Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

Matt Read on Flyers' changes: 'We're running out of time here'

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- As far as he can remember, in his six years with the Flyers, Matt Read hasn't played on a line with both Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Read has spent time with each of the Flyers' top two scorers at various times but never together. The Flyers hope the cohesiveness comes together quickly after making changes to three of the lines on Wednesday in an attempt keep their sagging playoff hopes.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Read said. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol had hinted at adjusting the lines recently but stuck with the current structure in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss at Winnipeg (see game story). With the ability to practice Wednesday in Minnesota before Thursday's game against the Wild, Hakstol followed through with the adjustment.

Hakstol met with the four centers before practice and then had Giroux with Voracek and Read. Valtteri Filppula centered Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was teamed with Travis Konecny and Chris VandeVelde.

Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise stayed together.

"That line, it's been a good line for us," Hakstol said of Schenn, Couturier and Weise. "Off their game a little bit yesterday, but they've been a good line and I'm confident they'll come back and do a good job tomorrow. The other changes are just looking at different things coming off a road performance yesterday… just looking at a way to inject a little bit more into our lineup for a real tough road game here tomorrow night."

The Flyers didn't lose any ground with Tuesday's loss with Boston, Tampa Bay and Carolina also losing. But the Flyers now have just 10 games remaining as they trail Toronto by seven points for the final wild-card spot.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had for two points," Hakstol said. "At the end of the day, you can't sit back and watch what's happening elsewhere. You've got to take care of your own backyard, and that's what our focus is. We didn't get it done yesterday. Point blank, we didn't get it done. So, we've got an opportunity tomorrow night for two points and that's what our job is."

Reuniting Giroux and Voracek, along with Read, is one way he hopes to solve the issue. Voracek said he knows the onus is on his line to lead the way.

"We know what to expect from each other," Voracek said. "When we move our feet, we are dangerous. So that's what we've got to do. We've got to have fun. We've got to find a way to score the goals and help the team to win the games, because we're going to play a lot of minutes."

Another possible change for Hakstol could come along the defense. Brandon Manning practiced on Wednesday and Hakstol said it's possible he could rejoin the lineup against the Wild.

Manning hasn't played since March 11 because of a right shoulder injury. Hakstol said he's confident Manning is ready and a decision will be made Thursday morning on which of the seven defensemen will play in the game.

"He's practiced well," Hakstol said. "He got extra work in yesterday. He practiced well today. We'll have a decision to make tomorrow."

Steve Mason critical of Flyers' effort in road loss to Jets

Steve Mason critical of Flyers' effort in road loss to Jets

BOX SCORE

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Steve Mason sat alone in his stall, clearly dejected by what he'd just witnessed. His team, supposedly fighting for its playoff lives, had come out with one of its flattest efforts of the season.

Where was the push? Where was the desperation? Mason certainly didn't see it.

"I don't think anyone is too pleased with this game," the candid Flyers goaltender said following Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets (see Instant Replay). "It's frustrating for everybody, considering the situation we are in. We need to be a more desperate hockey club. I don't think we were tonight."

Mason did his part, stopping 30 of 33 shots he faced (see feature highlight). At the top of his list of complaints was the eight consecutive minutes in penalties the Flyers took in the second period. Winnipeg would score the tying goal during one of those four power plays and seemingly steal all momentum away from the Flyers.

"It gets everybody out of rhythm, gets key guys sitting on the bench for too long a period of time," Mason said. "It definitely just disrupted any chance of making a push during the second, for sure."

Forward Jordan Weal said he expected more as his team began the third period with the score tied 1-1 and the result still very much up in the air.

"Our killers did a great job to keep us in that game," Weal said. "Guys that didn't kill need to come out in the third and come up big. There just wasn't enough push in that third."

The Flyers remain seven points out of the final wild-card playoff spot but now have just 10 games remaining (see standings).

"If you want to be a playoff team, we've got to be more consistent in what we do," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We need to find ways to get it done every night."

Head coach Dave Hakstol bemoaned his team's play on the road as of late; it has now dropped four straight in enemy territory.

"It's been a difference for us," Hakstol said. "That's how it is right now. This is one we needed here that we didn't get tonight on the road."

Mason said struggling away from home speaks to bigger issues with the team.

"We haven't been a good road team and it's cost us. It's put us in the position we're in right now," Mason said. "It's easy to have a good record at home. You're comfortable there. But we have to elevate our games on the road. It's a little bit more difficult to feel good about your game on the road, but it's all about hard work and working for it and we're not doing a good job."

Giroux said they were aware Winnipeg was without several key players, especially on defense, but didn't do enough to take advantage.

"I think we could have cycled that puck a little bit more and created more chances," he said. "At the end of the day, we need to focus on our game. We're a better team than what happened tonight." 

Mason noted that Winnipeg goalie Michael Hutchinson was making his first start in two months, but the Flyers failed to generate much in the way of scoring chances.

"I don't think we made it hard enough on him. We need to have a better effort," Mason said. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it. We've got to stop this win one, lose one. We need to have some growth as a team here."

Flyers begin crucial road trip with wild-card hopes in jeopardy

Flyers begin crucial road trip with wild-card hopes in jeopardy

From five teams to three teams.
 
That's how many clubs the Flyers now need to leap frog over to put themselves into the second wild card spot after Sunday night's huge win over the Hurricanes (see story).
 
Even though they are just five points out, because they have just one head-to-head game against a team ahead of them, the odds remain daunting as they begin a four-game road trip Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
 
"We've given ourselves a chance," Jakub Voracek said. "We got to get some points and hope for other teams to lose some games."
 
That said, if the Flyers can harness the emotion, the positive energy and strong play from Sunday's 4-3 overtime win against Carolina, perhaps they can do the unexpected and win out their final 11 games.
 
They will need at least nine wins to grab that wild card.
 
"We have to, we have no choice," said goalie Steve Mason, who will be in net Tuesday in Winnipeg. "This trip will probably determine the outcome of the season. Just based on this trip, there's very little room to make up ground. Four tough tests and it would be ideal to come away with four victories.
 
"Everybody understands the position we're in and what it's going to take in order to come out on top. We have to find that consistency. That is the biggest thing right now."
 
Toronto has 12 games left with 79 points. The Flyers blew their chance at a four-point game against them when they lost 4-2 on March 9 in Canada.
 
The Islanders have 11 games left with 78 points. The Flyers have one game left with them. Tampa Bay has 77 points and the Flyers have no games left with the Lightning. Three of the Flyers toughest games down the stretch come during this trip.
 
The two games against Columbus between now and the end both require wins.
 
"A big win last night but we have to forget about it and think about tomorrow night," Sean Couturier said. "Another big game. We have to win.
 
"If we lose, what we did yesterday is probably worth nothing. We've got to get streaky here and get going a little bit."
 
There was a ton of positive energy in the Flyers dressing room after Sunday's game. Same thing today at practice after their team photo at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
"It's coming off a good win," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We have a pretty strong group in here, mentally. Guys have showed up with a great mind frame all along. 
 
"We talked a little bit about the entire trip. Four games, that's an easy segment. Most importantly, look at the Winnipeg game."
 
If the Flyers win 10 of their final 11, they'll finish with 94 points. The Maple Leafs have a half-dozen tough games left, including facing Columbus twice, Pittsburgh and Nashville. They also face Tampa Bay which hurts the Flyers because someone -- maybe both teams -- will earn points.
 
The Isles? Just five tough games left on their schedule, including the meeting here against the Flyers on March 30.
 
What has to happen? Toronto, Tampa Bay and the Isles need to go on a losing skid with the Flyers nearly winning out.
 
"Nobody knows," Hakstol said. "We don't have a whole lot of margin, that's for sure. I won't worry about the next 11. You can't start looking that far down the road right now. We've got to be very ready to play a hockey game tomorrow night."