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.

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Antti Niemi

Flyers free-agent goalie fits: Antti Niemi

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.

Antti Niemi
Age: 33
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215
Last team: Dallas Stars
2016-17 cap hit: $4.5 million

Scouting report
Niemi signed with the Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and played three games for Chicago in 2008-09. He broke training camp with the Blackhawks in 2009-10 and eventually took over as the team's No. 1 goalie by the end of the season and for the playoffs.

The Vantaa, Finland, native started 22 games in the postseason and helped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup win over the Flyers in 2010, though his numbers in the Final weren't pretty. In six games against the Flyers, he posted an .882 save percentage. Overall, Niemi had a 2.63 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in the 2010 playoffs.

After winning the Cup with Chicago, Niemi filed for arbitration but the Blackhawks didn't want to pay the $2.75 million he was awarded and walked away. He signed a one-year deal with the San Jose Sharks, where he ended up spending the next five seasons.

In those five seasons, Niemi compiled a .917 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average along with 25 shutouts. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Niemi was 24-12-6 with a 2.16 GAA, .924 save percentage and four shutouts. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which Sergei Bobrovsky won.

San Jose traded Niemi's rights to the Dallas Stars at the 2015 draft. Dallas signed Niemi to a three-year, $13.5 million contract to pair with Kari Lehtonen. In 2015-16, Niemi posted a 2.67 GAA with a .905 save percentage. He was 25-13-7 and was the backup in the playoffs.

Last season was a disaster in net for the Stars. Both Lehtonen and Niemi struggled, and Dallas missed the playoffs. Niemi had an NHL-worst 3.30 goals-against average and his .892 save percentage was the second worst in the league to Michal Neuvirth (.891).

Dallas acquired Ben Bishop this offseason and then placed Niemi on waivers with the intention to buy out his final year. The Stars will carry a $1.5 million cap hit over the next two seasons while Niemi is an unrestricted free agent.

Dougherty's projection
Niemi is the worst possible option on the market for the Flyers. Going into next season with the two worst goalies from last season based off save percentage would be a major slap in the face of Steve Mason. With that said, I do think he's an option, unfortunately. 

With Ryan Miller reportedly likely to sign in Anaheim, Mike Condon staying in Ottawa, Chad Johnson likely going back to Buffalo, the free-agent goalie market is filling up quickly. There appear to be three teams in the market for either a starter or tandem goalie.

The Flyers are one of them. Winnipeg and Vancouver are the other two. The three best options on the market are Mason, Jonathan Bernier and Brian Elliott. But that doesn't necessarily mean the Flyers view it the same or that any of those three will sign here.

So, it's fair to examine Niemi as a potential fit, albeit not a good one. Let's keep it simple.

Positive: He's cost effective. Since the Stars are still paying him and with his numbers from last season, it's hard to imagine a team handing out a lot of money for him.

Negative: Well, he's not very good. The Flyers may be better off calling Ilya Bryzgalov than signing Niemi. This is a hard pass from me.

Hall's projection
This shouldn't happen for the Flyers.

Niemi turns 34 years old in August and his goals-against average has ballooned each of the past five seasons, with the 2016-17 campaign being his most futile, as his 3.30 GAA was worst in the NHL among netminders with 25 or more games played.

Like Tom said above, Niemi would not take much out of the Flyers' pockets. Maybe the Flyers can get him on a strict one-year insurance policy for dirt cheap — still, extremely unlikely. The Flyers want some quality here, too, not just a bargain.

The Flyers will do their due diligence. Provided the goalie market, Niemi should be evaluated but not seriously considered. The Finn looks in decline and Dallas couldn't get anything in exchange for his services and contract before buying him out.

Paone's projection
The Flyers should be steering way clear of Niemi here.

It’s easy to see why the Stars, a team that was in desperate need of goaltending help before they landed Bishop, decided to cut ties with Niemi last week with a buyout and were willing to eat his cap hit that came with it. Niemi had the chance to take the reins on a star-studded Dallas team and responded by playing like a sieve last season. The numbers Tom and Jordan mentioned above are the proof you need. 

Sure, Niemi would come to Philadelphia on a bargain and that no doubt is a fact that would catch the eyes of Hextall and the Flyers’ brass. And they should do their due diligence on Niemi, as they should with every goaltender on the market. They’d be doing a disservice to the team if they didn’t closely examine any goalie on the market.

But a goaltender on the clear decline isn’t one of the criteria on the Flyers’ checklist here.

And that decline has been steady for Niemi. His goals against average has consistently risen from 2.16 in 2012-13 to that gaudy 3.30 mark last season. And his save percentage has steadily dipped from .924 in 2012-13 to an ugly .892 last year. There’s a reason San Jose decided to move on two offseasons ago and then give up an asset like a precious first-round pick for Martin Jones to shore up their net.

Think about it this way: Isn’t the point of signing and investing in a free agent to make an improvement over what you had last season? 

Would a Niemi-Neuvirth tandem be an improvement over a Mason-Neuvirth tandem? Nope.

NHL Notes: Blues lose Patrik Berglund until December after shoulder surgery

NHL Notes: Blues lose Patrik Berglund until December after shoulder surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Blues center Patrik Berglund is expected to be out until December after having surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder.

The Blues say Berglund was injured during an offseason conditioning program in Sweden and flew to St. Louis for Tuesday's procedure. The team called it a successful surgery.

The 29-year-old Berglund scored a career-high 23 goals and finished with 34 points in 2016-17, adding four assists in 11 playoff games.

Berglund has spent his entire nine-year NHL career with the Blues, scoring 296 points in 637 regular-season games.

St. Louis fell to Nashville in the second round of the playoffs last season.

Red Wings: Worker dies after fall from new arena
DETROIT -- A worker has died after falling 75 feet (23 meters) at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

The arena will be home to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and the NBA's Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.