Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Trying to solve the road woes

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Trying to solve the road woes

Flyers (21-15-6) at Sabres (15-15-9)
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App. Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers, who have lost eight of their last 10 games, will try to pick up a road win when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at the KeyBank Center.

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

1. Road woes
The Flyers have not won a game away from the Wells Fargo Center since Dec. 14.

Over the past six road contests, the Flyers are 0-3-3 and have been outscored 21-8.

Buffalo may be the remedy the Flyers need. The Sabres have the second-fewest home wins in the Eastern Conference at 8-8-3 and are scoring just 2.11 goals per game at home, which ranks 29th in the NHL.

2. Simmer the star
Wayne Simmonds will take the ice as an NHL All-Star.

The Flyers’ winger was named the team’s lone representative for the game on Jan. 29 in Los Angeles, where Simmonds began his NHL career.

"It’s kind of surreal,” Simmonds said after morning skate (see story). “It makes me think when I was a young kid, watching the All-Star Games and watching all the great players who played in it. To even be mentioned in the same breath as All-Stars in the NHL, it’s pretty special and it’s a great accomplishment."

Simmonds leads the Flyers with 17 goals a year after scoring a career-high 32, and he's been a monster on the power play (eight goals, seven assists).

3. Finding the power
The Flyers’ power play is just 3 for its last 32.

However, the Sabres are tied for the NHL’s worst penalty-kill percentage at 74.3.

Maybe this is when the Flyers’ power play gets going again.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’re going to say Dale Weise, who is seeing ample opportunity to shake off what has been a slow and underwhelming start to his Flyers career. The winger has four points (two goals, two assists) in 37 games. He’s now playing on a line with Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.

Sabres: 2015 second-overall pick Jack Eichel is heating up. The 20-year-old center has six points (three goals, three assists) in his last six games after going pointless in his previous five.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason is 5-3-1 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in nine career games against the Sabres.

• With regular starter Robin Lehner out sick, Buffalo will go with Anders Nilsson in net. He is 2-0-1 with a  2.41 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in four career games against the Flyers.

• Shayne Gostisbehere is on a 19-game goal drought.

• The Flyers are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games against Buffalo.

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).