Flyers-Sabres: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Sabres: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers' surging offense will be happy to see Ryan Miller and the reeling Buffalo Sabres come to town.

Winners of four of their last five overall, the Flyers (8-10-2) have won four straight over the Sabres (5-17-1) at the Wells Fargo Center.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. (CSN), and here are five things you need to know:

1. Meet the new offense
Through the first 15 games of the season, the Flyers' offense was anemic at best. Now, the orange and black are firing on all cylinders.

The Flyers are finally playing a more relaxed and confident game, which is leading to plenty of offense. They have recorded at least four goals three times in their last five games and are receiving significant contributions across the board.

Three Flyers ended lengthy goalless droughts in the team's 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Sean Couturier (25 games without a marker), Kimmo Timonen (21 games) and Adam Hall (64 games) each found the back of net for the first time this season.

Even better, the Flyers' leading scorers from a season ago have been consistently stuffing the scoresheets. Winger Jakub Voracek enters Tuesday with a five-game point streak (two goals, four assists) and captain Claude Giroux has registered two tallies and three helpers with a plus-5 rating in his past five contests.

With their offense clicking, the Flyers have been able to pick up nine points in their last five games. Thursday's matchup with the Sabres, who have just two regulation wins, is another opportunity for the Flyers to continue their climb in the Metropolitan Division standings.

2. A major weight lifted
The look on Couturier's face when he scored on Tuesday said it all. The third-year Flyer had been snake bitten all season until he beat Senators netminder Robin Lehner for his first tally since April 15.

“I feel 20 pounds lighter just getting that in,” Couturier admitted on Wednesday (see story). “Sometimes you think too much when things aren’t going your way. In the first period, maybe you think too much about that chance I had.”

Couturier has had plenty of opportunities to get on the board this season. He's fired 30 shots on goal and has rung quite a few off of the post.

Head coach Craig Berube hopes Couturier can learn from Giroux, who has been shooting the puck with much more confidence since netting his first goal on Nov. 9.

Couturier has already given the Flyers exceptional play in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill this season. If he can start to contribute goals reguarly, it would be a major bonus for the team.

3. Come out firing
One of the reasons the Sabres find themselves with an NHL-worst 11 points this season is their play during the first 20 minutes.

Buffalo has been completely dominated in the first period, getting outscored by a 31-4 margin.

This bodes well for the Flyers, who fired a season-high 42 shots against Ottawa in their last game.

The Sabres are still adjusting to interim coach Ted Nolan's systems. The Flyers should take advantage of that and jump on them early.

Buffalo has a young and hungry lineup. The Flyers need to come out firing -- and firing often -- in this one.

4. New-look Sabres
The Sabres' youth movement is in full swing. Buffalo recalled forward Luke Adam and defenseman Brayden McNabb from the AHL's Rochester Americans on Wednesday.

Buffalo also announced the assignment of 19-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko to Rochester on a conditioning assignment was rejected by the NHL.

All three players were present for Sabres practice Wednesday and are available to play against the Flyers.

Adam, 23, is tied for the AHL lead in goals with 13 in 15 games. McNabb, 22, has 12 points and a plus-5 rating with the Americans this season.

Grigorenko, who was selected with by Buffalo with the 12th overall pick in 2012, has gotten off to a slow start to his NHL career. The 19-year-old has just three goals and seven assists in 40 games with the Sabres and has been a healthy scratch at times this season.

5. This and that
• The Flyers dropped two of three games against the Sabres last season, but won the only meeting at Wells Fargo Center, 3-2.

• Timonen had three assists against Buffalo last season. Giroux had two goals, but was a minus-5 in the season series.

• Miller has not had much success against the Flyers. The Sabres' netminder is 13-11-2 with a .900 save percentage and 3.10 goals-against average in 28 games (26 starts) vs. the orange and black. 

• Hall, the Flyers' faceoff extraordinaire, has lost just seven draws in his last six games (41 for 48) and is at 63.3 percent on the season.

• The Flyers have outscored the Sabres 17-7 in the last four games in Philadelphia, including the 2011 playoffs.

Best of NHL: Capitals edge Oilers for 13th straight home win

Best of NHL: Capitals edge Oilers for 13th straight home win

WASHINGTON -- Justin Williams and Tom Wilson scored as the Washington Capitals beat the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Friday night to tie the franchise record with their 13th consecutive home victory.

Williams' game-winner in the third period was his 19th of the season. Washington's streak of home games with five-plus goals ended at 11, but Braden Holtby made 30 saves to pad the team's lead atop the NHL.

Evgeny Kuznetsov didn't have a point but was arguably the Capitals' best player against Edmonton. They have now outscored opponents 64-20 during their home winning streak.

Leon Draisaitl scored his team-leading 23rd goal of the season for Edmonton, which got 24 saves from goaltender Cam Talbot (see full recap).

Hurricanes’ Lack posts ninth career shutout
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Eddie Lack stopped 34 shots for his ninth career shutout to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night.

Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Viktor Stalberg scored, and Phillip DiGiuseppe had two assists to help Carolina snap a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and move out of last place in the Eastern Conference.

Lack (2-3-1) was making just his sixth start of the season due to concussion issues.

Craig Anderson finished with 41 saves for Ottawa, which snapped a three-game road winning streak. The Senators squandered a chance to move into first place in the Atlantic Division.

Ottawa captain Erik Karlsson moved past Kyle Turris into sole possession of second place on the franchise's consecutive games played list with 308 (see full recap).

Johnson leads Flames past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Chad Johnson made 36 saves during his first start in five games to lead the Calgary Flames past the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Friday night for their third consecutive victory.

Troy Brouwer, Mikael Backlund, Deryk Engelland and Sam Bennett had the goals for the Flames, who scored three straight in less than five minutes midway through the first period.

Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo stopped 24 shots in his first start in three games.

The Panthers, coming off the first five-game road sweep in franchise history, have lost two in a row.

Calgary stretched its lead to 3-1 when Engelland swept in a loose puck in the crease with 6:09 left in the first (see full recap).

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” Sidney Crosby said. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it's going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet said of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”