Flyers-Sabres: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Sabres: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Sabres
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

Someone has to score, right? The Flyers (17-21-7) and Buffalo Sabres (14-28-3), both coming off embarrassing shutout losses, will square off at First Niagara Center on Saturday evening.

Here are five things you need to know before puck drop:

1. Where’s the offense?
The Flyers have scored seven goals so far this week. Spread that over a span of three nights and it probably should have been good enough to steal at least two out of their three games. Maybe even put them in a position to climb back into the wild-card hunt. Too bad that wasn’t the case.

The Flyers collected all seven of those tallies in Monday’s thrashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning before being shut out on back-to-back nights by the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. Their offense, or lack thereof, couldn’t be much more anemic at this point.

In fact, the Flyers have gone seven consecutive periods without a marker. If you’re counting at home, which I hope you’re not, it’s been 144 minutes and 59 seconds since they last lit the lamp. To their credit, they were competitive in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to the Caps. The same, however, cannot be said for their spiritless performance against Vancouver.

“We’re gripping the sticks too hard and it kinda paralyzed us out there,” alternate captain Mark Streit said after Thursday’s 4-0 beatdown at the Wells Fargo Center (see story). “I know these moments are tough but you can’t just stop playing. You got to stick with the program. Play the system. Eventually, you will get a bounce.”

If the Flyers fail to end their goalless drought against Buffalo, it might be time to get your pitchforks and torches ready. They’ll be facing a Sabres team that’s been outscored 39-9 during a current nine-game slide.

2. Bad in Buffalo
If you think it’s a tough time to be a Flyers fan, try trading in your orange and black for navy blue and gold.

The Sabres are bad. Like scary bad. They haven’t won a game since Dec. 27. They’ve collected the most losses in regulation this season (28). They’ve allowed the most goals in the league (156) while scoring the least (76). They rank dead last in power-play effectiveness (8.8 percent). They boast the league’s worst goal differential (minus-75). They have just one skater with more than 10 goals (Zemgus Girgensons). Heck, they don’t even have a single player with a plus rating.

Despite its futility, Buffalo still has two points on the NHL-worst Edmonton Oilers. One of those two clubs, or maybe even the Carolina Hurricanes, will likely land the No. 1 pick at this summer’s NHL draft. Connor McDavid anyone? Jack Eichel wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize, either.

3. Between the pipes
Earlier this season, the Flyers were playing very well in front of backup Ray Emery. The veteran goalie went 4-0-1 in his first five appearances, but his play has dropped off significantly in his last 12 games. Over that span, he’s gone 3-8-0 with a 3.75 goals-against average and .864 save percentage.

That explains why it’s been an easy decision for head coach Craig Berube to turn to recent call-up Rob Zepp with Steve Mason sidelined for the near future. Zepp picked up the win over Tampa and was solid in the team’s loss in Washington, D.C.

Then Emery got the call against the Canucks. He didn’t last long, either. He surrendered three goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Zepp early in the second period.

“Well, obviously his stats aren’t as good. That's for sure,” Berube said (see story). “It’s a combination of things with Ray and the team. We gotta play better in front of him. He’s gotta play better.”

Emery’s biggest problem has been his lateral movement. He’s been slow when moving from post-to-post and hasn’t been able to come up with a big save when the Flyers need one. Don’t be surprised if Berube goes back to Zepp for Saturday’s tilt.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Claude Giroux or Jakub Voracek. They’re both All-Stars. And pretty much the only reason to watch the team the rest of the season.

Sabres: Tyler Ennis is one of those players who always seems to give the Flyers a problem. He’s earned at least one point in each of his last three games against the orange and black and enters Saturday leading Buffalo in scoring with 24 points. The 25-year-old is a sneaky player in the offensive zone and skates exceptionally well. He can also be quite feisty despite his 5-foot-9, 169-pound frame. He wears uniform No. 63.

5. This and that
• The Flyers are 10-3-1 against the Sabres since the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

• All nine of Buffalo’s losses during its current skid have come in regulation.

• The Flyers have been outscored by a 20-9 margin in their last six road games (0-5-1).

• Cody Hodgson had two goals and two assists in three games against the Flyers last season.

• Mark Streit has 18 points since Dec. 1, the third most among all NHL defensemen over that span.

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).

 

Flyers collapse in second period vs. Devils, fall in wild card

Flyers collapse in second period vs. Devils, fall in wild card

This was game the Flyers needed to win.

A team they were more than capable of beating.

Two points they absolutely had to have if they’re going to reclaim the wild card they so carelessly tossed aside in the past month.

And it was all lost when they became unglued over a bad penalty, then an even worse call, during a tied game late in the second period.

Poof! Two goals later, it’s 3-1 New Jersey as the Flyers collapsed in a 4-1 loss Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center to the Devils and slipped one point behind Toronto (51) in the wild card (see Instant Replay).

Veteran referee Dan O’Halloran, who calls an honest game, whistled Radko Gudas for clipping on a legal hip check for a Devils power play.

Then, Flyer MVP candidate Wayne Simmonds argued and drew an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

New Jersey scored on the subsequent 5-on-3 power play, then the Devils added a bad goal off a horrendous line change in the final 48 ticks of the stanza to completely change the complexion of the game.

“I’ll take blame for that,” Simmonds said. “I didn’t agree with the [Gudas] penalty, I got an extra two that’s my fault. They score a goal, make it 2-1, that’s a momentum changer, I take all of the blame for that.”

O’Halloran should have warned Simmonds to walk away, but didn’t. That’s what a good, veteran official does. He blew it. Twice.

“What was said both ways?” Simmonds asked. “The referee was talking to me; I was talking to him. I am not commenting on calls; it is what it is. It happened, it’s over with now. I am not going to say anything about that.”

That the Flyers collapsed so easily at that point just goes to show you how vulnerable and how fragile this team is right now. This was fifth loss in six games for Dake Hakstol's squad.

“It’s a turning point in the hockey game, but no one play or one situation dictates a hockey game,” Hakstol insisted.

Indeed, the poor line change was just as bad or worse. Jakub Voracek was going off the ice at the blue line when the puck was unexpectedly tossed at his feet.

“I didn’t [expect it] and tried to redirect it and it kinda fumbled and we changed and they got a breakaway out of it,” Voracek said.

Miles Wood sped past several Flyers up the right side on Michal Neuvirth, who had not had to make a momentum save till then. He couldn’t. It was 3-1.

If Voracek gets the puck deep enough, the entire sequence is voided.

“It’s two-fold,” countered Hakstol. “It’s the turnover and not being able to get the puck deep. And then it’s the line change.”

A lot of bad things are happening to the Flyers right now. Just a little adversity seems to collapse them like a house of cards.

That wasn’t the case in December when they won 10 games in succession.

“When you lose so many games, you lose confidence,” said Neuvirth, who was pulled for “precautionary reasons” said general manager Ron Hextall, as Steve Mason played the final period.

Neuvirth was limping after the game after tweaking his left knee again, sources said.

“For us it was a tough break to come back, the Devils playing really good hockey, but I think we got to keep believing and keep pushing forward. I still believe in this group,” Neuvirth said.

Question is, do they believe in each other?

Even after giving up the game’s first goal, the Flyers came back tied it, 1-1, on a jam-in goal past Keith Kinkaid by Travis Konecny, had some momentum, then lost everything in that brutal second period.

That’s not to say they didn’t have their chances. Six power plays? No goal? Then again, the power play is 0-for-11 over the past two games. Claude Giroux’s first unit was awful in this one.

And then there’s eight penalties the Flyers took, as well.

“Yeah, we had penalty trouble,” Konecny said. “I think it has kind of crept into our game in the past four or five games. It is not like it is one specific guy. Everyone is taking penalties. We are working hard, and some of those penalties are working hard.

“There are some things we can clean up a little bit, but at the same time when we have taken penalties our  guys have been great. You can’t stop everyone. Everyone’s got good power plays and our guys have been phenomenal on the PK. We just have to take a little less.”

“It’s tough," Neuvrith added. "Seems like taking bad penalties at the wrong times and it’s costing us the games.”

Hakstol insists the team’s confidence hasn’t waned even if it seems that’s exactly what has happened.

“No, I’ve answered that question before,” Hakstol said with a certain amount of irritation. “It’s hard, if we want to rest on confidence sagging, that’s the wrong answer. Our answer is pull together, dig in and get back to work.”