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

Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

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Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Islanders, who built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and ended Washington's four-game winning streak.

It was the second time this season that Halak held an opponent to a single goal and the third time New York has allowed one goal as a team. Halak's strong performance came after coach Doug Weight sternly defended his goaltenders following the team's skate Monday morning. New York was 0-3-2 over its last five games.

Braden Holtby made nine saves for the Capitals before being pulled after the Islanders scored their third goal 1:34 into the second period. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves in relief, and Dmitry Orlov scored Washington's only goal (see full recap).

Bernier makes 39 saves as Avalanche top Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots and Mark Barberio scored in the third period, helping the Colorado Avalanche top the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night.

Blake Comeau added an empty netter against his former team as Colorado won its second straight after a string of six losses in seven games. It was Comeau's seventh of the season.

Barberio put the Avalanche ahead to stay 6:17 into the third. His slap shot off the rush hit Pittsburgh forward Riley Sheahan in front and got past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Bernier was on track for his second shutout of the season before Phil Kessel scored his 15th goal for Pittsburgh at 19:48. Bernier beat the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career games (see full recap).

Perreault, Jets beat Canucks to snap skid
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mathieu Perreault scored two goals and added an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets halt a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

The win was the Jets' seventh straight victory at home and they have points in their last 11 games (10-0-1) at Bell MTS Place.

The Canucks have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (18-8-5). Ehlers' 14th of the season was on the power play and gave him goals in three straight games.

Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 16th goal for the Canucks. He also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for Winnipeg (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”