Flyers-Stars: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Stars: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (13-13-2), currently in the midst of a six-game road trip, will again try to get over the .500 mark when they take on the Dallas Stars (13-9-5) Saturday afternoon.

Puck drop's set for 2 p.m. at American Airlines Center (CSN).

Here’s a closer look at the matchup:

1. Lecavalier still sidelined
Back spasms will keep Flyers forward Vinny Lecavalier out of the lineup for a third consecutive game (see story).

Lecavalier was going to try to skate Friday, but the Flyers’ practice was canceled because the power went out at the Dallas facility -- caused by the massive ice storm moving through North Texas.

“He was going to try [to practice],” head coach Craig Berube said. “He would have gone out there and we would have learned how he felt. He will not play.”

Despite missing six games already this season because of three separate injuries, Lecavalier remains tied with Matt Read for the team lead in goals with nine.

Brayden Schenn will continue to center the Flyers’ second line. He's skated in between Michael Raffl and Wayne Simmonds the last two games and says he is “comfortable playing the middle.”
 
2. Three of a kind
Some call them the checking line. Others refer to them as the third line. But the trio of Sean Couturier, Steve Downie and Read has been the Flyers’ best line over the past few weeks.

Couturier had his best offensive performance of the season in Wednesday’s 6-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The third-year Flyer potted two goals and assisted two more.

After a slow start offensively -- his defensive play has been stellar all season -- Couturier is beginning to find the scoresheet regularly. Of his 14 points, 10 have come in the last nine games.

Couturier’s outburst is due in large part to the guys on his wings. Since being put together as a line, Couturier, Downie and Read have combined for 12 goals, 17 assists and a plus-28 rating in 12 games.

“Things are clicking for us,” Read said after the Flyers’ win over Detroit (see story). “We’re just trying to outwork the other line. Just play smart and get pucks deep. Things went our way tonight. Sean made a couple of good plays out there and is looking more confident every game.”

3. Banged up Stars
The Stars will be without two key defensemen for the foreseeable future.

Stephane Robidas landed on injured reserve last week after he suffered a broken leg against the Chicago Blackhawks. The veteran is expected to miss the next four to six months.

Things got even more grim for the Dallas blueline when Trevor Daley went down with a high ankle sprain against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Daley was placed on IR Friday.

Although they lost Daley vs. Toronto, the Stars did receive a boost when Tyler Seguin returned to the lineup. Seguin, who missed two games with concussion-like symptoms, leads Dallas in goals with 12 and is second in scoring with 23 points.

Dallas could get another forward back Saturday. Ryan Garbutt practiced with the team Friday after missing Thursday’s game with a foot injury.

4. Lighting up Lehtonen
Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen will not be happy to see the Flyers on Saturday afternoon.

In 12 career games (11 starts) against the Orange and Black, Lehtonen is 0-10-2 with an .891 save percentage and 3.50 goals-against average.

To make matters worse for Lehtonen and the Stars, the Flyers have won six straight over Dallas -- their longest active win streak vs. any opponent.

5. This and that
• The last time these two clubs met, Claude Giroux had a goal and three assists to lead the Flyers to a 4-1 victory over the Stars on Dec. 21, 2011. Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell had two helpers apiece. Nicklas Grossmann -- then a member of the Stars -- played 19 minutes and was a minus-1.

• Hartnell, currently in his 13th NHL season, will play his 900th career game Saturday (see story).

• The Stars, who are 1-2-4 at home since Oct. 26, have played in 16 one-goal affairs this season and are 8-3-5 in those games.

• The Flyers, who went 3 for 3 on the man advantage against Detroit, have clicked on 30 percent of their power-play opportunities since Nov. 12 -- third best in the NHL during that span. They’ve also killed off 19 of their last 20 shorthanded situations.

• After going five games without a point, Stars rookie forward Valeri Nichushkin has three points in his past two games.

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

Flyers' poor division record biggest factor in being out of playoff picture

PITTSBURGH -- There's a bit of tragic irony to how the Flyers' season will end over the next two-plus weeks.
 
They have seven games left on the schedule. Six of them are teams residing in the Metro Division. Tuesday's opponent, Ottawa, is the lone exception.
 
There are so many reasons why the Flyers are scrambling now, clinging to the desperate belief they can still make the playoffs -- mathematically, they're alive -- against all rational thought.
 
They're six points behind Boston for the second wild-card spot, but they still have to hurdle Carolina, Tampa Bay and the Islanders just to get to Boston.
 
Yet one major reason for the Flyers' dilemma seems pretty obvious: They've been simply awful in head-to-head play against their own division.
 
The Flyers have a winning record against both divisions in the Western Conference.
 
That's not the case, however, in the East where the Metro Division is the only division with three teams over 100 points and where the Flyers have failed miserably to challenge from within.
 
Sunday's 6-2 rout of the Penguins in Pittsburgh left the Flyers with a poor 9-13-2 record against the Metro. It's the only division they have a losing record against.
 
Last season, Dave Hakstol's group finished 14-10-6 against their own division. That was a critical factor in enabling the Flyers to make the playoffs.
 
"We know where we are in the standings and it's not going to be easy to make the playoffs," Jakub Voracek said. "We all know that. We have to work off results of the other teams and try to play relaxed and loose."
 
Against the Eastern Conference overall, the Flyers are close to .500 (21-22-4) yet realize they should be better.
 
These two records represent a very large reason why the Flyers are sitting on the outside looking in as the playoffs near.
 
Right now, at least four clubs from the Metro -- half the division -- will make the playoffs. That says a lot about why games within your section are so pivotal at season's end.
 
"The numbers don't lie," Hakstol admitted on Sunday. "It's a tough road every single night. You've got to do a good job within your division, within your conference.
 
"We've played a lot of tight, hard games. The reality is, we're a number of points out of the playoffs and those points within your division are very valuable."
 
It's something the Flyers have to greatly improve upon next season if they want to be sitting in a playoff spot a month before the season ends instead of playing catch-up when the odds are hopelessly against them.
 
Pens killers
Every team in the NHL has a couple players who have fairly impressive career numbers against other teams.
 
Voracek averages better than a point against the Penguins. His goal Sunday gave him 17 goals and 34 points in 32 career games against Pittsburgh.
 
Voracek admitted after the game he's not sure why.
 
Claude Giroux also has excellent numbers against the Pens -- his two assists in the win left the Flyers' captain with 41 points (14 goals) in 40 career games vs. Pittsburgh.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere has been around a fraction as long as either Giroux or Voracek -- eight career games vs. the Pens -- yet has two goals and nine points in those games.
 
Brayden Schenn doesn't average a point a game against the Pens, but he's close. His assist on Sunday left the winger/center with 20 points (8 goals) in 26 games.
 
The only Flyer who has solid numbers against Pittsburgh and didn't make Sunday's score sheet was Wayne Simmonds. He has 23 points in 28 games. 

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

Dave Hakstol: Travis Konecny on 4th line 'makes sense in a lot of respects'

PITTSBURGH -- The curious line juggling of Travis Konecny continued Sunday night.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol again started Konecny on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's fourth line with Chris VandeVelde, but just as he did in Columbus, Hakstol moved the rookie around.

This was Konecny's third straight game off Valtteri Filppula's unit with Jakub Voracek at the start. The obvious message to Konecny seems to be: Get yourself into a more defensive-minded role early and then let the offense come to you.

Konecny has made some defensive strides.

"It makes sense in a lot of respects," Hakstol said of the move to Bellemare's unit. "He's playing with two players with a lot of structure. He excels in that type of setting.

"If you look at [Saturday], he can bounce around the lineup with different lines and we used him that way. He didn't just play with his two linemates. He moved around a little bit. He's very effective in that role when we're able to get him out there. He gives us a good boost, a good push."

Against Columbus on Saturday, Konecny played on two units with Sean Couturier -- one featuring Jordan Weal and the other, Dale Weise. He also played a few shifts with Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

The same thing happened Sunday in the Flyers' 6-2 rout of the Penguins (see game story). Konecny finished with an assist and plus-1 in just 8:02. He is one of the very, very few Flyers who is an even. Most are minus.

Konecny, who just turned 20, and Weal, 24, gave the Flyers a lift on Sunday. Weal had a goal and an assist in 13:06.

"No matter who it is contributing, everyone is excited for everybody," Konecny said. "A lot of guys put up some numbers tonight and contributed. It was a good team effort. That's what we want to see."
 
The Flyers were so relaxed it makes you wonder if the pressure of trying to make the playoffs is gone because their odds are so stacked against them.
 
"We’re at that point where you just need to win and just show up," Konecny said. "There's nerves in the back of your mind. We're pretty loose and trying to enjoy it as much as we can going through a stressful time.
 
"We've handled it well. We played a good team, we knew they would push but we pushed harder."
 
Konecny said he's not fazed by the different line combinations he's a part of, often in the same period.
 
"It's not too bad," he said. "I kind of expected it going into a game. I know when I am playing with Belly and Vandy that throughout the game, there's going to be times like penalty kills come up and he'll fill me in with another line.
 
"At the start of the third [tonight], I filled in another line. I know it's going to come. I just expect it. I've played with pretty much everybody on the team. I'm comfortable out there."
 
Loose pucks
The six goals on the road against Pittsburgh last happened on Feb. 20, 2013, when the Flyers won, 6-5. ... Sunday was the Flyers' largest margin of victory in Pittsburgh since March 31, 2003, when they beat the Penguins, 6-1, at Mellon Arena. ... Weal picked up the second two-point game of his career -- both of which have taken place this month. ... Weise has three goals in his last seven games. ... Claude Giroux had two assists, and now has two goals and eight assists for 10 points in 13 games this month.