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-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers-Oilers 5 things: Winning streak meets Connor McDavid

Flyers (15-10-3) vs. Oilers (14-10-4)
7 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live at 6:30

The hottest team in the NHL will meet the hottest young star on Thursday night when the Flyers host the Edmonton Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

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

1. McDavid and Co.
The Flyers are going for their seventh consecutive victory, which would tie their longest winning streak since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when they also won seven in a row.

In order to do so, they’ll have to slow down transcendent talent Connor McDavid and the prolific but streaky Oilers.

McDavid, a generational player, has thus far lived up to all the hype surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. In just his second NHL season — and first with a healthy start after an injured-shortened rookie year (45 games) — the 19-year-old leads all of hockey in points with 36, while no other player has yet to eclipse 30.

His 25 assists also rank atop the NHL, while his 11 goals are among the top 22 and his plus-8 rating is tied for ninth best between all centers.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said Wednesday. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice.”

And he has help.

Linemates Leon Draisaitl (11 goals, 11 assists) and Milan Lucic (eight goals, 12 assists) can do damage, as can Jordan Eberle (eight goals, 13 assists).

2. Defense wins games
The Flyers are playing better and cleaner in front of their goaltender — who has been great (see below) — and the results are showing.

The orange and black have gone five straight games of allowing two or fewer goals.

Why were they so up and down before this run? Well, they had surrendered two or fewer goals in just five of their previous 23 games.

“That’s unbelievable for us,” Wayne Simmonds said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers. “At the beginning of the year, to say we’d have five straight without giving up more than two would be a stretch.

“We’ve locked it down defensively and Mase has played unbelievable. We’ve been pretty good as five-man units.”

3. Mase the man
A confident Steve Mason is a dangerous Steve Mason.

Right now, Mason has the net and is gaining steam by the game.

Over his past five outings, the 28-year-old is 5-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

Just as impressive, since Nov. 12, Mason is 8-3-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

“I've said it numerous times, I want to be playing lots of hockey,” Mason said Tuesday. “This is a position that I'm used to being in and where I'm most comfortable. So just have to keep continuing to put my work in and whenever [head coach Dave Hakstol] calls my name, be ready."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: You always have to watch Simmonds, but especially now with the winger coming off back-to-back two-goal games. Simmonds leads the NHL with eight power-play goals and is second in man-advantage points (13) to only teammate Claude Giroux (14).

Oilers: With all the attention zeroed in on McDavid, we’ll go with the 21-year-old Draisaitl, who has seven goals in his last nine games and 14 points in his past 12. The No. 3 overall pick in 2014 is an intelligent playmaker capable of hurting you.

5. This and that
• Mason is 8-4-0 with just a 3.49 goals-against average and .872 save percentage in 13 career games against Edmonton.

• Oilers goalie Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth start of the season. He’s 1-1-1 on the year with 84 saves on 91 shots faced, but is 0-4-1 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.57 goals-against average and .865 save percentage.

• The Flyers are fourth in the NHL in goals per game (3.11), while Edmonton is seventh (2.93).

• The Oilers have lost 10 of their last 15 games (5-7-3).

Wayne Simmonds, power play key to Flyers beating Oilers

Wayne Simmonds, power play key to Flyers beating Oilers

Todd McLellan saw a lot of Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov as a junior player in the Western Hockey League whenever the Brandon Wheat Kings would turn up in Edmonton.

“I watched him play in junior and had a chance to see that Brandon team play in Edmonton twice last year,” said the Edmonton Oilers coach.

“Obviously, a smooth, confident [player] with great vision. He has patience with the puck. Those are his offensive assets. 

“But he also positions himself well, defensively. He accepts that responsibility. For a young d-man, he is ahead of a lot of others because he can play on both sides of the puck.”

Provorov rattled Jaromir Jagr Tuesday when Florida was here (see story). Tonight he gets his first NHL taste of Connor McDavid.

McLellan said the Oilers' biggest challenge against the Flyers will be stopping the NHL’s second-ranked power play. Edmonton has the 11th best penalty kill.

His concern is Wayne Simmonds (8 power play goals) and Claude Giroux (14 power play points). 

“That power play is deadly and it really hasn’t changed — it’s just clicking,” McLellan said. “It has a couple trigger points. Obviously, Simmonds has the most goals in the league  and Giroux has the most points. But there’s other pieces to that power play, which are exceptional. 

“Our penalty kill has been taking it on the chin and I had to ask our guys today, 'Is it the penalty kill or the penalties?' In my opinion, it’s as much the penalties as the penalty kill. We have to stay out of the box.  

“This is a confident Flyers team. They feel very good in the offensive zone and make things happen. Their goaltender [Steve Mason] has been making saves for them that keeps them confident going the other way. It’s a team on the rise.”

The Streak
The Flyers are looking to make it seven straight wins tonight against the Oilers. The last time they won seven in arrow was Dec. 2-15 in 2011. They did not have a morning skate.

On Mason
Tuesday’s win against Florida was Steve Mason’s 88th as a Flyer, moving him past Pelle Lindbergh into sixth in franchise history. Mason needs six wins to move into third place in franchise history. 

Debut
Defenseman Dillon Simpson will make his Oilers debut tonight in Philadelphia. He is the son of former Oiler Craig Simpson. 

The oddity? Last year, Keegan Lowe made his Oilers' debut here in Philadelphia. He is the son of Kevin Lowe, longtime coach and front office executive for the Oilers. 

Colors
The Oilers wear three colors during their morning skate. Their defensemen dress in orange; their third and fourth lines dress in white and their top six skaters dress in blue. Now that’s an NHL hierarchy.