Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

flyers.png

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

Success at home hasn’t come easy for the Flyers this season. They’ve mustered just 15 goals and have dropped seven of their first 10 games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The suddenly resurgent Flyers (7-10-2) will try to reverse that trend when they open a three-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators (8-8-4) on Tuesday night.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m., here are five things you need to know for the Flyers’ second meeting with Ottawa in the past week:

1. Familiar foe
These two clubs met last Tuesday, and the Flyers put together one of their best performances of the season in a 5-0 victory at Canadian Tire Centre.

Jakub Voracek netted a pair of goals for the Flyers and Steve Mason turned aside all 24 shots fired his way. Matt Read, Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn also scored, while Claude Giroux picked up two helpers.

The Flyers peppered Senators netminder Craig Anderson, who returned to the lineup after missing more than a week with a neck injury, throughout the game, firing 31 shots on net.

Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn spearheaded a strong effort from the Flyers’ defensive corps. The two defensemen combined for six hits and three blocked shots. In all, the Flyers registered 30 hits and 13 blocks and also limited stars Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson to five combined shots.

Ottawa enters this rematch having lost its last two matchups with the Flyers. However, the Sens have collected wins in two of their last three visits to Philadelphia.

2. New-look Flyers
The Flyers, who will play their 20th game of the season on Tuesday, have looked like a completely different team over the past week. They’ve collected at least a point in four consecutive games and have potted 13 goals during that stretch.

More importantly, the Flyers aren’t making the same mistakes -- careless turnovers, dumb penalties etc. -- that plagued them in their 3-9-0 start to the season. They’re consistently winning battles and have shown a better awareness of where teammates are on the ice.

Now, it’s time for the Flyers to carry over the success from their road trip to the Wells Fargo Center ice. They’ve been outscored 29-15 at home this season and have heard far more boos than cheers from the Flyers faithful.  

3. Struggling special teams
The Flyers are on a bit of a hot streak while on the man advantage. They’ve collected power-play goals in four of their last eight opportunities. However, the orange and black still rank toward the bottom of the NHL at PP effectiveness (13.9 percent).

What’s more concerning is the Flyers’ recent struggles while shorthanded. They’ve yielded four goals over the last 13 times they’ve been a man down, including two in Friday’s shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

“The two [power-play] goals in Winnipeg should have been defended,” head coach Craig Berube admitted Monday (see story). “There was a line change, and they shouldn’t have changed. The puck wasn’t in deep enough to change. The other one, I think we have to do a better job of getting a stick on that shot.”

Ottawa hasn’t fared much better on special teams as of late, either. The Senators got a power-play marker from Karlsson in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but have gone just 2 for 21 on the man advantage over their last six games.

The Senators’ penalty kill is having problems, as well. They’ve allowed opponents to connect on 7 of 23 power-play attempts in six games.

4. Keep an eye on
The Flyers may have shut out the Senators in their last meeting, but that doesn’t mean Ottawa’s offensive attack should be taken lightly.

Ryan, a first-year Senator, has collected four goals and 11 points in his past nine games. The New Jersey native is tied with Karlsson for the team-lead in points with 20.

And don’t forget about Spezza. The Senators’ captain has registered eight goals and 16 assists in 28 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The last time Ottawa visited Philadelphia, Colin Grenning scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:36 remaining in a 3-1 victory for the Sens on April 11.

• Mason is 2-0-2 in his past four starts and has allowed two goals or fewer during that stretch.

• Erik Condra is the only Senator on the team’s injury report. He’s out with a pulled muscle in his right leg.

• Voracek has four goals over his last four games against Ottawa.

• Adam Hall’s faceoff percentage is 85.7 percent (30 for 35) over his past five games.

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

Battling for Phantoms job, goalie Alex Lyon solid in NHL preseason debut

When the Flyers signed Yale goalie Alex Lyon last April, they knew they were getting a competitive guy who was a finalist for the Mike Richter Award.
 
What they didn’t know, however, was likely how he could stand on his head and keep an undermanned squad in an exhibition game with just three NHL players on his side.
 
The Flyers lost 2-0 to the Devils on Monday night against a New Jersey lineup that was far superior and kept the puck in Lyon’s end two-thirds of the game.
 
Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers open their home preseason schedule against the Islanders with a legit lineup.
 
Lyon, who posted a 1.64 goals against average and .936 save percentage last season in college, was outstanding against the Devils with 28 saves on 29 shots (one empty netter).
 
“I had shaky legs until the middle of the first and then I felt I had settled in,” the 23-year-old said. “I guess I didn’t expect that.”
 
Exhibition games don’t mean much but this was a performance worth noting because Lyon showed he will challenge Anthony Stolarz for the starter’s job with the Phantoms this season. 

“Alex Lyon had a solid performance right from start to finish,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “Great demeanor and presence. Just a real steady performance all the way through.”
 
The kid seemed undaunted by the Devils' lineup in what was his first-ever start against an NHL club. Notice anything different from college?
 
“The biggest difference is six months ago, I was watching Travis Zajac on TV and now I am playing an exhibition game against him,” Lyon replied. “It was pretty cool going up against those guys.”
 
The Devils attacked him mostly with angled shots. So eager they were to test him, they put a shot on goal from their own blue line in the opening minutes of the game, which Lyon saved.
 
“Yeah, I think they were trying to throw some pucks and my rebound control wasn’t as good as it usually is,” Lyon said. “I think it’s because I was a little nervous. I was just trying to stop the puck to be honest, that is all I was thinking about.”
 
Lyon stopped two breakaway attempts from Beau Bennett, both coming in the opening two periods. The only goal from Nick Lappin came on a second rebound in the crease.
 
“They got their point shot through and I saw it clearly the whole way and didn’t react to it,” Lyon said. “I thought it was going to be tipped. There was a forest of sticks as Keith Allain (Yale coach) would say, in front of me.
 
“I was trying to get big in front of it and they took a couple of whacks and subsequently it bounced right to their guy.”
 
While exhibition games mean little to fans, it meant something to him.
 
“I told my roommate in Philly I was playing my first NHL game,” Lyon said. “Yeah, it’s preseason but going from college, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
 
Lyon won’t play Tuesday night against the Islanders.
 
On Provorov
Rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov, who logged a whopping 28:48 ice time during the loss in New Jersey, will play tonight against the Islanders.
 
The staff wants to get an idea of how he plays with heavy minutes in back-to-back games.
 
“I want to get him into two of the three (exhibitions), assuming he earned it,” Hakstol said. “He did a good job last night. His minutes got high but we wanted to get him into a good situation.
 
“He did a good job and the minutes didn’t seem to wear on him. It will be a challenge playing back-to-back. But that’s one for him and a few others where they have to meet the challenge.”
 
Provorov will be paired with Andrew MacDonald as Hakstol has one vet paired with one prospect in this game.
 
World Cup returnees
Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier both say they want to play games right now to keep themselves in game shape but Hakstol is biding time with them, insisting they get some rest off the ice.
 
“I feel like I’m in midseason form already,” Voracek quipped. “I don’t want to sit around. If I take more than 3-4 days off, I'll put on six pounds. ... I wouldn’t mind playing but obviously, we've got to get some rest. ”
 
Loose pucks
• Other defensive pairs: Nick Schultz and Travis Sanheim; Michael Del Zotto and Philippe Myers.  

• The lines: Jordan Weal will again center Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds; Andy Miele will handle Michael Raffl and Matt Read; Nick Cousins centers Scott Laughton and Dale Weise, which has been a line in camp; and Boyd Gordon will center Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov.

• Steve Mason will be in goal and Stolarz will back him up.

• Forward Travis Konecny will not play.