sign Weal before the draft and then protect him, or have a verbal understanding they'll sign him after the expansion draft. Both parties appeared interested in him coming back.

My pick? Let's go with Laughton, a former first-round pick who turns 23 on Tuesday.

Laughton hasn't panned out as the Flyers hoped. He spent last season in Lehigh Valley and both Leier and Weal earned call-ups over him. I think that is a telling sign here.

So I'm predicting Laughton going to Vegas, where a change of scenery helps him out and the Golden Knights get a young forward that can slot into a third- or fourth-line role and still has upside.

Hall
There's a lot to the expansion draft — tons of possibilities and things can still change before June 21 that could impact the Flyers' decisions.

Albeit unlikely, Steve Mason could re-sign, which would obviously affect the Flyers' protection plan at goalie. Assuming that doesn't happen, I think the Flyers protect Neuvirth, especially considering Stolarz's health is in question this offseason and he may not be the true goalie of the future. Stolarz is also a pending restricted free agent, so he'll have to receive his qualifying offer from the Flyers before the expansion draft.

Now, let's say the Flyers go with the seven-forward, three-defensemen approach.

The blueliners are pretty clear: Gostisbehere and Gudas will be protected, as it comes down to MacDonald and Manning. I feel the organization thinks a bit more of MacDonald and his versatility compared to Manning, whose two-year deal last summer was likely strategic on the Flyers' part in planning for this expansion draft.

As for the forwards, Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn, Filppula and Couturier are staying put. I believe Weal will be re-signed and protected.

Ultimately, I could see Raffl being Vegas' choice. At 28 years old, he's not super young or inexperienced, but also not old by any means, and the winger can play all four lines because of a well-rounded game that complements different styles.

Raffl's injuries last season (abdominal, knee) may cause red flags. At the same time, the Golden Knights should be intrigued by the two seasons prior in which Raffl played all 82 games of 2015-16 (and was a plus-9) after scoring a career-high 21 goals in 2014-15.

A loss of Raffl wouldn't be ideal, but not as damaging given the Flyers appear to be gaining more depth and youth at forward.

Paone
June 21's expansion draft will be the biggest wild card of the NHL summer. And that's not just some corny pun because it involves an expansion team from Vegas.

It'll be the first piece of player movement during the offseason, coming before the entry draft and free agency. But since it will be the first piece of player movement of the offseason, it will help mold how the Flyers and the rest of the teams around the league approach their summers.

None of the Flyers' "big guns" will be on the move and my gut tells me the Flyers will be protecting Neuvirth as they want him to shoulder the starting load this coming season.

We don't know exactly what Vegas is looking for in the expansion draft because general manager George McPhee is keeping that close to the vest. But if I'm the Golden Knights' GM, youth is at the top of my wish list.

That leaves three Flyers to stick out in my mind — Weal (25), Cousins (turns 24 in June) and Laughton (turns 23 on Tuesday).

After the sparkplug Weal was down the stretch with eight goals and four assists in 23 games, the Flyers should reach a new deal with the UFA and keep him in Philadelphia.

That leaves Cousins and Laughton.

My instinct tells me Vegas will gamble (sorry, still getting used to this whole Vegas having a team thing) on Laughton, a former first-round pick.

There's a reason he was a first-rounder in 2012. The guy can play, even if he hasn't shown it consistently in Philadelphia. But remember he's been yanked back and forth between the AHL and NHL on numerous occasions and when he's been with the big club, he's either been in the press box as a scratch or been tossed back and forth between center and wing. That constant instability in both level and position can be detrimental to a young player. Vegas would give Laughton a fresh start, a fresh home and some fresh stability.

Plus, I know there are only so many protections to go around, but Cousins is a guy the Flyers should want to keep around. Just 16 points (six points, 10 assists) in 60 games isn't good enough offensively, but not many Flyers were great offensively last season. Everyone needs to be better there. But Cousins has that pest intangible that can be so effective, especially in the rugged Metropolitan Division, where basically every game is a rivalry game. It's a good quality to have.