Gustafsson to remain in lineup against Canucks

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Gustafsson to remain in lineup against Canucks

Erik Gustafsson seemingly played well enough last season to earn the right to start this season.

Yet, there are no guarantees in the NHL.

And when training camp and preseason rolled around this fall, the young Swede was a turnover machine. Subsequently, Andrej Meszaros, who was barely better, was given the No. 6 position on the Flyers' blueline.

On Saturday night in Detroit, Gustafsson subbed for Meszaros and scored a goal during the Flyers' 5-2 loss to the Red Wings.

Gustafsson will remain in the lineup Tuesday when the Flyers host the Vancouver Canucks.

“Obviously, you want to play all the games, but I don’t think I played as well as I should have in camp,” the 24-year-old defenseman said.

“It was a tough start -- I thought I would get a chance a little bit earlier, but I got in the game against Detroit and I thought I played pretty well.

“So I just have to keep looking forward and working hard. I know I have a lot of improvements to make in my game.”

Gustafsson brings speed and finesse. When his game is on, he moves the puck well up the ice. His issues in the preseason were turnovers -- both on the breakout and in the slot. That’s why he lost a starting job.

Interestingly, during his season debut, he was paired with Kimmo Timonen, giving the Flyers a double-sided, puck-moving attack of two smaller players.

“Sometimes it’s an advantage to have two small puck-moving guys, sometimes it’s not,” Gustafsson said. “You have to try to make quick passes, get out of your end as quickly as possible.”

Coach Craig Berube liked what he saw from Gustafsson against Detroit.

“I thought he played well,” Berube said. “He adds speed back there, puck moving and he’s a competitive guy and kind of all-around player. He really is. I like the speed and puck movement that he brings.”

As for Meszaros, he added, “He’s a good player, but I just didn’t see enough from him and I wanted to get Gus in there. It’s a long year. Mes is working. He worked hard [Monday], skated hard.”

Gustafsson thinks he can get comfortable in Berube’s system.

“I liked Peter’s [Laviolette] system, too,” he said. “It’s a good offensive system. But I think this system suits me as a player better. I really like what Chief is doing –- high, hard forecheck, a lot of skating.

“He wants to turn around the play real quick, which suits me as a player. Also, gives the D a little more chance to join the rush, which I like as well.”

Loose pucks
Flyers still lead the league in total penalties (45). ... They are second in penalty minutes (118); Florida is first with 127. ... The Flyers are averaging 19.7 PIM per game. ... The same lines and defensive pairings from Saturday night in Detroit were used Monday in practice. ... The Flyers will play host to Vancouver on Tuesday. The Sedin Twins (Henrik and Daniel) have 14 points between themselves in six games. ... Mike Santorelli leads the Canucks with four goals. ... The Flyers play two home games this week and then will have six days off.

Flyers-Senators 10 observations: Jordan Weal comes through with finishing touch

Flyers-Senators 10 observations: Jordan Weal comes through with finishing touch

Thanks to Jordan Weal and more shootout magic -- yes, you read that correctly -- the Flyers captured a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (see Instant Replay).

Weal netted a game-tying marker and the only tally of the skills competition in which the Flyers are now 7-4 this season.

Here are 10 observations from the victory:

1. Weal made a heady play by skating hard to the net as Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson left the crease to play a puck. He intercepted Anderson's pass and quickly buried the shot to knot the score, 2-2, with 7:25 left in the third period. The rookie has five goals in his last 11 games and has turned into a serious catalyst for a team that has struggled to score goals since mid-December.

2. The Flyers have back-to-back wins for the first time since Feb. 28-March 3. Still, they have only six games left, all against Metropolitan Division opponents. Their record against the remaining clubs on the schedule is 6-9-1. The Flyers stayed put Tuesday -- six points out of the second wild-card spot as both the Bruins and Maple Leafs won.

3. Brayden Schenn snapped the Flyers' 0-for-17 power-play skid on a deflection of Shayne Gostisbehere's shot with 1:26 left in the first period. The Flyers were 3 for 46 on the man advantage in March until Schenn's tally. With the current state of the Flyers' season, Schenn's production has gone somewhat unnoticed. Coming off a four-year contract extension this offseason, the 25-year-old forward has 23 goals, three from tying his career high set last season. Sure, he's been reliant on the power play (like many of his teammates), but Schenn has shown up after being rewarded.

4. Good effort by the Flyers after beating the Penguins, 6-2. They had struggled in sustaining any semblance of consistency and finally did for consecutive games -- and it came on fan appreciation night.

5. Steve Mason made his 13th start in the last 15 games and did his part. It looked like he didn't see Kyle Turris' shot in the third period that handed Ottawa a 2-1 lead. Overall, though, Mason once again gave the Flyers a chance. He entered with a 2.12 goals-against average over his last 12 games, while making 26 saves and three stops in the shootout Tuesday. The other goal allowed was gift-wrapped by Flyers penalties, resulting in a 5-on-3 and Erik Karlsson blast.

6. The Senators did what they do: aggressive and disruptive play on the puck-handler and making the opposition work for everything. Ottawa thrives on close, grind-it-out games, which has been a recipe for success as the Senators vie for the Atlantic Division crown.

7. Anderson has just been a wonderful story this season. He's taken some time away from the team to be alongside his wife, Nicholle, who is battling cancer. And even through that, he's having one heck of a season at 35 years old for a team destined for the playoffs.

8. Stick tap to Radko Gudas for jumping on the opportunity to stand up for a teammate late in the first period. Weal, not of much size at 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, was on the receiving end of two hits from 6-foot-1, 216-pound defenseman Mark Borowiecki. The second check was to the back and put Weal headfirst into the boards. Gudas saw it perfectly and swooped in to send a message.

9. More on Weal -- the rookie forward has shown he can help the Flyers in the future. With him playing well in a top-six role, Ottawa looked like it put a concerted effort on being physical with Weal. Similar to Travis Konecny, that's something Weal will have to overcome as more defensive focus is shifted to him.

10. A little inside the box score …
• With his assist, Gostisbehere has three points in his last two games. He's been active offensively with nine shots in those two outings.

• The Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play, making them 4 for 48 this month.

• The Flyers outshot the Senators, 35-28, and blocked more shots, 20-17.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Senators 2 (SO)

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Senators 2 (SO)

BOX SCORE

A live-and-let-die week of hockey began for the Flyers on Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Center against the Ottawa Senators.
 
This was a playoff-type, defensive hockey game from the second period to the finish with the Flyers prevailing 3-2 in the shootout. Jordan Weal won it after saving the Flyers in regulation.

Ottawa's Kyle Turris broke a 1-1 tie with 7:25 left, but Weal re-tied it with 5:59 left in regulation.

Despite the win, Boston's victory over Nashville dropped the tragic number to six points to eliminate the Flyers from the wild card.
 
Notable goals
Weal's third goal in five games that made it 2-2. Goalie Craig Anderson tried to clear the puck and Weal intercepted for an open net.

Challenge
Ottawa lost its challenge that Wayne Simmonds interfered with Anderson at the net on Weal's goal.
 
Goalie report
Steve Mason made his ninth start in 10 games.
 
Power play
Four shots and no goals on the Flyers' first attempt. They had two shots on their second chance. Yet, they did score with a brief 39-second brief power play at period's end to tie the game. Brayden Schenn tipped a Shayne Gostisbehere drive. 

The Flyers are a woeful 4 for 47 on the power play for March. They were 1 for 4 against the Sens, who are 17th in the NHL in penalty killing.
 
Penalty kill
Naturally, the Senators took advantage of their PPs. They had a 23-second five-on-three and scored on nifty 35-foot snap-wrister from Erik Karlsson to make it 1-0. Ottawa was 1 for 3.
 
Fights
Radko Gudas decisioned Mark Borowiecki in the first period.
 
Scratches
Forwards Roman Lyubimov (healthy), Michael Raffl (left knee) and Nick Cousins (concussion) and defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy).
 
Up next
The Flyers practice Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Skate Zone. They will face the Islanders on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.