Flyers-Senators: What you need to know

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Flyers-Senators: What you need to know

Flyers at Senators – 7 p.m., CSN
Scotiabank Place, Ottawa

Records
Flyers: 22-22-3 (Fifth in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)

Senators: 24-16-6 (Fourth in Northeast Division, sixth in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
The last time these clubs faced off, the Flyers were handed a frustrating 3-1 defeat by the Senators on April 11 at the Wells Fargo Center. Ilya Bryzgalov was sharp in net, stopping 31 of 33 shots before Daniel Alfredsson sealed a victory for Ottawa with an empty-net tally. Zack Smith and Colin Greening were the only two Sens to beat Bryzgalov. Claude Giroux recorded the Flyers’ lone goal in the first period.

Saturday will mark the third and final meeting between the two teams this season. The Flyers and Sens have split the first two contests, which were both held at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly.

Previous games
The Flyers closed out the home portion of their disappointing lockout-shortened season with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday. Danny Briere, in what likely could have been his last home game as a Flyer, scored for the first time in 20 games and rookie Oliver Lauridsen netted the game-winning marker in the third period to give the orange and black their third straight victory. Bryzgalov turned aside 21 shots to help the Flyers finish the season 15-7-2 at the Wells Fargo Center.

Not only did the Senators clinch a playoff berth by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in overtime on Thursday night, but they also got their star defenseman back. Erik Karlsson, in his sooner-than-anticipated return, collected two assists after missing 31 games with a lacerated Achilles’ tendon. Jakob Silfverberg and Sergei Gonchar each scored for Ottawa, which had lost its previous two games.
 
End of the road
The Flyers will play their final game of a trying 2013 season when they take on the playoff-bound Senators on Saturday night. It will be just the second time since 1995 that the orange and black have failed to reach the postseason.

A major reason why the Flyers will not be playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs is because of their play on the road. When away from the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers have posted a 7-15-1 record –- good for third-worst in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers, however, have put together a string of inspired hockey since being eliminated from postseason contention. They have won three consecutive games and could end their frustrating season above .500 with a win.

Keep an eye on ...
The Senators will be looking for their 12th victory in the Flyers’ last 14 visits to Ottawa. The orange and black should pose a tough test, as they have won five of their last six and have outscored opponents 23-11 in the five victories.

Giroux has a two-point lead on Jakub Voracek, who was given the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the Flyers’ most valuable player on Thursday, for the team lead in scoring heading into Saturday’s season finale. Both skaters have paced the Flyers’ offense this season. Giroux has a team-high 34 assists, while Voracek leads the Flyers with a career-high 21 goals.   

Karlsson proved how dangerous the Senators can be when he is in the lineup. Last season’s Norris Trophy winner was expected to miss up to six months after Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke stepped on the back of his leg on Feb. 13, but returned in spectacular fashion on Thursday. He logged a game-high 27-plus minutes, fired eight shots on net and assisted both of Ottawa’s goals.

Milestone watch
Simon Gagne needs three points to reach 600 in his career. The veteran forward collected an assist on Briere’s first-period goal on Thursday.

Did you know?
The Flyers have scored 19 more power-play goals than their opponents over the last two seasons. The only team in the NHL that has a higher differential on the PP during that span is the Pittsburgh Penguins (30).

Injuries
Flyers: Kimmo Timonen (foot), Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder surgery), Braydon Coburn (separated left shoulder), Nicklas Grossmann (concussion), Bruno Gervais (torn stomach muscle), Kent Huskins (concussion), Zac Rinaldo (high left ankle sprain), Max Talbot (broken left leg) and Jody Shelley (left hip surgery) all remain sidelined.

Senators: Jason Spezza (back surgery), Dave Dziurzynski (concussion) and Mike Hoffman (collarbone) are all on injured reserve and are out indefinitely.

Sound off
Which Flyer(s) would you like to see or not see return next season? Why?

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs topple Blue Jackets to boost playoff hopes

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs topple Blue Jackets to boost playoff hopes

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- William Nylander and Leo Komarov each had a goal and an assist and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri also scored, and Frederik Andersen had 32 saves as Toronto stayed in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division. Nikita Zaitsev scored an empty-net goal after the Blue Jackets pulled their goalie for a sixth skater near the end.

David Savard and Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, which lost for the first time in the last five games. Backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stopped 26 shots. The Blue Jackets stayed in third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind leader Washington and one behind Pittsburgh. They play the Capitals in Washington on Thursday night (see full recap).

Ladd rallies Islanders past rival Rangers
NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored the tiebreaking goal with about 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the third period and the New York Islanders rallied for 3-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Wednesday night.

Anders Lee had a goal and an assist, and Nikolay Kulemin also scored for the Islanders, who pulled two points behind Boston for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. Anthony Beauvillier had two assists and Thomas Greiss stopped 34 shots.

Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash scored, and Antti Raanta finished with 25 saves for the Rangers, who remained six points behind Columbus for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Islanders, who beat the Rangers for the third time in four games this season and seven of eight over the last two, won for just the second time in six games (1-3-1). The Islanders also improved to 17-9-4 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano (see full recap).

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."