Flyers breaking up top line Monday vs. Flames

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Flyers breaking up top line Monday vs. Flames

CALGARY, Alberta — There’s been so much bad karma lately, that it’s come time to break up the one positive on this Flyers team.

Head coach Dave Hakstol has elected to split up his trio of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, a line that has generated 43 percent of the team's offensive production at even strength, including an NHL-leading 25 goals between them.

“It’s the right time to do it,” Hakstol said. “Over the past two, three games and coming down with our last game at home, we just felt it was a good time to make a change.”

“When a team’s not doing well, you obviously want to switch things up,” Giroux said. “Hopefully we’ll get some new chemistry and that’s what we’re trying to find right now.”

The Flyers enter Monday night's game against the Calgary Flames on another dreadful scoreless drought, this time stretching over 119:12. Every line has failed to generate a sustained offensive attack, much stemming from a miserable performance against the San Jose Sharks last Tuesday.

While Voracek has been sloppy throughout this recent losing stretch, Hakstol believes Wayne Simmonds deserves a crack at playing on a line that brings more skill and is capable of generating more chances.

“We’ve seen Simmer’s game be on track here in the last few games, and I think it’s a good time for him to have that opportunity, as well,” Hakstol said. “Just a little bit of a change and look for the three guys who have been on that line.”   

After scoring the game-winning goal in four of the Flyers' first five wins, Simmonds' production has dipped dramatically with just one goal over his last 18 games. 

“I think it balances out a little bit more,” Simmonds said. “Jake’s a guy who can carry his own line. He’s a guy if he’s on the ice, he’s usually got the puck. I’m just going to try and play my game and hopefully it complements [Giroux and Couturier].”

But the lack of secondary scoring has been a primary issue for the Flyers as they’ve generated just two or fewer goals in eight of their last 14 games, including four shutouts. Voracek will try to spread the wealth playing alongside Michael Raffl and Valtteri Filppula, the latter of whom has just one even-strength goal in his last 15 games.   

“Well, you have to change something,” Voracek said. “Ten games? Four games is a long one (losing streak). Ten is too long. Obviously try to shake things up. Hopefully we’ll get some goals out of those lines and help us win a game. That’s what we’re focusing on right now and let’s hope it works.”

The Flyers enter their three-game Western Canada stretch staring at potentially breaking the club’s all-time winless streak of 12 games that saw the Flyers go 0-8-4 (four ties) from Feb. 24 to March 16, 1999.

“I think mentally it’s really tough,” Giroux said. “You question the way you’re playing. You question if you’re a good team, but at the end of the day, we do believe we can fight for a playoff spot. We've just got to prove it on the ice.”

Jagr keeps on rolling
If he stays healthy for the remainder of this season, Calgary's Jaromir Jagr will become the NHL’s all-time leader in games played, surpassing Gordie Howe’s 37-year record of 1,767. Of course, Jagr would be closing in on 2,000 games played had he not elected to play in the KHL. Jagr turns 46 in February and is not looking at playing past this season.

“I don’t have any plans. I just want to be healthy," Jagr said. "It’s fun, but health is the most important. How is it right now? It’s not perfect, but I just go day by day. I just want to wake up in the morning.”

Flyers fans fondly remember Jagr and the excitement he brought to the Flyers' top line playing with Giroux and Scott Hartnell during Jagr's return to the NHL in 2011-12, which happens to be the last time the Flyers advanced past the first round of the playoffs.

“Look at how many guys are left there,” Jagr said. “That team was one of the most talented teams I was on. Talented and mean. You could play on the first line or the fourth line and it didn’t matter. You could create plays. Coots was on the fourth line back then. G, Danny Briere, JVR (James Van Riemsdyk), (Brayden) Schenn. Just the centermen only, it was fun to play.”

Expected lineup vs. Flames

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Brandon Manning

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

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Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Flyers fans can't wait to see this at the NHL level.

Last weekend, Lindblom potted a goal in three straight games for the Phantoms, giving him 16 on the season through 54 contests. All three tallies came within close range as the Swedish winger's scoring IQ continues to grow during his first AHL season.

Since going scoreless in his first six games, the 2014 fifth-round pick hasn't gone more than four straight games without a point.

Lindblom surprised many with his vast development leading up to the 2017-18 season. While some were disappointed he didn't make the Flyers' roster out of training camp, a 20-goal campaign at Lehigh Valley will be a nice accomplishment along his path to Philly.

Travis Sanheim, D, 21, 6-4/199, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Just how much of a difference-maker is Sanheim? The Phantoms are 9-1-2 since the 2014 first-round pick joined them after he was sent down by the Flyers.

Over Lehigh Valley's 3-0-1 week, Sanheim extended his point streak to seven games with five more assists, putting him at 12 helpers in as many games.

Seeing plenty of minutes and responsibility, Sanheim has collected 13 points to go with a plus-11 rating.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 21, 5-11/187, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Aube-Kubel is another Phantom worth noting here.

The 2014 second-round pick put up five points (one goal, four assists) in four games last week, continuing his surge in Year 2 of his AHL development. He now has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games.

After a feeling-out process last season, Aube-Kubel is coming on strong in 2017-18, as he's a plus-20 and third on Lehigh Valley with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).

Quick hits
• Ho-hum for Morgan Frost, who had a six-point week through three games. At 94 points, Frost is six away from 100, while his plus-54 rating remains best in the OHL.

Here's a glimpse into his vision and skill:

• Goalie Carter Hart picked up a win and a shootout loss over the weekend. In total, he made 60 saves on 65 shots.

Maksim Sushko tallied two goals (including this one below) and two assists through three games last week. A 2017 fourth-round pick, the 19-year-old has 48 points in 47 games for Owen Sound.

• Wingers Isaac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, also 2017 draft picks, recorded three points each in a pair of games.

• Playing for the first time since Jan. 31, German Rubtsov returned from an undisclosed injury to notch an assist over three games last week. The Flyers' 2016 first-round pick has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 27 games for Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

• In Michigan's two-game sweep of top-ranked Notre Dame, Cooper Marody tacked on three more assists, giving 26 overall, which is tied for most in the Big Ten.

Here's his primary helper from Sunday's 1-0 win:

Anthony Salinitri pushed his point streak to seven games with an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. The 2016 sixth-round pick has 25 goals and 25 assists in 56 games.

• During the four-game week for the Phantoms, Mike Vecchione scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season, while adding an assist.

Philippe Myers had an assist Tuesday for his first point since Jan. 26, while Samuel Morin (undisclosed injury), who hasn't played since Jan. 20, remains out.

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)