Wayne Simmonds selected to play in first NHL All-Star Game

Wayne Simmonds selected to play in first NHL All-Star Game

Updated: 3:35 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Wayne Simmonds is heading back to Los Angeles, this time as an All-Star.

Simmonds on Tuesday was named as the Flyers’ lone representative to the Metropolitan Division team for the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Simmonds said upon learning of his selection following the Flyers’ morning skate at KeyBank Center. “It makes me think when I was a young kid, watching the All-Star Games and watching all the great players who played in it. To even be mentioned in the same breath as All-Stars in the NHL, it’s pretty special and it’s a great accomplishment."

This marks Simmonds’ first selection to the All-Star Game in his nine-year career.

The 28-year-old winger has been exceptional for the Flyers this season with a team-leading 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points in 42 games heading into Tuesday night’s contest with the Sabres (see game notes).

“He’s a guy that kind of epitomizes what it is to be a Philadelphia Flyer,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “And obviously, he has had a great season to this point.”

The All-Star selection means Simmonds will head back to where his career began in L.A. A second-round pick of the Kings in 2007, Simmonds was dealt to the Flyers along with Brayden Schenn in exchange for Mike Richards in June 2011 after playing three seasons in Southern California.

“It makes it that much more special,” Simmonds said. “I know Jakey (Jake Voracek) got a chance to play in the All-Star Game when it was in Columbus and I know that was pretty special to him. I think it goes the same for me.”

Simmonds has been Mr. Do-It-All for the Flyers as he’s an important piece of the league’s ninth-ranked power play with eight goals. This season, he’s become a key contributor in a new role on the penalty kill and even has a short-handed goal.

“Back [in L.A.] I was more of a defensive guy,” Simmonds said. “After my third year, I come to Philly and I completely switch roles to an offensive guy. Everything is kind of coming full circle now. I’ve got a chance to play on the PK. I’ve gotten better in my defensive zone over the years that I’ve been here. Just trying to put everything together and become a complete player.”

Simmonds has 149 goals and 134 assists for 283 points in his five-plus seasons with the Flyers.

“I think it’s terrific,” said general manager Ron Hextall, who was an assistant GM for the Kings when Simmonds was drafted. “He deserves it and sometimes players like him aren’t recognized and they should be because he’s a very good player. He’s one of those guys that just can grab the puck and muscle his way to the net. He’s got good hands in front of the net, he’s got speed, he’s good on the forecheck. He does a lot of good things.”

The NHL All-Star Game matches up the best from all four divisions and uses the league’s wildly popular 3-on-3 OT format. A skills competition will be held on Sat. Jan. 28 and Simmonds will participate, but the event he will participate in will be announced later.

“I don’t think I am the greatest at 3-on-3 but I think I can adjust a little bit,” said Simmonds, who has played often in overtime for the Flyers this season. “I’ll probably fly under the radar. It’s my first time going to the All-Star Game. I’m not trying to put on too big of a show or show anybody up. I’m just grateful.”

Mason in net
Steve Mason will be the Flyers’ goaltender for the second game in a row.

Michal Neuvirth returned for Saturday’s victory over the Lightning after missing 24 games with a knee injury, but Hakstol said he does not plan to rotate the goalies going forward.

“These guys are going to remain a tandem, they are going to work together, but no, I don’t have plan right now to go back and forth into a rotation,” Hakstol said. “[Mason] will go tonight and we play another three games in five days after that, so I’m sure somewhere along the way, we’ll use both of them.”

Power move
The Flyers are hoping to get their power play going again. Once ranked No. 1 in the NHL, the unit has scored in just 3 of its last 32 chances.

Tonight’s matchup should help the Flyers. Buffalo’s penalty kill ranks last in the league at 74.3 percent.

Projected lineup
F: Michael Raffl-Claude Giroux-Matt Read

Dale Weise-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Roman Lyubimov

D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald

Michael Del Zotto-Radko Gudas

Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere

G: Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Defenseman Mark Streit (shoulder)

Scratches: Forwards Nick Cousins (healthy) and Boyd Gordon (healthy), and defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy)

- CSNPhilly.com's Greg Paone contributed to this story.

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

Flyers regroup behind Steve Mason for big win over Wild

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Zach Parise scored for the Minnesota Wild just 2:07 into Thursday's game, the Flyers were in another difficult position on the road.

This time, they responded with the type of game they've needed on the road all season.

The Flyers scored three unanswered goals by Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek to beat Minnesota, 3-1, and snap a four-game losing streak on the road (see Instant Replay).

"They're a tough team to handle in their transition," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said of Parise's goal. "It's quick and it's fast. The players on the bench were outstanding, talking, real calm. Just go out and push it the other way the next shift and I thought we were able to do that."

The Flyers responded with one of their best efforts on the road in nearly two months and pulled within six points of Boston for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference (see standings). The Bruins lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay.

Steve Mason made 24 saves in goal for his 100th win with the Flyers as the team was rarely challenged thanks to an all-around performance that has been missing on the road. The Flyers entered the night tied for the second-fewest road wins in the conference this season.

"Certain things on the road, you've got to be a little more specific with your game and detailed, and I think we did a better job of that tonight," said Flyers defenseman Nick Schultz, who returned to the arena where he played 10 seasons with Minnesota. "Everybody throughout the lineup did that and that's why we got a big win."

The beginning looked all too familiar, though.

An innocent looking dump-in slid to Mason, who tried to cover the puck. The puck went off his stick and Parise quickly poked it past Mason. The Wild had four quality chances early before the Flyers took control.

"They came hard early on in the game and to be able to match that speed; that was a completely different pace of game compared to what we came from in Winnipeg," Mason said. "So, it almost took a second to get your bearings straight to get up to speed."

The Flyers weathered the early flurry by Minnesota, which is safely in playoff position in the West but is facing its own late-season issues. The Flyers killed off both Wild penalties, allowing just two shots on the penalty kill.

Couturier's 12th goal of the season was critical in tying the game with 2:01 left in the first (see feature highlight).

"Coming into the room after the period, I think it's important when you get a big goal like that," captain Claude Giroux said. "You feel like you have the momentum a little bit, so it definitely helped us a lot."

Read provided the lead in the second and the Flyers, who are now 15-2-2 when leading after two periods, pressured in the third. They outshot the Wild, 9-4, in the final period.

"We didn't sit back," Hakstol said. "I thought we were confident with the puck and made some plays and spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone. We played with real confidence in our game."

Mason had been critical after the Flyers lost in Winnipeg on Tuesday, saying the team needed to be more desperate. The Flyers responded Thursday in the difficult position of being on the road and allowing the first goal.

"We knew we had to be better," Schultz said of Mason's comments. "I think on the road, you've got to be at least a .500 team and take care of business at home, and we haven't done that this year. So, obviously, we've got to get better and I think we did respond tonight. Now we have to build on it."

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A much-needed win for the Flyers came in an unlikely spot: on the road against one of the Western Conference's top teams.

Sean Couturier, Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored for the Flyers, and Steve Mason made 24 saves in a 3-1 win over the Wild on Thursday. It snapped a four-game winless streak on the road and kept the Flyers' playoff hopes alive.

Mason allowed an early goal to Zach Parise but recovered, and Couturier tied the game in the first. The Flyers responded as a whole and Read scored for the second time in an as many games, while Voracek had his first goal in 11 games with his 18th of the season.

Goalie report
Playing for the 11th time in 12 games, Mason was a little shaky at the start after not covering the puck twice and then coming far out of the cage, leading to a wraparound opportunity for Minnesota. But after Parise's goal -- one of the times Mason thought he had the puck covered -- the netminder was very steady. He didn't get out of position and allowed less than two goals for the fourth time in 12 games.

The victory marked Mason's 100th in a Flyers uniform. He is third in franchise history behind Ron Hextall (240) and Bernie Parent (232).

Faceoffs
The Flyers were dominant in the faceoff circle on Thursday, winning 61 percent of the draws.

Power play
The Flyers didn't take advantage of their one opportunity in the game as defenseman Ivan Provorov was called for a hooking penalty halfway through their lone power play. The Flyers are now 3 for 40 on the power play over the past 12 games.
 
Penalty kill
The penalty kill had one of its better performances in recent games. The Flyers killed off both penalties and allowed just two Minnesota shots in the three minutes of penalty time. Entering the game, the Flyers had allowed 10 goals in 28 occasions on the penalty kill in the previous nine games.

A small move
With the win, the Flyers were able to pull closer to the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston lost, 6-3, at home to Tampa Bay, allowing the Flyers to close within six points with nine games left. The Bruins have only eight games remaining. Two of the teams between Boston and the Flyers -- the Lightning and Hurricanes -- did win Thursday, while the Islanders were idle (see wild-card standings).

Lines change
Looking for a spark, three of the four lines were changed for Thursday's game. Claude Giroux centered Read and Voracek. Valtteri Filppula was between Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde. Coach Dave Hakstol kept the line of Brayden Schenn, Couturier and Dale Weise together.

Blue line return
Defenseman Brandon Manning made his return after missing five games with a shoulder injury.
 
Scratches
Forwards Nick Cousins (upper body) and Roman Lyubimov (healthy), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
 
Up next
The third game of the four-game road trip is Saturday at Columbus. The Flyers are 0-1-1 against the Blue Jackets this season, including a 5-3 loss at home on March 13.