Bigger goalies like Wild's Devan Dubnyk pose problem for Flyers

Bigger goalies like Wild's Devan Dubnyk pose problem for Flyers

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Four shutouts in their first 17 games.

Or you can break it down in a way that sounds a little more alarming: the Flyers essentially have given themselves no shot at winning 24 percent of their games this season which, in part, explains why they’re in last place in a very tightly-packed Metropolitan Division.

“It’s tough to say,” forward Scott Laughton said Tuesday. “I think we’re aware of it for sure. We’ve been shut out four times now and it’s not fun.”

“Everyone’s got pride in their offensive game, and when you get shut out, it doesn’t feel good,” forward Jordan Weal said. “I think if we can really get to our game and do it for a full 60 minutes tonight, I see something going in.”

The Flyers had a similar stretch of offensive ineptitude last season when they were blanked five times over a 19-game stretch from late December to early February, and they finished the season on the wrong side of eight shutouts, which ranked in the bottom five of the league. 

The logic is rather simple: when you can’t score, you can’t win, and that has been the case against some of the better goaltenders in the league. L.A.’s Jonathan Quick, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, Chicago’s Corey Crawford and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk are big, rangy netminders who cover a lot of area.

“Three of those guys are really big goalies who fight through traffic,” Laughton said. “I thought last game Dubnyk was good but we've got to get more traffic on him, and create better chances for ourselves. If our first line doesn’t score, we’ve got to have other guys who step up.”

Perhaps a little overdue in switching up his second and third lines, head coach Dave Hakstol recognized a needed change after Saturday’s loss to Minnesota in which the Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera lines failed to generate anything off the rush playing with little speed through the neutral zone.

“There’s no need for a desperate mentality or anything like that,” Hakstol said. “A couple of games where we didn’t score, maybe we could have done a little more, gotten to the net a little bit harder, could have found a rebound here or there. In all of those games, we ran into good goaltending performances, but again, you have to find a way to alter that. We can do a little more.”

Whatever the message, the Flyers have been quick to fix their flaws this season. In each of the three games proceeding a shutout, they’ve responded with a win in their next game, outscoring their opponents, 7-3.

“We’ve addressed a few things after the game, and we talked about those things after the games we were shut out and I think we came up with good energy and a mentality,” defenseman Ivan Provorov said. 

However, tonight’s game is different. It’s a rare home-and-home against a Western Conference opponent they don’t see too often and once again facing Dubnyk, who will be looking to extend his shutout streak of 138 minutes and 20 seconds following his 1-0 victory Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Wayne Simmonds believes the Flyers can alter their offensive approach by not jamming up the area in front of the crease. 

“We had some chances, we just didn’t bury it,” Simmonds said. “They played pretty much five guys packed right in front of the net. We probably needed to maybe pop a guy out or pop a guy up top or something.”

Patrick still out
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick skated with teammates for a second straight day, however, he’ll miss his ninth straight game with an upper-body injury that he suffered in a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24. Patrick has now skated in some capacity in five of the last six days, providing the possibility he could return to the lineup against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night.

General manager Ron Hextall hinted that Andrew MacDonald could return to the team Monday, but the defenseman did not skate then, and although he traveled with the team, MacDonald was not on the ice for Tuesday’s morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. MacDonald will miss his 10th straight game with a lower-body injury and likely won’t return until Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.

Zucker going wild
Minnesota’s Jason Zucker is on a remarkable tear, scoring the Wild’s last six goals over their past three games. No Flyer has done that in their 51-year history and the last Flyer to register six goals over a three-game span was Simmonds when he had multi-goal games in December of 2013.

“You obviously have to be aware,” Hakstol said of Zucker’s presence on the ice. “He’s on a heck of a run. He’s obviously feeling good and he’s a good player and a good offensive player who’s feeling it. So you have to be aware.” 

Vegas feeling golden after moving atop NHL standings

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Vegas feeling golden after moving atop NHL standings

LAS VEGAS -- Alex Tuch scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and the Vegas Golden Knights pulled away for a 7-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

With the win, the Golden Knights moved back atop the NHL standings with 84 points -- one ahead of Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay.

Ryan Carpenter, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Luca Sbisa, Erik Haula and Cody Eakin also scored for Vegas, which improved to 23-4-2 at home to set the record for home wins by a team in its inaugural season. It topped the previous mark set by the Gordie Howe-lead 1979-80 Whalers (22-12-6).

Tuch also had an assist and his first fight of the season, giving him the so-called Gordie Howe hat trick.

Marc-Andre Fleury, starting his ninth straight game, made 28 saves for the Golden Knights.

TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and Matthew Tkachuk scored for Calgary, which was 8-2-1 in its previous 11 road games. David Rittich finished with 19 saves (see full recap).

Blackhawks need lengthy shootout for win over Sens 
CHICAGO -- Nick Schmaltz scored the deciding goal in the seventh round of the shootout to give Chicago a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, just the Blackhawks' second victory in 11 games.

Schmaltz fired a wrist shot between the legs of Mike Condon after Patrick Kane and rookie Alex DeBrincat connected earlier in the tiebreaker. Matt Duchene and Mike Hoffman scored in the shootout for the Senators, who lost their second straight.

Kane scored his team-leading 23rd goal and set up Artem Anisimov's 16th in regulation for theBlackhawks. Anton Forsberg stopped 32 shots through overtime and five of seven in the shootout, including final stop on Mark Stone.

Duchene and Zack Smith scored for the Senators in regulation, Stone had two assists, and Condon finished with 36 saves through overtime.

Chicago's Joel Quenneville coached his 1,600th NHL game. Only Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour have coached more.

The Senators and last-place Blackhawks, two teams well out of playoff contention heading into the NHL's trade deadline on Monday, both played their first of three games in four nights (see full recap).

Miller helps streaking Ducks blank Stars
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ryan Miller couldn't help but crack a smile when remembering the mess the Anaheim Ducks found themselves in.

After two Ducks players put the puck over the glass on back-to-back plays while already on the penalty kill in the third period, Miller just dug in and helped drag Anaheim to its longest winning streak of the season.

Miller stopped 41 shots for his 42nd career shutout as the Ducks beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

"We can laugh about it now, but when you watch those two float out of the rink you get a little anxious," said Miller, who picked up his third shutout of the season.

Ryan Getzlaf scored short-handed and Hampus Lindholm had a power-play goal for the Ducks, who took sole possession of third place in the Pacific Division.

It was the Ducks' second straight shutout, after Miller came on for the third period in relief of an injured John Gibson in a 2-0 win at Vegas on Monday (see full recap).

What Petr Mrazek hopes to add to Flyers

What Petr Mrazek hopes to add to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Petr Mrazek was the first Flyer on the ice for Wednesday's practice, spending considerable time with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh.

"We talked about strategy a little bit, how to square up to the puck, how to help the D and the PK and how to manage things," Mrazek said. "I think we had a good conversation and I'm looking forward to working with him and try and help the team."

Mrazek was also the first guy off the ice, an early indication that he'll make his Flyers debut Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center. Mrazek spent his first day in Philadelphia serving as Alex Lyon's backup and watched his new team from the bench, quickly noticing how the Flyers moved the puck from zone to zone.  

"Everyone was really fast in transition yesterday," Mrazek said. "We were trying to get the puck out of the zone as quick as we can."

Mrazek believes he can help facilitate quick breakouts with the way he plays the puck and working the puck to his defensemen.

"I'm really confident in playing the puck and helping the defense," Mrazek said. "I like to be involved behind the net and put the puck on their sticks and get the puck out of the zone. Especially on the road, it's very important when teams chip the puck behind the net and try to make a play out there."

Playing the puck efficiently will certainly help Mrazek rest easier, as was his first night in Philadelphia. Staying at a nearby hotel, Mrazek was able to get a good night's rest after barely getting any sleep the night he was traded to Philadelphia. 

"I was fine today," he said, "but yesterday when I woke up at four in the morning, I asked myself, 'Is this really happening?'"