Flyers-Stars: 5 things you need to know


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.

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.”

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”