Flyers-Sabres: 5 things you need to know


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.

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.” ​

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”