Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

flyers-senators-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Senators
12:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Flyers (33-30-18) will try to end the 2014-15 campaign on a high note when they host the surging Ottawa Senators (42-26-13) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.

For the final time this season, here are five things you need to know before a Flyers game:

1. New deal for Manning
The past month of hockey hasn’t had many meaningful games for the Flyers, but one skater played well enough to earn himself a new contract.

The Flyers and defenseman Brandon Manning agreed to a one-year extension on Friday. In addition to Manning, Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Nicklas Grossmann and Radko Gudas are also under contract for the 2015-16 season.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Flyers still have to sign restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto. So it wouldn’t be surprising if general manager Ron Hextall actively shops a few of his blueliners this summer, especially with up-and-comers Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere waiting in the wings.

“You can never have enough [defensemen],” Hextall said (see story). “All of sudden, guys start going down and you lose two or three defensemen. It’s a hard hole to fill. We’ve got numbers and that’s a good thing.”

Which brings us back to Manning. The 24-year-old has been steady since entering the lineup for the injured Schenn. Manning has averaged nearly 20 minutes a game over his last six appearances and hasn’t looked out of place. He’s certainly earned the right to compete for a roster spot next season.

2. SEN-sational
Way back on Feb. 10, the Senators were tied for the third-fewest points in the Eastern Conference with 49 and 14 back of a playoff spot. Things were looking dim. Then they put together one of the most surprising and bewildering runs in recent memory.

Ottawa enters Saturday’s season finale having gone 22-4-4 in its last 30 contests and needs just one point against the Flyers to secure a playoff berth. Who saw that coming?

And what in the world sparked this incredible rally? Look no further than netminder Andrew Hammond. By now, you probably know him better as “The Hamburglar.” The 27-year-old has gone 19-1-2 with a 1.76 goals-against average in 22 starts since being called up from the AHL. He’s been simply astonishing and has proved to be the spark the Sens desperately needed.

3. Injuries
Defensemen MacDonald (hand), Schenn (abdomen) and Gudas (knee) and forwards R.J. Umberger (hip/abdomen) and Wayne Simmonds (leg) are all sidelined for the Flyers.

Veteran forward Vinny Lecavalier, who fought young Hurricanes defenseman Keegan Lowe twice during Thursday’s 3-1 loss, suffered an upper-body injury against Carolina and will miss the season finale.

For the Senators, winger Chris Neil (thumb), defenseman Chris Phillips (undisclosed) and goalie Robin Lehner (concussion) are all out. Forwards Milan Michalek (concussion) and Matt Puempel (ankle) are listed as day to day.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Shutdown center extraordinaire Sean Couturier has actually been bringing the offense over the past week and a half. The 22-year-old enters Saturday with two goals and four assists during his current five-game point streak. He scored the Flyers’ lone goal against Carolina and has meshed well with new linemate Brayden Schenn, who was recently converted to right wing.

Senators: Who is this Mark Stone guy and where did he come from? The 22-year-old has collected 33 points in his last 30 games and is currently riding an eight-game point streak in which he’s tallied six goals and assisted five more. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is a major reason Ottawa has climbed back into playoff contention and should be a fun player to watch moving forward. He wears No. 61.

5. This and that
• The last three games between the Flyers and Senators have been decided by shootouts. Foreshadowing much?

• No matter the outcome of Saturday’s game, the Flyers will finish with their fewest points in a non-shortened season since 2006-07, when they went 22-48-12 for just 56 points.

• Ottawa has not allowed a single power-play goal over its past four games.

• Jakub Voracek has eight goals and five assists in 15 career games against the Senators.

• Kyle Turris, who has a five-game point streak, has eight goals and 10 assists in his past 15 overall.

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top-two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "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."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Flyers-Jets 10 observations: Lackluster effort, wasted opportunity

Our recap of Tuesday's underwhelming performance by the Flyers in Winnipeg.

Their Tragic Number is now 13, meaning the number of points either lost by the Flyers or accrued by the second wild card -- Toronto -- that totals 13 will eliminate the Flyers from the playoffs.

Sean Couturier said it best prior to the road trip: Unless the Flyers won in Winnipeg, then anything positive they achieved in coming from behind to beat Carolina was wasted.

And it was.  

If you watched the telecast with John Boruk, Alfonso Morganti and myself, you already know how I feel about the loss.

But for those of you who are gluttons for further punishment, here's 10 Things I think, I think, as Bill Lyon used to say:

1. A couple players gave everything they had to make a difference in this game. Radko Gudas had eight of the Flyers' 17 hits. Michael Del Zotto had five strong shots from the point, two of which were almost goals. Shayne Gostisbehere had four shots, two of which almost gave them a goal.

2. The Jets had five injured defensemen out of their lineup, which meant the Flyers' forwards should have been attacking them at the net. Again, the only offense generated for 50 minutes was from the point and not down low, where the Jets were vulnerable.

3. Valterri Filppula matched up against Patrick Laine and held him -- with help from Steve Mason -- to no points, a task in itself. Laine generated five shots and two prime scoring chances that Mason took care of.

4. Jets rookie defenseman Julian Melchiori had played just eight NHL games and had a total of four shots. He had three in the first period alone Tuesday and tied Laine with a team-high five for the game. He was more determined to make something happen than most of the Flyers. That should embarrass coach Dave Hakstol, who insisted the Flyers come out strong. They didn't.

5. Winnipeg moved up and down the ice well in transition. They came into the zone with speed and spread their attack out. Blake Wheeler's goal that made it 2-1 in the third period was the result of the Jets' precise puck movement from Mathieu Perreault to Mark Scheifele to Wheeler that demonstrated nothing moves faster on the ice than the speed of the puck. Wheeler got the puck with a wide-open look inside the right circle. The Flyers didn't have a single play during the game that mimicked that rush.

6. Although the Flyers' penalty kill units gave up a 10th goal in their last 24 chances, they shut down the Jets' the final four power plays of the game, including the four-minute double-minor to Ivan Provorov in the second period. The PK got no help from the power play (0 for 3).

7. Mason had four saves during the Jets' four-minute power play, which should have given the Flyers some momentum for the remainder of the second period and into the third. He also had a terrific stick save on Laine in the slot after the PP that left the rookie so angry he was jamming his stick violently into the ground on the Jets' bench.

8. Following up on that, why were the Flyers hesitant in the third period, tied 1-1, while the Jets peppered Mason at the outset? Where's that sense of desperation Hakstol's team should have shown? This is precisely what happened in Boston a few weeks ago. Game tied going into the third and instead of playing for two points they absolutely had to have, the Flyers were playing to get the game into overtime and earn at least one. That strategy failed spectacularly in Boston when the Bruins won the game in the final 5.6 seconds of regulation and failed again Tuesday.

9. Hakstol talked about effort and determination, yet the numbers say otherwise. With 13:34 left in regulation, the Flyers had just two shots in the period. Two! In the final seven minutes of the game, their sense of urgency finally kicked in when they kept the puck in Winnipeg's zone to the end and even scored shorthanded. That again raises this question: Where was that urgency at the period's start when it was 1-1 and not 3-1?

10. Finally, the Flyers had three power plays in this defeat. During their second power play, trailing 2-1, Winnipeg's lowly PK unit generated two shorthanded chances and cleared the zone four times. On the Flyers' final power play -- they trailed 3-1 at that point -- Hakstol pulled Mason to create a 6-on-4. The Flyers generated several scoring chances. They have scored three times this season under that scenario. Young goalie Michael Hutchinson, who had a 4.06 goals against average head-to-head against the Flyers, had a couple of terrific saves, including one on Wayne Simmonds in the slot. Where was that pressure on Hutchinson earlier in the period? Or earlier in the game?