Flyers-Sabres: What you need to know

984689.jpg

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.

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NHL Playoffs: Rangers ride Zuccarello to 3-1 win in series-clinching Game 6

NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello scored twice in the second period and the New York Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6 on Saturday night to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Derek Stepan also scored and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots to help New York get past the first round for the fifth time in six years. The Rangers won three straight after falling behind 2-1 to beat Montreal for the ninth time in 16 postseason series.

The Rangers will face the winner of the Ottawa-Boston series, which the Senators lead 3-2.

Alexei Emelin scored for Montreal and Carey Price finished with 20 saves. The Canadiens, winners of the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year, were bounced from the postseason by the Rangers for the second time in four years. In 2014, it was in the conference finals (see full recap).

Paajarvi's OT goal gives Blues 4-3 win to oust Wild in 5
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Magnus Paajarvi scored at the 9:42 mark in overtime, giving the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in Game 5 of their playoff series, eliminating the Wild.

The Blues advanced to play Nashville in the second round.

Jake Allen made 34 saves for the Blues, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before a furious rally by the Wild to try to keep their season alive forced the extra frame.

Paajarvi's first career playoff goal gave Blues coach Mike Yeo the satisfaction of beating the team that fired him a little over a year ago.

Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker scored to bring the Wild back from their second two-goal hole, a deficit that held past the midpoint of the third period (see full recap).

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

Flyers excited for full-season upgrade of Valtteri Filppula

As the Flyers packed up for the offseason much earlier than they had hoped, the focus started shifting to the outlook for 2017-18.

There was some optimism provided by Valtteri Filppula.

It wasn't anything he said. Instead, it was what he did in 20 games.

Make that a full sample size and the Flyers are excited about the possibilities.

Filppula, a well-rounded, 33-year-old center, was acquired at the March 1 trade deadline in the Mark Streit deal. He added five goals and three assists in his 20 games.

"I felt like later in the year, we had more bullets in our gun," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week as the team held exit interviews and cleanout day. "(Jordan) Weal comes in and does a good job. Filppula comes in and really gives us stability. Really upgraded our top nine. So when you're talking 5-on-5 play, just to depend on five or six guys, all of a sudden you have nine guys you can count on."

The Flyers were 27th in the NHL with 128 goals at 5-on-5 -- a significant factor in their postseason absence.

But Filppula should bring more than simply a 5-on-5 boost.

The Flyers desperately needed depth at the center position to relieve some pressure from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Filppula, who came from the Lightning and played seven seasons with the Red Wings -- winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 -- is a sound matchup center and plays on the penalty kill, too.

"I think with Fil coming in this year, it really helped our depth," Giroux said. "He brings a lot to the team. He kills penalties, power plays, very good defensively and he's a smart player. When you bring a guy in like that, you kind of get excited a little bit."

From Filppula's first game on March 2 to the end of the regular season, the Flyers scored 56 goals, 12th most in the NHL over that span and 2.80 per game -- both improvements from their ranking of 21th on the full season and 2.59 per game.

"Now that we feel like we have nine guys that are legit top-nine forwards," Hextall said, "we've got good balance."

Couturier saw immediate benefits when the Flyers acquired Filppula. Couturier started playing with Dale Weise and Brayden Schenn, which turned out to be the team's best line combination to finish the regular season.

"I think it just brought some depth to our lineup," Couturier said of Filppula acquisition. "I had the chance to play after that with Schenn and Weiser and we just found chemistry right away and things went really well."

It provided head coach Dave Hakstol greater flexibility.

"The addition of Val Filppula to our group up front made our group of forwards better," Hakstol said. "Not just his presence, which I think he's an outstanding hockey player, a good hockey player and a real good veteran, but it just allowed some of the others to come together. I think there's real substance there."

The Flyers hope it shows with a full season of Filppula.

"I think when Filppula came in, the balance that seemed to come with him entering our lineup helped us both with and without the puck," Hakstol said. "Will that cohesion help us generate more offensively on an 82-game basis, not just a short-term basis? I think the answers to those things are yes."