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.

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

How Nolan Patrick's injury could have been career-ending

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. William Meyers may have saved Nolan Patrick’s career June 13 when the 18-year-old NHL prospect elected to have corrective surgery on a core muscle injury that had been bothering him for the better part of the past year.

Prior to his initial visit to Philadelphia, Patrick believed he was fully healthy when he went through comprehensive testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in May, but his time on the ice told a much different story.

“I was probably 60 percent when I first started playing and maybe got up to 70, 75 tops,” Patrick said at development camp earlier this month. “I never had any wind during games. I’d lose my energy really quick because I’d lose it trying to skate with that injury. Probably 75 tops, I’d say.”

But what Patrick was completely unaware of, as are the many doctors who perform these core muscle surgeries, is the prevalence of how these complex injuries are misinterpreted. The Flyers' rookie should have had a typical four-to-six week recovery last summer, and any setback likely would have been avoided. 

Patrick’s first operation took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, by Dr. James Robinson who, according to Patrick’s agent Kevin Epp, came recommended from the Jets' organization.

“I don’t think it had time to heal,” Epp said Monday in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. “Nolan got the surgery to fix the injured area at the time. I don’t know if both sides needed repair. Through the course of rehab he may have aggravated the other side.” 

“It’s tough to explain but it’s a sharp, shooting pain in your lower stomach," Patrick said. “I had it on both sides for a while there. I got one side fixed and then was having issues on that side again."

Whether Patrick was misdiagnosed or the procedure and subsequent rehabilitation were mishandled is certainly open for debate.

In speaking with Meyers of the Vincera Institute, he could not discuss specifically Patrick’s injury or his surgery, but said he performs “on average 10 procedures during a regular clinical day” in which the original surgeon failed to correct the problem area and the result is either a re-aggravation or the development of another injury altogether.

“The number one cause is a failure to understand that the prevalent concepts of ‘hernias’ have nothing to do with these injuries,” Meyers said.

Meyers believes the reason why core muscle injuries aren’t performed correctly are three-fold:  

• A general failure to understand the whole concept of the core muscle region (the area from mid abdomen to mid thigh).  

• A lack of knowledge regarding the anatomy.

• Very little experience seeing a variety of core muscle injuries and correlating that with the imaging. 

Over the past 35 years, Meyers has dedicated his medical career to the complex field of core muscle injuries, and what he has witnessed is a very disturbing trend. He’s the pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of core muscle injuries, working primarily in his two-story complex at the Navy Yard. 

“The reason why I got into this area was so many hockey players in the 1980s were forced to retire too early because of these [core muscle] injuries," Meyers said. "It was, at that time, the number one reason why they retired.”

Perhaps the one popular Flyer whose career succumbed to persistent groin pain was Mikael Renberg, who retired in 2008 at the age of 35 after undergoing three separate groin procedures over a 12-year span.

Patrick saved himself the agony and was thoroughly convinced a corrective procedure performed by Meyers prior to the draft was vital to his career, regardless of who selected him.

The Flyers were also convinced. Patrick didn’t have an injury history, just history of an injury that never healed in the first place. 

Thankfully, they knew the one doctor who could get down to the core of the problem.

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.