Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

flyers.png

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (5-10-1) will begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators (7-6-1).

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (CSN) at Canadian Tire Centre -- formerly Scotiabank Place -- in Ontario.

With the Flyers looking to build on a strong offensive performance and the Senators hoping to extend their win streak to four, here are five things you need to know for the game:

1. Keep the offense going
Goals have not come easy for the Flyers this season. They’re averaging an NHL-worst 1.62 goals per game and have scored two goals or less in 14 of their 16 contests.

However, the Flyers are coming off one of their better performances this campaign after dispatching the Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, on Saturday.

Several positives came from the Flyers’ victory over Edmonton. Claude Giroux registered his first goal in 21 games. Vinny Lecavalier snapped a three-game pointless streak with a third-period tally. Scott Hartnell found the back of the net for the second time in three games after failing to collect a point in his first nine games.

Those are three players the Flyers need to see on the scoresheet on a consistent basis if they want to put a stretch of wins together.

It’s important for the Flyers to keep putting the puck in the net. They remain dead last in the Metropolitan Division and need to start gaining ground sooner rather than later.

2. Downie returns?
The Flyers could have their only injured player back in the lineup on Tuesday night.

Steve Downie, who practiced on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read on Monday, has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion during a fight with Captials winger Aaron Volpatti earlier this month.

In his only game with the Flyers since he was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, Downie played over 10 minutes with two shots before dropping the gloves with Volpatti. He is considered a game-time decision for the Flyers’ matchup with Ottawa (see story).

“We’re working on it,” Downie said Monday. “Today was another step. We’ve got some more talking to do.”

If Downie returns, Michael Raffl will likely be the odd man out. Although head coach Craig Berube could choose to sit Kris Newbury or Jay Rosehill, as well. Both Raffl and Newbury have spent time with the Adirondack Phantoms this season. One of the two could be sent back down to the AHL when Downie is 100 percent healthy.  

3. Between the pipes
Apparently three consecutive wins and a First Star of the Week award isn’t enough to keep Robin Lehner in net for the Senators.

Instead of going back to the red-hot Lehner, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean will start No. 1 Sens goaltender Craig Anderson against the Flyers on Tuesday night.

Anderson has sat out the last three games with a stiff neck. Prior to his injury, Anderson allowed 16 goals in his last four starts -- all losses.

With Anderson sidelined, Lehner took advantage of his opportunity to play. He stopped 91 of 95 shots fired his way and posted a 1.33 goals-against average in three starts -- all victories. He’ll back up Anderson on Tuesday.

Anderson has had success against the Flyers in his career, going 7-3-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 12 games (11 starts).  

4. Dynamic duo
The Flyers are going to have their hands full with Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris on Tuesday.

The two linemates have keyed the Senators’ current 3-0-2 stretch. They’re both plus-8 in those games and enter Tuesday with lengthy scoring streaks.

Ryan has scored three goals and assisted seven more during his six-game point streak. The New Jersey native, who was acquired Ottawa this past summer, is off to a marvelous start to his Senators career. He has a team-high 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) through 17 games this season.

Turris has recorded a point in seven straight. He has three markers and seven helpers during his current run and is tied with Erik Karlsson for second on the Senators in scoring with 18 points (four goals, 14 assists).

5. This and that
• The Flyers took two of three games from the Senators in 2013 despite scoring just five goals in the season series. They last met on April 27, when the Flyers closed out their season with a 2-1 win in Ottawa.

• Colin Greening led the Sens offensively against the Flyers last year, registering one goal and two assists. He has just three points – all assists – in 17 games this season.

• Jakub Voracek had two of the Flyers’ five goals against the Senators last year.

• Visiting teams are 2 for 39 on the power play in Ottawa this season.

• With Anderson returning, Erik Condra is the only other injured Senator. He’s out with a leg injury.

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

Flyers look to limit goals against, improve 5-on-5 play in second half

VOORHEES, N.J. — As bad as things have been for the Flyers — just three wins in their last 14 games — there was no massive shakeup during their mandatory five-day bye week.
 
General manager Ron Hextall didn’t make a trade, nor did he make any roster moves involving a call-up from the Phantoms.
 
Coach Dave Hakstol took one day off, then got back to watching video and live games, almost in a scout mode.
 
When the players hit the ice Friday afternoon at Skate Zone, Hakstol’s lineup was pretty much the same.
 
The only change saw Matt Read re-enter the lineup on the top line with Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl after missing two games with a skate cut.
 
The lines and defensive pairs remained the same. Goalie Michal Neuvirth will start Saturday against New Jersey at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
“For me, the biggest thing is our overall performance,” Hakstol said. “Coming out of a break, that may be a tough thing to do — to put it all together. But I think the energy will be there both mentally and physically. That’s important. The overall performance.
 
“The results are important on a different level when you start looking at the playoff picture and the race. At the end of the day, two points are going to be important, as well.”
 
The Flyers begin anew (see story) with back-to-back games against New Jersey here on Saturday and then the Islanders on Sunday in Brooklyn.
 
They will play four Eastern Conference opponents between Saturday and next Thursday before they begin the three-day All-Star break.
 
Three of these games are against Metropolitan Division opponents while the fourth is against Toronto. The Maple Leafs happen to hold the second wild-card spot that the Flyers previously had going into the bye week.
 
“Guys realize the situation we are in,” Brayden Schenn said. “We know the circumstances. The break came at a good time, mentally ... guys know what we’re coming into there with the back-to-backs.
 
“You were kind of scoreboard watching. We know where we’re at. We’re in a dogfight battle with teams for those wild-card spots. There’s a lot of hockey left. It’s no secret. Everyone pays attention where we’re at.”
 
Hakstol said after his one-day off, he went right back to work in evaluating where this team is. That the team remains intact without any kind of moves seems to send a message to the players.
 
That message is: it’s on you at this point. Don’t count on getting help from the outside. It has to come from within the current roster.
 
“Anything we’ve talked about is us as a group doing things we do well,” Hakstol said. “We’ve had a rough couple weeks where we haven’t been able to do the things we need to and want to consistently.
 
“I’m very confident in this group and this team. For us, what the players said is true. It was a real good time to have a mental and physical break. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
 
What has to improve right from the get-go is the Flyers' 5-on-5 play. Forget for a moment they have scored 75 goals and are 13th in the NHL averaging 2.76 goals a game.
 
The critical factor is 5-on-5 goals against. The Flyers have allowed 98 goals in that situation — only Colorado (100 GA) has allowed more. The Flyers' 3.13 goals-against number is 28th worst in the league.
 
Unless those numbers improve significantly, the Flyers won’t be in the playoffs.
 
“We have to stay within our system,” defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said. “We give up too many odd-man rushes. Especially in those final games before the break. That’s a big thing.
 
“When we’re giving up that many, it’s not going to be in our favor. It’s not fair to judge our goalies in those games because we didn’t give them too much help out there.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays on a checking line, said the 5-on-5 goals against is a telling stat.
 
“You have it right there,” he said. “You don’t have to say much more than that. You cannot be a consistently good team in the league if you are that low in goals against. It’s something we have to all work together at, as players.”
 
Hakstol said the Flyers enjoyed success 5-on-5 when they were winning because their team play was “consistent” game to game.
 
That hasn’t been the case during this 3-8-3 stretch.
 
“Our 5-on-5 game hasn’t necessarily regressed, but the consistency of it has,” Hakstol said. “That’s when you see the holes defensively. That’s when you see some of the problems you run into.
 
“We’ve got to get back to it. Back to a full 60 minutes of good 5-on-5 play. That’s up to each and every one of us, taking that responsibility and making the push to do that.”

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

In different spot after bye week, Flyers ready for playoff push with 'new perspective'

VOORHEES, N.J. — When we last left the Flyers on Sunday evening, they were picking up pieces of themselves all over the ice at the Verizon Center after a 5-0 beatdown by the Washington Capitals.

They have had to stew over that defeat all through their five-day NHL mandated bye week, which ended Friday afternoon when they reported to Skate Zone for a rare 4 p.m. practice (see story).

They’ll host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.

“You go into the break thinking about [hockey], but the whole point of it is to refresh mentally,” said Wayne Simmonds, who got engaged. “I didn’t drive myself crazy over it. This a little stretch here before the final playoff drive.”

When Claude Giroux became engaged in late November, the Flyers won eight straight as part of their 10-game streak.

“So to replicate that, we need everyone in here to get engaged,” Simmonds said. “We've got a lot of work to do. We know that. We got off to a good start compared to the past and then we faltered.

“We know we've got to be better. We all have to be accountable to each other. We’re not starting from scratch, but we need a new perspective here. Come out of the gate and do it the right way, again.”

A lot has happened since the loss in Washington. The Flyers remain fifth in the Metropolitan Division, but the layoff has seen them plummet to ninth overall in the Eastern Conference.

None of that, however, is as important as this: the Flyers no longer hold the second wild card. Toronto has it now with the same number of points as the Flyers — 50.

Difference is, the Maple Leafs also have two games in hand on Dave Hakstol’s club. Worse, the Carolina Hurricanes are snapping at the Flyers' skates with 49 points and they have three games in hand.

All of this is entirely the Flyers' fault as they’ve gone 3-8-3 since their 10-game win streak ended.

Yet they remain in striking distance of the wild card, although they are 11 points out of third, which is an automatic playoff spot.

They are fortunate they’re not farther behind in the wild-card standings.

“For sure, over those days there ... our division did lose a little bit,” Brayden Schenn said. “It’s going to happen. But at the end of the day, if we don’t win hockey games, it’s not going to matter what the other team will do.”

After Saturday’s game against the Devils, the Flyers head to Brooklyn for a Sunday night encounter with the Islanders. Sit five days, then play a back-to-back. Ah, the joys of the NHL schedule this season.

“We know we lost all that ground we gained with the 10-game winning streak,” said Jakub Voracek, who shaved off the beard he’s had for a year and a half during the break. “We are right there in a playoff spot. Now we keep pushing.

“We have 36 games left. We go game by game. I don’t remember how many points out we were last year with the playoffs, but we’re in a better position now.”

Last year after 46 games, the Flyers had 48 points, but were seven points out of a wild-card playoff spot. They have two more points now but are in better wild-card shape.

They know they have to get themselves going quickly but the harsh reality is, they seldom play well coming out of a four or five-day break.

Most of the players went away during the break and didn’t think about hockey. They said they wanted to come back refreshed with a new attitude and clean slate. It starts Saturday.

“We have to stop overthinking things,” Voracek said. “When we were winning, we just kept going. When you are losing, you begin to overthink things.

“You’re a half step slower thinking whether you should go or not. That’s our problem. We have to refocus. Everyone is excited to be back. Get back to work. Push this team to the playoffs.”