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.

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

The Flyers’ playoff hopes are all but buried alive, but we still have plenty to discuss after a busy week of hockey.

The Flyers took the ice four times and finished up with yet another inconsistent showing last week.

They pulled off a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, impressed with a strong 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and then were stifled in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Let’s take deeper dive into the week that was for the Flyers.

• While it was another one of those up-and-down weeks for the Flyers that we’ve all become used to, Sean Couturier stuck out in a good way this past week. Two plays, in particular, stuck out, and not just because the puck ended up in the back of the net each time. Sunday in overtime against Carolina, Couturier revved up on a quick and powerful solo rush up the ice, broke in on goalie Cam Ward and created a prime scoring opportunity that Brayden Schenn cleaned up for the game-winner. It was something we don’t see often enough from Couturier. He has the size with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and can be tough to stop when he gets in gear the way he did in OT on Sunday night. That could be such a weapon for the Flyers if he could do it on a more consistent basis. His goal Thursday in Minnesota was a thing of beauty. He took a slick pass from Schenn, maneuvered the puck through his legs and beat Devan Dubnyk five-hole. Between the pass and the lovely finish, it might have been the prettiest goal the Flyers scored all season. But it was Couturier’s skill that finished it off. So he again showed flashes of mixing his size and skill this week to create offense. Queue the broken record, but the Flyers, who average just 2.50 goals per game heading into Sunday night’s tilt in Pittsburgh, really need Couturier to do those kinds of things much more consistently.

• Steve Mason was not out of line to question his teammates after Tuesday’s disheartening loss in Winnipeg. Heading into that game, the Flyers talked about how, even though their playoff hopes were slim, they still thought they had a real chance to reach the postseason. Entering the third period on Tuesday, the game was tied at 1-1. The Flyers had 20 minutes to vanquish a Jets team that was missing five regular defensemen in the lineup. Instead of playing like a team hungry for the playoffs, the Flyers sat back and let the Jets carry play to predictably terrible results for the Flyers. Think about this: the Flyers had just two shots in the period 13:34 into the frame. I know Mason mentioned the eight straight minutes of penalties the Flyers took in the second period, and, while frustrating, that happens sometimes. The two shots through more than half the third period can't happen. Urgency anybody? They did respond nicely Thursday against a good, albeit stumbling, Wild team. That may have been the Flyers' best all-round effort of the year.

 • In response to Tuesday’s lackluster effort in Winnipeg, Dave Hakstol again switched up the Flyers’ lines ahead of Thursday’s game in Minnesota. One of the changes saw rookie forward Travis Konecny slide down to the fourth line next to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde. That’s a curious move. Think about this: the Flyers’ playoff hopes are virtually toast, right? What does Konecny get out of playing fourth-line minutes now? Shouldn’t he be further up the depth chart in an effort to find some chemistry with more skilled linemates heading into next season? I get that he has defensive deficiencies. But he’s a rookie and all rookies have those. At the end of the day, the kid is a skilled scorer. And these are important minutes for him to get more and more comfortable in a top-wing role. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, especially with the Flyers’ goal-scoring needs.

• The Flyers’ power play continues to be a debacle. After an 0-for-3 showing Saturday in Columbus, the Flyers’ power play is 3 for 43 in the month of March. It’s not just that the power play is stagnant right now. It’s that it’s giving the opponent momentum and helping turn games around against the Flyers. It’s more deflating than anything else. More often than not, it just seems that opponents have more quality chances while shorthanded than the Flyers have with the man advantage. Gotta give the Flyers’ power-play units credit on Saturday, though. They fired 10 power-play shots on goal, but Sergei Bobrovsky had every answer. He was superbly flawless all game long for the Jackets, for that matter.

• Want a telling stat? Try this on for size: heading into Sunday’s games, 16 teams have positive goal differentials for the season and 14 teams have negative goal differentials for the season. Those 16 teams with positive goal differentials are in the current playoff picture. The 14 teams with negative goal differentials, well … I’ll let you fill in the blank. FYI, the Flyers’ goal differential is -27.

• Was going over some stats on Sunday morning and, oh, those poor Avalanche fans. Colorado has just been abysmal this year. As of Sunday morning, the last-place Avs are 20 points behind the next team in the standings, Arizona. Twenty! The Avs’ goal differential on the season is -104. That’s an astounding number that’s 44 goals behind the next worse number, coincidentally Arizona’s. So for you Flyers fans angry at how this season has soured, just remember it’s worse somewhere else. Much, much worse. … If that’s any consolation.

Coming up this week: Sunday at Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday vs. Ottawa (7 p.m./TCN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN)

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers (34-32-8) at Penguins (46-17-11)
7 p.m. on NBCSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

The Flyers conclude their final four-game road trip of the season on Sunday night in Pittsburgh against a Penguins team with its playoff ticket already punched.

Let's take a closer look game at No. 75 for the Flyers.

1. Power outage
The theme remained the same for the Flyers in their 1-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday: a lifeless power play leads to little offense in a must-win game that killed any realistic, however slim, hope of making a last-second run at the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

After going 0 for 3 against the Blue Jackets, the Flyers' power play is now 3 for 43 in March, 0 for its last 14 and 2 for its last 25. On Sunday night, they face a Penguins penalty kill that is lingering near the bottom 10 of the league at 19th overall with an 80.3 percent kill rate.

"We're getting our chances and it's not going in," Shayne Gostisbehere said Saturday. "It's not like we're not getting shots, so it's a matter of sticking with it and it'll come."

In their 4-0 shutout win over the Penguins on March 15, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the man advantage and it was the last game the team found twine on the power play.

2. Mr. 100
After winning his 100th game as a Flyer on Thursday night Minnesota -- only the third goalie in franchise history to reach 100 wins -- Steve Mason had Saturday afternoon off.

Without context, rolling with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday was a surprising move considering Mason has been the better goalie of the two and the team believed its season was not yet over. But it was the first game of a back-to-back against two of the East's elites.

Neuvirth appeared rusty in the opening period but settled down in Columbus, but Mason is expected back in between the pipes Sunday against the Pens, whom he shut out 11 days ago.

On Sunday, he's expected to make his 50th start of year. Mason will be the first goaltender in Flyers history to start over 50 games in four consecutive seasons. He's appeared in 53 games this season in total heading into Sunday night's tilt.

Mason is 2-3-1 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in March and owns a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage overall this season.

3. Playoffs … playoffs?
With Saturday's 1-0 loss, the Flyers' playoff hopes are realistically dead -- not as if they weren't already. The Flyers have eight games left and are eight points out of the playoffs.

One has to believe the Flyers have to win out and acquire all 16 possible points to have any legitimate chance at the playoffs. That's not taking into account help needed elsewhere.

Let's do some math. If the Flyers were to earn all 16 points on the table, they'd finish the year with 92 points. Is that enough to get into the playoffs? Not unless the four teams ahead of them crash and burn. The Flyers are not officially eliminated, but the playoffs are a pipe dream.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's go with Sean Couturier, who has three goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. He had a goal and an assist with a career-high eight shots vs. the Pens 11 days ago.

Penguins: Nick Bonino has seven goals in his last 10 games and nine points in his last 12 games. Bonino has one goal in three games against the Flyers this season.

5. This and that
• The Penguins will wear their gold Stadium Series jerseys against the Flyers on Sunday.

• The Flyers have scored just 20 goals in their last 17 losses.

• This game was originally set for 12:30 p.m. but was rescheduled earlier in the season.

• Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 in five contests since losing to the Flyers on March 15. The Pens are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games and are coming off back-to-back shootout losses.