Flyers-Red Wings: 5 things you need to know

flyers-red-wings-game-notes.jpg

Flyers-Red Wings: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Red Wings
7:30 p.m., NBCSN/TCN

The Flyers (8-9-3) will try to snap a five-game road losing streak when they take on the Detroit Red Wings (11-5-5) at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday night.

Here’s five things you should know before puck drop:

1. All about that Mase
Let’s be clear: Steve Mason earned a point Monday night on Long Island, not the Flyers.

It took a shootout for the Islanders to finally solve Mason, who made a season-high 46 saves from all angles in regulation/overtime for his first shutout of the season before allowing two goals in the dreaded shootout.

The Flyers’ netminder was visibly upset after the game. You could tell he was disappointed with the team’s performance, but still tried to keep some of the attention on himself.

"It's frustrating, but at the same time ... it has to be frustrating for the players when you don't perform well and you let in crap goals (in other games),” Mason said (see full story). “It's just frustrating not being able to get the extra point.”

Mason has every right to be agitated. He’s posted a 1.32 goals-against average in his last three starts but has just one win to show for it. Strong goaltending was absent in the early portion of the Flyers’ schedule, but it’s the least of the team’s worries right now.

2. Avoid the shootout
The Flyers need to do everything they can to just win games in regulation or overtime. The shootout clearly isn’t doing them any favors.

Since the shootout was instituted in 2005-06, the Flyers have posted an NHL-worst 27-54 record in the gimmick. They’ve dropped all three shootouts they’ve participated in this season and eight straight dating back to last season, when they went 3-8 overall.

Flyers captain Claude Giroux was asked Monday if the Flyers’ shootout woes are starting to become frustrating. His answer was predictable.

“Of course,” he said (see full story). “Any time you have a chance to win and get an extra point in the shootout you wanna get it.”

Flyers shooters have converted on just one of their 10 shootout attempts this season. Giroux potted the lone goal. Let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

3. Injuries
Update: Forward Michael Raffl (lower-body) is making progress in his rehab. He initially was expected to miss Wednesday's game and return this weekend, but the 25-year-old could play against Detroit. Head coach Craig Berube said Raffl will be a game-time decision. Raffl scored two goals and added an assist in the Flyers' 4-2 win over the Red Wings on Oct. 25.

Fellow forward Chris VandeVelde also has a lower-body ailment. He missed his second consecutive game Monday. His status for Wednesday night is questionable.

For the Red Wings, goalie Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder) and defenseman Brendan Smith (hand) are out. Center Pavel Datsyuk missed his fourth straight game Monday with a sore groin, but will suit up against the Flyers.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: When Jakub Voracek isn’t piling up points, none of the Flyers are. The 25-year-old has been held off the scoresheet just three times this season. It’s no coincidence that all three of those contests were shutout losses. It wasn’t from a lack of effort, however. Voracek has easily been the Flyers’ most consistent forward all season. He’s been strong with the puck on his stick and has done a tremendous job finding open lanes to create opportunities. He’s due for a clutch goal. Don’t be surprised if he gets it Wednesday night.

Red Wings: Big-name forwards like Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Datsyuk tend to steal the headlines but there’s another offensive force emerging in Detroit. I’m talking about Gustav Nyquist, who has a team-high 10 goals through 21 games for the Red Wings. The 25-year-old is an elusive skater and possesses tremendous offensive abilities. He’s a natural center, but has converted nicely to the wing. He’s not the biggest forward (5-11, 185), but he’ll burn any team if he’s given time and space.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have won three consecutive matchups against the Red Wings, scoring 15 goals during that stretch.

• Giroux has two goals and five assists in his last four games vs. Detroit.

• In his second game of the season, Stephen Weiss scored two goals in the Red Wings’ 4-3 win over the Ottawa Senators Monday. Weiss had two markers in 26 games last season, his first with Detroit.

• The Flyers are just 3 for 31 on the power play in opposing arenas this season.

• The Red Wings are 12 for 40 on the man advantage in their last nine games.

Flyers focused on actual game instead of Stadium Series event

Flyers focused on actual game instead of Stadium Series event

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The toughest challenge for the Flyers this weekend might be themselves.

They’re playing the Pittsburgh Penguins outdoors on Saturday as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series event. That should be a big deal.

Yet, given their circumstances right now, how can they possibly enjoy the moment?

Maybe had this game been played in early January, before the team hit a crisis point in the standings, and was winning, it would be easier to relax.

The fact is, the Flyers have lost seven of their last 10 games, are drifting as the 11th team in the Eastern Conference, and the second wild card they held for so long seems far from their reach.

Tough to have fun and soak up the atmosphere when there’s so much pressure to start making up ground in the playoff hunt.

“Yeah, we’re there to have two points,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said Thursday. “If this was earlier in the season, we could take it in a bit more, but it’s all business for us right now. It’s just playing.”

That attitude extends right up to coach Dave Hakstol, who didn’t break a smile when talking about what’s really important here.

His team is desperate for points. There are 22 games left in the regular season and 19 are against Eastern Conference opponents.

The Flyers need to win a bunch of games and get hot like they did last season in March if they are going to recapture a wild-card berth.

“Honestly, it’s business first,” Hakstol said. “There is something to the event and certainly something important with family and the type of event it is. But, let’s be honest. Right now, it’s business first. That’s what our focus will be.

“Points. Simple as that. It’s two points. We need the two points and it’s a road game and it happens to be in an event-type situation.

“So we’ve got to make sure we handle all of that in terms of our preparation. But the bottom line is it comes down to the two points that are at stake on Saturday night.”

Michal Neuvirth will make his sixth consecutive start in goal for the Flyers. He was a backup to Semyon Varlamov at Heinz Field during the 2011 Winter Classic as a member of the Washington Capitals against Pittsburgh.

“We’ve got to focus on the game,” Neuvirth said. “There is going to be a lot of distractions. Lot of families and friends in town. But we’re gonna go there and it’s all about business and trying to get the two points.”

Hakstol is only slightly concerned about the hype taking away from the players’ focus. If the Flyers were coming into this game on a win streak, he and his players wouldn’t be quite as uptight as they are right now.

You can cut the tension in the Flyers' dressing room these days with a skate blade.

“You need a little mental attention to detail there,” Hakstol said. “That’s what it is. We’re in that mold. I don’t think that’s a big hump to overcome. I think we’ll be OK.”

Heinz Field holds 68,000 people. The NHL expects 60,000 in attendance. Regardless, it will be the largest crowd ever to witness a Flyers game.

“It’s more exciting and a must-win for us,” said Michael Raffl, who played outdoors once in Europe. “A huge game no matter where we would have played it. We could play it at Skate Zone and we’d be excited.”

Giroux said it will be “weird” being on the ice because his past experiences in outdoor games saw him drown out the fans as much as possible. Yet he admitted the sheer number of fans this time might make that difficult to do.

“It’s pretty exciting to play in the Steelers' stadium,” he said. “Playing against Pittsburgh, it should be a great game.”

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).