Flyers-Sabres: What you need to know

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Flyers-Sabres: What you need to know

Flyers at Sabres -- 12:30 p.m., NBC
First Niagara Center, Buffalo

The Flyers are back in action a day after opening their lockout-shortened, 48-game season with a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Next up for the Flyers are the Buffalo Sabres, who haven't enjoyed much success against the orange and black over the past few seasons.

That especially goes for Sabres netminder Ryan Miller, who has posted a 12-10-0-2 record with a 3.15 goals against average and .899 save percentage in 26 career games against the Flyers.

Records
Flyers: 0-1-0

Sabres: 0-0-0

Last meeting
The last time these two teams met, the Flyers eliminated the Sabres from postseason contention with a 2-1 win on April 5. Matt Read and Marc-Andre Bourdon each scored in the third period to help the Flyers sweep the season series against Buffalo, 4-0. Former Flyer Ville Leino netted the Sabres' only marker.

Previous games
The Flyers opened their 2013 campaign with a sloppy 3-1 loss to the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. The Penguins jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov performed well overall. He made 24 saves on 26 shots. Captain Claude Giroux scored the Flyers' lone goal courtesy of a nifty saucer pass from linemate Scott Hartnell on the opening shift of the second period.

Buffalo was one of only four teams -- along with Edmonton, Calgary and San Jose -- that did not play on Saturday. Sunday's contest with the Flyers will be the Sabres' first game since they ended their 2011-12 season with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins.

Inside the box score
The Flyers outhit the Penguins on Sunday, 40-37. Zac Rinaldo and Matt Cooke each delivered a game-high seven checks.

Kimmo Timonen led the Flyers in ice time at 23:52. The 37-year-old recorded two shots and was a plus-1 in the loss.

The Flyers' power play unit went 0 for 5 on the man advantage. The Flyers took only three penalties, but allowed two goals while shorthanded -- one on an empty net.

Keep an eye on ...
Flyers rookie Scott Laughton had a strong debut on Saturday. The 18-year-old delivered four checks, blocked a shot and went 2 for 6 on faceoffs in just over 12 minutes of ice time against Pittsburgh. The Flyers now have four games to decide whether they want to keep Laughton or send him back to juniors in Oshawa. Last season, Laughton scored 21 goals and had 32 assists in 64 games for the Generals in the OHL.

Similarly, Sabres rookie Mikhail Grigorenko is in the same position as Laughton. Grigorenko has five games to prove that he belongs in the NHL before Buffalo is forced to make a decision on whether to keep him on its roster or send him back to juniors in Quebec. The 18-year-old recorded 40 goals and 45 assists in 59 games with the Remparts in the QMJHL last season.

Did you know?
The Flyers are 6-2 against Buffalo over the past two regular seasons and have outscored the Sabres 36-23 in those eight games.

The last time Buffalo reached the postseason was in 2010-11, when the Flyers eliminated the Sabres in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in seven games before being swept out of the playoffs by the Bruins in the second round.

Injuries
Flyers: Danny Briere is still recovering from a hairline fracture in his left wrist and will not play against his former club on Sunday.

Sabres: Leino is questionable for Sunday's game with a nagging knee injury. Forwards Cody McCormick (finger) and Nathan Gerbe (back surgery) are on Injured Reserve.

Sound off
Should the Flyers keep Laughton or send him back to juniors?

E-mail Tim Riday at triday@comcastsportsnet.com.

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers (33-31-8) at Wild (44-22-6)
8 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7:30

A four-game road trip takes a daunting turn Thursday night when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Hazardous road
You thought things were already ugly?

It looks like it could get much, much worse.

The Flyers now visit three of the NHL's top five clubs, starting with the Wild, followed by the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.

Those three are a combined 137-58-21 overall and 79-24-5 at home.

And it's safe to say the Flyers don't have any momentum heading into this gauntlet. They're coming off a 3-2 loss to the Jets, a non-contender decimated by injuries, and are 4-15-3 on the road since Dec. 19 with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We need to have a better effort," Steve Mason said postgame Tuesday. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it."

2. Hole gets deeper
With a win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs moved past the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, making Boston the current leader for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 82 points.

The Flyers, with 74 points, trail the Bruins, Islanders (80), Lightning (77) and Hurricanes (75), who have a game in hand, as well. Oh, and the Panthers are just one point behind the Flyers.

Ten regular-season games remain and Dave Hakstol's group needs a miracle.

In search of some type of spark, the Flyers will strut out a different look against the Wild.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Matt Read said Wednesday. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

3. A look at the Wild
Minnesota, which went 30-6-3 from the start of December to the end of February, has cooled off a bit but is still one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

The Wild are 3-8-0 in March. For the season, however, they rank among the league's top 10 in goals per game (3.22 -- second), goals against per game (2.47 -- tied for sixth), power-play percentage (21.3 -- ninth) and penalty-kill percentage (83.8 -- seventh).

Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have 20 or more goals, while netminder Devan Dubnyk has been a top-five goalie at 37-18-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Jakub Voracek has no goals and an assist in his last six games for a minus-5 rating. When he's not providing offense, the Flyers predictably struggle. The good thing: Voracek owns 16 points in 18 career games against Minnesota.

Wild: Ryan Suter has been a stud for the Wild. The defenseman leads the NHL as a plus-34 and is third with 27:07 of ice time per game. The 32-year-old is Minnesota's backbone and the Wild are 21-6-1 in games that he has at least one point.

5. This and that
• Mason will make his 11th start in the last 12 games. He is 7-6-1 lifetime against Minnesota with a 2.59 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

• Dubnyk is 2-4-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Brandon Manning is back in the lineup for Michael Del Zotto (see Skate Update). Manning missed the last fives games with a shoulder injury.

• Former Flyer Ryan White is out for the Wild with an illness.

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Facing a critical road game in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Flyers will welcome back a key defenseman to their lineup.

Brandon Manning, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, will return and pair with Radko Gudas on the blue line.

“We’re playing a heavy team tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re a heavy team down low. So, we’ll need that pair to play that way. They’ve got to be an abrasive pair and they have to be on the heavy side defensively.”

Michael Del Zotto will be the odd man out as the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen again. Manning, with three goals and seven assists in 57 games this season, said he’s not worried about conditioning or the injury.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. Did some contact a few days ago and not even thinking about it.”

Toronto’s win in Columbus on Tuesday night allowed the Maple Leafs to surpass Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins now hold the No. 8 spot in the playoff race with 82 points with nine games remaining. The Flyers are eight points back, with three teams in between, and 10 games left in the season.

Their play on the road is one big reason why the Flyers are out of a playoff spot. They are 12-20-4 on the road this season, tied for the second-fewest road wins among Eastern Conference teams. They’re winless in their last six road games (0-5-1) as they play the second game of a four-game trip.

“I don’t think there’s panic,” Manning said. “I think the focus is on each and every night, not really looking too far down the road. Obviously, the last couple weeks, we’ve probably given up points we don’t want to give up and put ourselves in a pretty tough spot. But we got a good group of guys in here, and guys that have played pro hockey long enough that know what it’s like.”

With Del Zotto's being scratched for Manning, Nick Schultz will play what could be his final game in the Xcel Energy Center, where he spent 10 seasons with the Wild. Schultz, a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, ranks second in franchise history with 743 games played.

Hakstol said Schultz’s history wasn’t a factor in keeping the defenseman in the lineup.

“He’s filled his role well the last few games,” Hakstol said. “He’s been good in that role with Ghost. So, he’s staying in for that reason.”

Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 11th time in 12 games. He has a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his last 10 games.

Lineup
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmons
Schenn-Couturier-Weise
Konecny-Bellemare-VandeVelde

D: Provorov-MacDonald
Schultz-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas

G: Mason