Ray Emery proves to be reliable once again

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Ray Emery proves to be reliable once again

These aren’t easy games for a goaltender to get comfortable between the pipes. Not when your team is throwing a season-high 46 shots at the other net.

Not when there are long gaps between seeing shots coming at you.

Not when there are 14 penalties and 12 power plays and it becomes a special teams battle.

And not when the goalie is making just his sixth start in 21 games.

Ray Emery handled all things well -- again -- with 29 saves during Thursday’s 4-1 win over Buffalo (see story), as the Flyers hit the quarter mark of the season (21 games).

Emery said all the special teams action caught and held his attention.

“When we’re shorthanded and watching the other guy [Ryan Miller] make some big saves when they’re starting in the other end, you know you’ve got to be sharp when it gets to your end,” he said.

“I thought we had a good start. Miller made some really good saves at the start, then they got a funny one. After that we kept at it and only got a couple in the second. We kept coming at them and had the win.”

Emery evened his record at 3-3.

“After a tough start, it’s nice to climb back to even,” Emery said. “It’s always like a fresh start when you get there. It’s encouraging as a team. We’re playing better. We’re getting the points we need to.”

Buffalo’s only goal was off a scrum when it was pretty difficult to find the puck among a pile of bodies in the crease, let alone stop the shot.

“[Emery] was solid again,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube. “He has done a really good job. He is a very good goalie and wins a lot of games. He goes in there and wins games.”

On the playoffs
The Flyers went into the game two points out of a playoff spot. They are back in the hunt and have been for over a week now.

“I never thought about it at all,” Berube said. “I am going to take it one day at a time. We’re going to come out tomorrow and practice and we’re going to work to get better.”

Was that because there was simply so much work to be done that being a playoff team was the last thing on the coach's mind?

“You have to keep working at it,” Berube replied. “If you want to become a really good team in this league, it takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of preparation and it takes playing the same way every shift, going out there and playing the same way every shift. So, you have to stay on it.”

Loose pucks
Jakub Voracek played just 14:03 and had just five shifts and less than four minutes ice time in the third period. Berube said Voracek wasn’t hurt. He said he wanted to get Adam Hall out there for his defense and having another centerman on draws. Hall is the Flyers' best faceoff guy (63 percent), though he only took three draws in the game. … The Flyers had a season-high 46 shots, giving them back-to-back games of 40 or more shots for the first time since Nov. 27 and Dec. 1, 2010, when they had 41 shots at New Jersey and 41 shots at home against Boston, respectively. ... Zac Rinaldo had six hits in just 6:21 ice time. ... The Flyers scored a power-play goal for the fifth consecutive game. Alas, they also allowed a power-play goal for the fourth consecutive game.

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers (16-10-3) vs. Stars (11-11-6)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Remember when it was a fight for the Flyers to simply sew together back-to-back wins?

Prior to this run, they had done it just twice in the first 22 games.

Now, they’re the hottest team in the NHL, winners of seven straight and trying to make it eight on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. The great eight?
Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.

Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.

These are just some of the players that were wearing Flyers jerseys when the team last won eight consecutive games, back on Jan. 6-19, 2002.

It’s worth mentioning, before the 2004-05 season, winning streaks were a bit more challenging with a tie being the result if overtime went scoreless. The extra session was also not 3-on-3, like it is now.

Still, what the current Flyers are doing is impressive. They’ve gone to the shootout only once over the seven-game spurt and have outscored the opposition by 10 goals, 27-17.

2. Raffl winners
Dave Hakstol has called Michael Raffl a big-bodied, straight-line forward, which is certainly not off the mark.

But from time to time, Raffl will show the deceptive skill side of his game.

He did it Thursday night to win the Flyers’ 6-5 affair over the Oilers in the final minute and a half of regulation for his second game-winner over the last three contests.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," Steve Mason said postgame Thursday (see story). "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl is quietly making teams pay. The Flyers are 4-0-2 in games that he scores a goal. Despite missing eight games because of injury, the 28-year-old Austrian is on pace for around 20 goals.

That’s much-valued secondary scoring and complementary play.

3. Not so bright
Before reeling off seven straight wins, the Flyers were in a similar spot to which the Stars are in now.

Dallas, which finished 50-23-9 last season — best in the Western Conference — after starting 19-5-0, can’t find consistency through 28 games this season. The Stars have won back-to-back games just once thus far and goaltending has been an issue as Dallas is surrendering an NHL-worst 3.18 goals per game.

The Stars do not lack offensive firepower, however. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for second in the NHL with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), while linemate Jamie Benn isn’t far behind at 24 (eight goals, 16 assists).

Also, veteran forward Jason Spezza is coming off a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in Dallas’ 5-2 win over the Predators.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ve got to go Jakub Voracek after the winger’s one-goal, three-assist performance on Thursday night. Voracek has been an absolute monster on the seven-game winning streak, posting 11 points with three goals and eight assists for a plus-6 rating.

Stars: It’s hard not to say Seguin, a dynamic player who always gives the Flyers trouble. His 21 career points (nine goals, 12 assists) against the orange and black are his second most versus any team.

5. This and that
• Mason is on a career-best six-game winning streak in which he’s posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Since Nov. 12, Mason is 9-3-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

• Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is a dreadful 1-10-3 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, while backup Antti Niemi is 4-1-0 with 1.48 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

• Dallas has won its last three meetings with the Flyers by a combined score of 7-3.

• The Stars have lost 11 of 15 on the road.

• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games.

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."