Flyers, Briere Need a Slump Buster... Will It Be Sabres on Saturday?

Flyers, Briere Need a Slump Buster... Will It Be Sabres on Saturday?

A little over a week ago, there were a few stories running about how the Flyers' remaining stretch wasn't too bad, facing mostly teams outside the playoff bubble, nothing to worry about, etc. Then said stretch began, and with it, a bit of what you might call a Flyers slump. Three of their last four losses have been to teams with sub-.500 records, two of which were below the current eighth seeding, with one coming against the last place team in the East. 

What may have been overlooked or glossed over when poring at the favorable remains of the schedule was that the teams just outside the playoffs are playing to get inside that bubble, with their remaining games requiring a playoff-like intensity. The Flyers, meanwhile, are comfortably going to make the postseason, although they obviously have seeding to play for, if not the pride of being the best. 

Maybe the reminder of what it feels like to lose and have to answer questions about "intensity" and "wanting it" and your mistakes rather than the gorgeous goals and big saves you made will help the Flyers get back on track today. Let's hope so, because although they're set to face a team not currently in the playoff seedings, if we've learned anything this week, it's that a ninth place team can be pretty dangerous. 

The Sabres are three points out of eighth and four points out of seventh, but also neck and neck with the surging Maple Leafs in trying to oust a team above them. On Thursday, we got a good look at what kind of motivation that can impart in a team, when Toronto came in and took down the top team in the conference. The Sabres will no doubt see the Flyers as somewhat more beatable than they appeared during the stretch leading up to the All-Star Game. 

The Flyers may be without Jeff Carter again today, although not due to the flu that kept him out of Thursday's action along with Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo. Carter's grandfather passed away. No word yet on today's actives and inactives. 

Before the Maple Leafs game, we importuned Kris Versteeg to light the Flyer fire against his former team. He kindly obliged. Today, we wouldn't mind seeing Danny Briere do the honors against his former team. It's been over two weeks since Danny last scored, and he has only two points in his last six games. After a hot January, Briere scored only twice in the month of February. What gives, Danny?

Briere has six points in two games against the Sabres this season, and the Flyers scored in bunches both times (11 total goals).

In a perfect little Flyers Saturday, Briere would net a pair, both on the power play, the Flyers would win, and we'd have three slumps busted at least temporarily. We'll settle for the W any way it comes though, and again, we're not worried about the team or any of its players. This type of slump is about as normal a thing as there is in hockey. 

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Shea Weber's PPG gives Canadiens' 5th straight win

NEW YORK -- Shea Weber's power-play goal with 2:57 remaining lifted the Montreal Canadiens to their fifth straight victory, 3-2 over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.

Paul Byron and Phillip Danault also scored to help Montreal improve to 6-0-1 and remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss. Al Montoya, who played for the Islanders from 2010-12, stopped 26 shots in his first start since Oct. 18 as the Canadiens beat New York for the seventh straight time.

John Tavares and Dennis Seidenberg scored for New York and Thomas Greiss had 26 saves in his second straight start and third of the season.

With the Islanders' Nick Leddy off for slashing, Weber fired a shot from the point for the tiebreaking goal. It was just the second power-play goal in 23 opportunities given up by New York's league-leading penalty-killing unit (see full recap).

Pirri, Rangers rally to topple Bruins
NEW YORK -- Brandon Pirri scored twice to help the New York Ranger beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Rick Nash, Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey also scored for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 shots. The Rangers won their third straight game, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to improve to 5-2-0.

David Pastrnak and Austin Czarina scored for Boston. The Bruins have lost three straight to drop to 3-4-0.

Zane McIntyre made 26 saves in his first NHL start. He was called up prior to Boston's 5-0 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night to back up Malcolm Subban due to injuries to Tuukka Risk and Anton Khudobin (see full recap).

Pouliot scores twice, Oilers beat Capitals
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Benoit Pouliot scored twice, Cam Talbot made 34 saves and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Wednesday night to stretch their winning streak to four games.

Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic also scored for the Oilers (6-1-0). They have won four of five games at Rogers Place, their new downtown arena.

Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals (3-2-1). Braden Holtby made 25 saves (see full recap).