Flyers-Senators: What you need to know

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Flyers-Senators: What you need to know

Flyers vs. Senators – 12 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

Records
Flyers: 10-11-1 (Third in Atlantic Division, ninth in Eastern Conference)

Senators: 12-6-3 (Third in Northeast Division, fifth in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
In the last matchup between these two clubs, the Flyers erased a 3-0 deficit with three second-period markers, but ultimately fell to the Senators, 4-3, in a shootout on March 31, 2012. Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier and Braydon Coburn each scored in regulation for the Flyers. Ottawa’s Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek beat former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky in the shootout to lift the Sens to a victory.

Saturday will mark the first of three games between the Flyers and Senators this season. In the 2011-12 series, the Flyers went 2-1-1 against Ottawa and have earned at least one point in eight of their last 10 home games versus the Sens.

Previous games
In his first game back with the orange and black, Simon Gagne scored a goal to help the Flyers come away with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist and Max Talbot recorded his first tally of the 2013 campaign. Washington’s Joel Ward ruined Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout bid by scoring his sixth goal of the season with just 2:09 remaining in the game.

The Senators, who also played on Thursday, are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins. Jim O’Brien tallied the lone goal for Ottawa, which had its five-game winning streak snapped. Robin Lehner, who was recalled from the AHL Binghamton Senators on Feb. 22, made 44 saves in his first start of the season.

Who's hot
Giroux enters Saturday’s contest with a six-game point-scoring streak. The Flyers’ captain has four goals and eight assists during that span and should continue to produce regularly with a healthy Scott Hartnell back and Jakub Voracek on his line.

Who's not
Ottawa’s offense ranks towards the bottom of the league in goals per game (2.19). Kyle Turris is leading the team in scoring with just 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 contests.

Keep an eye on ...
The Senators will be without their top three point scorers from last season and possibly their starting goaltender when they take on the Flyers. Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek, who combined for 222 points in 2011-12, are all out with injuries and Craig Anderson has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle.

The Flyers’ power-play unit has been red-hot as of late, going 9 for 27 on the man advantage over the last six contests. They went 2 for 3 in Wednesday’s win over the Caps.

While their offense has struggled, the Senators' defense and goaltending have been stellar all season long. They have allowed just 38 goals, killed off 88.5 percent of their shorthanded situations and have the best save percentage in the league at .945.

Danny Briere has had a ton of success against the Senators over the past few seasons. In his last 18 games against Ottawa, the forward has lit the lamp eight times and has collected 11 helpers.

Did you know?
Gagne’s second-period marker on the power play was his first goal since Nov. 17, 2011 -- a span of 28 games. The veteran forward had 259 tallies and 524 points from 1999-2010 with the orange and black.

Injuries
Flyers: Erik Gustafsson should be ready to go versus Ottawa after taking a hard shot off his left shin in the Flyers’ win over Washington.

Matt Read (torn rib cage muscles), Tye McGinn (broken orbital bone), Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) and Jody Shelley (hip) are all on injured reserve and remain out.

Senators: Karlsson, last season’s Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman, is out for the rest of the season after having surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon, which was cut by Penguins forward Matt Cooke’s skate during a game on Feb. 13. Although he has missed the last seven games, Karlsson is still leading the Senators in goals with six.

Anderson is doubtful for Saturday’s game with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day. Mike Lundin is recovering from flu-like symptoms and is questionable to play against the Flyers.

Spezza (back surgery), Michalek (sprained knee), Guillaume Latendresse (whiplash), Jared Cowen (left hip surgery) and Peter Regin (upper-body) are all on injured reserve.

Sound off
How long do you think Giroux’s point-scoring streak will last?

End to End: The State of Claude Giroux

End to End: The State of Claude Giroux

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: The state of Flyers captain Claude Giroux.

Boruk
The state of Giroux is more of a state of mind at this point of his career. There was one very revealing quote that surfaced following his breakout day when he said, “Your mind wants to do something but your body doesn’t do it, it’s frustrating.” That tells me the dynamic part of his game that we came to expect and admire for much of his career is perhaps no longer there, and he’s searching for a way to reinvent himself. He still has a big-time slap shot, terrific vision and an unbelievable set of hands.
 
The bigger worry here is that Giroux, who turns 30 in January, hasn’t performed as a No. 1 center (despite being paid like one) at even strength for the past three seasons, where he’s ranked 81st, 60th and a mind-blowing 189th last season in even-strength points. It’s an accumulation of facing the top lines and defense pairings every single game, and eventually, it takes a toll.

If this trend continues, I would give thought to moving him back to wing where he started his Flyers career during the Mike Richards-Jeff Carter era. I agree to some extent with Jeremy Roenick’s assertion that he lets too much get into his head, and that probably includes all facets of life, even off the ice. Giroux needs to come to camp like a finely-tuned Ferrari, and if he can start strong, it will go a long way toward a rebound season.  

Dougherty
The numbers tell a cautionary tale. Since the 2014-15 campaign, Giroux’s goal, assist and point totals have been in a consistent decline. What makes that season important?

That was when his eight-year, $66.2 million contract extension began. Giroux’s decline over the last three seasons should concern the Flyers. He’s not the same player he was in 2013-14. But I don’t believe he’s the player he was in 2016-17, either. I think there’s a happy medium here, and I expect Giroux to have a much better season in 2017-18.

It’s two-fold as to why I believe so. One, Giroux's confidence was rocked last season after undergoing hip and abdominal surgery last summer. Was he fully healthy all season? He’ll never say, but toward the end of the year, I thought he was much better. I think with a full summer of training and added motivation, Giroux will come in with a chip on his shoulder.

More importantly, there will be less pressure on Giroux to carry the workload because the talent level at forward will be deeper. I expect Nolan Patrick to be a Flyer. I also expect Oskar Lindblom to be here too. Then there is Jordan Weal and Travis Konecny. Weal will be here all season, and I expect Konecny to make a big jump in Year 2. Those four should lessen the demand placed on Giroux.

We may never see Giroux reach 70 points again. But with expected scoring depth incoming, the Flyers can live with Giroux in the 60-65-point range, which I think he’ll be in. The contract could be a cap problem in a few seasons, but I don’t think the Flyers are there yet.

Hall
Giroux's right — he's his toughest critic, which can be a blessing and a curse.

Any organization wants a driven player. With Giroux, it's not so much about what outsiders think, but it's his own expectations. So when he struggles, he sort of creates his own pressure because he expects a lot of himself — just like the fans and media expect a lot from him.

What I expect this season is an ultra-motivated Giroux, maybe the most fueled we've ever seen him. It didn't look or sound like Giroux was healthy last season, which only added to his frustration when he didn't perform. A summer full of recouping and training — he's pretty excited about both — should help Giroux's chances of rebounding.

I don't think he'll ever put up 80-plus points again, but that doesn't mean he can't be productive — say 20 goals and close to 50 assists? Giroux needs a supporting cast, not all the weight on his shoulders, because it has a negative affect on the captain.

The supporting cast should be better in 2017-18, and so should Giroux.

Paone
Is Giroux still an upper-echelon, high-level NHL player? Absolutely he is. The skill is still there and the guy isn't a former Hart Trophy finalist and four-time All-Star by accident. But after last season's woeful campaign where the captain, in many ways the sparkplug of the Flyers' offense and arguably the team's most important player, struggled mightily, it's more than fair to question just which echelon and level he is on these days, especially as he enters his age 29-30 season.

In so many ways, as Giroux goes, so does the Flyers' offense. And it's been that way for the last several years as he is still the main guy other teams gameplan for when preparing to play the Flyers. But the decline in production has been steady over the last few years and the Flyers' offense has suffered because of that.

In 2014-15, Giroux posted 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.59 goals per game. In 2015-16, Giroux put up 67 points (22 goals and 45 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.57 goals per game. Last season, the captain notched 58 points (14 goals and 44 assists) and the Flyers averaged 2.59 goals per game again. All of those goal-per-game numbers the last three seasons were in the bottom half of the league's numbers. Compare all that to 2013-14 when Giroux, a Hart finalist that year, posted 86 points (career-high-tying 28 goals and 58 assists) and the Flyers tallied 2.84 goals per contest, seventh in the league.

That Giroux may not be there any more. It's a legitimate question with the the decline shown over the last several seasons. That's why this season is all about answering questions for Giroux. And he couldn't answer those questions for the better part of last season as that hip surgery turned his hockey world upside down. He couldn't get a full summer of training in and then jumped right into the World Cup of Hockey, where he took this hit from Joe Pavelski in an exhibition. That's an injury that lingers, especially for a hockey player, and Giroux was basically stuck in mud the for most of the year as he tried to get his motor going. The quote John mentioned above from breakout day is so telling with that. Shayne Gostisbehere knows the feeling. But much like Gostisbehere, Giroux started to turn it on more and more and showed flashes of his more productive self as the season wound down.

Giroux is a guy who takes his play to heart and he can be very hard on himself. The way you see him break his stick over the bench every so often is proof of that. He expects so much more out of himself than he gave last season.

But now healthy, with a full offseason of training and a year's worth of motivation under his belt, I expect him to be much better and much more productive. The Giroux of five years ago? No, probably not. But with another year of young talent surrounding him and a healthy slate, I really don't feel there's a reason Giroux can't be a top-line threat again and I even look for him to be reckoned with as the season gets underway. But he's the guy who will provide the answers that both he and Flyers fans have been looking for.

NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

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NHL Notes: Tomas Tatar, Red Wings agree on deal worth $21.2 million deal

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with winger Tomas Tatar on a $21.2 million, four-year contract Friday.

The 26-year-old Czech native led Detroit with 25 goals last season and also had 21 assists. He has 20-plus goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 29 in 2014-15. In 345 NHL games, he has 99 goals and 95 assists.

The team announced the deal a day after Tatar's arbitration hearing and before the ruling was to be handed down. Tatar will count $5.3 million against the salary cap through 2020-21.

Tatar's cap hit moving forward is the same as Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ondrej Palat, who also signed a long-term deal as a restricted free agent.

The Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since the 1989-90 season. They're moving into a new arena next season and will need a new core of players to return them to relevance. Pavel Datsyuk left the team before last season, and although Henrik Zetterberg had 68 points -- his highest total in five seasons -- Detroit didn't have anyone else reach 50 in 2016-17 (see full story).

Wild: Foligno seeks more in Minnesota
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Marcus Foligno has left the leap behind in Buffalo.

That doesn't mean his offensive production can't or won't continue to rise in Minnesota.

Coming off a career-high 13 goals for the Sabres last season, the 25-year-old was acquired by the Wild to bring some needed grit and strength to the left wing position on the third or fourth line. He's capable of putting the puck in the net, too, though he has so far been more of a sporadic scorer in the NHL.

"Definitely, 20 goals is something I envision myself to reach, and I hope to do that in a Wild jersey," Foligno said. "Playing with some big centermen, playing on a well-rounded team, I think I can do that. I felt last year that my offensive side was getting there, and I'm looking to improve on that this season" (see full story).

Blackhawks: Wingels recovering from broken foot
CHICAGO -- Blackhawks forward Tommy Wingels broke his left foot during offseason training, but is expected to be ready for training camp.

The 29-year-old Wingels, a suburban Chicago native, agreed to a one-year deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He had seven goals and five assists for the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators last season.

The Blackhawks announced the injury on Friday.