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.

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

Best of NHL: Trocheck's last-second goal lifts Panthers past Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Vincent Trocheck scored with just under 5 seconds remaining to lift the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

Jonathan Marchessault also scored and James Reimer stopped 26 shots to help the Panthers complete a 5-0 road trip -- their first perfect trip of at least that many games in franchise history.

Reimer has won five straight decisions and has not lost in regulation since Jan. 7 against Boston, going 6-0-1 since.

The Panthers moved into a tie with Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, but have the edge because they have a game in hand on the Bruins.

Kyle Brodziak, playing for the second time after missing 10 games due to a broken foot, scored for the Blues and Jake Allen finished with 31 saves. St. Louis lost its second straight since winning six in a row (see full recap).

Coyotes use three-goal 1st period to beat Ducks
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Radim Vrbata capped Arizona's three-goal first period and the Coyotes held on for 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.

Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun also scored for Arizona, and starting goalie Mike Smith had 27 saves before leaving about 4 1/2 minutes into the third period after a collision in the net. Marek Langhamer helped kill a power play after being pressed into action for his NHL debut and stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

The Coyotes have won four of their last six.

Langhamer gave up Ryan Getzlaf's second goal of the night with 26.8 seconds to play, but thwarted two quality shots in the final seconds.

Jonathan Bernier gave up three goals on six shots in the first period for the Ducks. John Gibson came on to start the second and stopped all 14 shots he faced (see full recap).

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

Playing with 'swagger,' Gostisbehere flashes glimpse of rookie self vs. Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Flyers’ “Ghost” headed home Monday on a high note — for a change.

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere recorded three assists for the first three-point night of his NHL career Sunday as the Flyers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in the final game of a three-game Western Canada road trip (see story). In one night, he matched his offensive output of his previous 10 games played. 

He was a healthy scratch for three games in the meantime. On many other occasions, he has struggled while dealing with the NHL’s proverbial sophomore jinx following a standout rookie season. 

“It’s been a while coming,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s good to get some points, but I thought it was more important to get two points for our team.”

The win moved the Flyers (28-24-7) within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot, currently held by Toronto, in the Eastern Conference. With considerable thanks to Gostisbehere, the club’s much maligned power play scored on two of three man-advantage opportunities. 

“He played great,” Wayne Simmonds said of Gostisbehere. “He had his confidence and a little bit of swagger.”

Gostisbehere’s first assist enabled the Flyers to get off to a quick start offensively as Simmonds deflected in his point shot only 1:11 into the game. On the Flyers’ second goal, Gostisbehere head-manned the puck to Sean Couturier on a rush. Jakub Voracek easily put Couturier’s big rebound into a gaping net with Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller caught out of position.

One minute and 27 seconds later, Brayden Schenn took Gostisbehere’s pass and put in a shot from the slot. Altogether, Gostisbehere’s assists enabled the Flyers to build an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game’s first 23 minutes.

“Ghost has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a heck of a player and has unbeliveable skill,” Simmonds said. “He can be a catalyst offensively for us, that’s for sure.”

Gostisbehere now has four goals and 18 assists on the season. Until Sunday, the 23-year-old had seemed like an apparition of his former self. 

He had a less-than-ideal recovery period from offseason hip (labrum) and abdominal surgeries, due to his participation with Team North America in the World Cup. Then he suffered a facial cut in the Flyers’ season opener and took a bruise on his right hand in December.

He also struggled defensively to the point where he was scratched — for the first time in his NHL career — in November and was later benched and pulled out of the lineup again. Heading into Sunday’s game, he had a woeful minus-22 mark, but he was only on the ice for one Canucks' goal.

He helped the Flyers shut out the Canucks in the first and third periods. 

“We don’t like how they came back, but we held the lead and, like I said, we got the two points,” Gostisbehere said.

Ghost’s offensive showing evoked memories of his seemingly other-worldly 2015-16 season. In 64 games last season, he notched 17 goals, the most by an NHL rookie defenseman since Dion Phaneuf, then with Calgary, who scored 20 over a full 82-game schedule in 2005-06. Gostisbehere also enjoyed a historic 15-game point streak in 2015-16, the longest ever for a first-year rearguard, and he was a runnerup for the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

His return to form Sunday bodes well as the Flyers face two Metropolitan Division rivals this week, first Washington at home on Wednesday and then the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday in an outdoor game that will pack plenty of hype and pressure. 

After those games, the Flyers face a more compressed schedule than they have lately. The Feb.12-27 portion of their calendar contains only five games. But starting Feb. 28, they will play their final 21 games of the regular season over 41 days as they push to make the playoffs.

“We definitely know we’re a playoff team, for sure,” Gostisbehere said. “It shows. It’s a big test for us (this) week, playing these really good teams.”