Flyers-Blues 5 things: Returning from holiday break with different look

Flyers-Blues 5 things: Returning from holiday break with different look

Flyers (20-12-4) at Blues (18-12-5)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports App

The Flyers are back from the holiday break and should look somewhat different when they play the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on Wednesday night.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. A boost from Coots?
The Flyers will get their top defensive forward Sean Couturier back, who has missed 16 straight games with a left knee injury.

“Coots has a shot at playing soon,” general manager Ron Hextall said Tuesday at practice.“Hopefully he plays [Wednesday]. We will probably flip Reader (Matt Read) to LTIR.”

Couturier’s presence would be timely and welcomed given forward Michael Raffl — playing well on the top line — is out one to two weeks after suffering a knee sprain right before the holiday break.

Couturier, of course, won’t join the team’s top line. He won’t play on the second unit, either, because head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t want to break up Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. So Couturier appears set for a third-line role.

“I haven’t seen him or talked to him in a few days, but he’s a huge part of our team and we’ve seen that time after time, when he’s in the lineup versus out,” Hakstol said Tuesday. “If he’s available, it would be nice to have him back.”

2. Leier sees the top
So who takes Raffl’s first-line duty with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek?

Make that 22-year-old Taylor Leier in his 15th NHL game and ninth of the season.

“If I get put up there, they are putting me up there for a reason and that’s to play my game,” Leier said Tuesday. “I’ll stick to my strengths. Bring speed. Those guys are world-class talents. It’ll be nice to play with them if I get the opportunity.”

Leier was called up on Dec. 5 from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, where he posted six goals and 14 assists in 22 games. With the Flyers, he has a goal and an assist in eight games this season, receiving 8:28 of ice time.

“He’s done a good job in a couple different roles,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t seem to change his game. He’s a pretty intelligent two-way player, responsible defensively. Each and every night he’s brought good pace and tenacity.”

Speaking of changes, defenseman Nick Schultz is expected to play his first game since Nov. 11, as Brandon Manning will sit as a healthy scratch.

3. A look at St. Louis
After going 14-7-3 in their first 24 games, the Blues have lost seven of 11.

However, St. Louis poses a much bigger challenge at home than on the road. The Blues, who went to the Western Conference Final last season, are 13-2-4 at the Scottrade Center compared to 5-10-1 away from it. They’re also allowing a league-worst 3.69 goals per game on the road but just 2.26 at home, seventh-best in the NHL.

St. Louis, which ranks second in penalty-kill percentage (87.4) and seventh in power-play percentage (21.3), will also have center Paul Stastny back following his one-game absence because of an upper-body injury.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has lit the lamp just once in his last 21 games dating back to Nov. 8. He’s gone 13 games without a goal, matching his longest drought from last season in which he was the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up. Against the Blues, he’ll have a new defensive partner in Schultz.

Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko is a handful. The explosive winger is fourth in the NHL with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists). The 25-year-old is pointless over his last two games. He has not gone three straight games without a point this season.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 8-6-3 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 19 career games against St. Louis.

• Blues goalie Jake Allen has faced the Flyers only once. He allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 4-3 loss in Philadelphia back on Dec. 21, 2015.

• The Flyers are 4-0-2 in their last six meetings with the Blues.

• The Flyers are coming off their worst margin of defeat (four goals) this season vs. the Devils.

Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

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Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby scored the tying goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Evgeni Malkin put in the winner 58 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the struggling New York Rangers 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel and ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who handed New York (1-5-1) its fourth straight loss.

Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over in overtime and Kessel set up Malkin for the game-winning goal. Just before that, the Rangers iced the puck, leading to a faceoff in their zone.

Michael Grabner put New York ahead 4-3 when he and David Desharnais completed a nifty give-and-go at the 8-minute mark of the third period.

Desharnais, Pavel Buchnevich and J.T. Miller scored in a span of 2:30 as the Rangers got three straight goals early in the second to take a 3-2 lead.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray and counterpart Henrik Lundqvist each made 28 saves in the first of four meetings this season between the division rivals (see full recap).

Devils top Lightning in shootout
NEWARK, N.J. -- Kyle Palmieri scored the lone goal in a shootout, lifting the New Jersey Devils to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Drew Stafford scored twice in regulation as New Jersey improved to 5-1-0. Palmieri and Brian Gibbons each had a goal in the first period, and Cory Schneider made 33 saves.

Vladimir Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, which had its four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-1-1.

Kucherov's goal was his eighth in seven games. He has scored at least once in every game this season, and the 24-year-old right wing became the sixth player in modern NHL history to score at least one goal in the first seven games of a season.

Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Hodge and Tony Tanti are the others. Lemieux holds the record with at least one goal in the first 12 games of the 1992-93 season.

Peter Budaj made his first start of the season for the Lightning and had 30 saves (see full recap).

Anderson helps Maple Leafs blank Capitals
WASHINGTON -- Connor Brown scored the game-winning goal in the third period and Frederik Andersen stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their tremendous start by beating the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Toronto has won five of its first six games. Washington has now lost two in a row since top defenseman Matt Niskanen went out with a long-term upper-body injury.

After getting a promotion to the third line, Brown picked up his second goal of the season and broke a 0-0 tie with 14:07 left in the third. Brown corralled a rebound of Morgan Rielly's point shot and poked the puck between Braden Holtby's legs.

Holtby made 28 saves but couldn't help as the Capitals' offense couldn't cash in on limited high-quality chances. Nazem Kadri scored an empty-net goal in the final minute (see full recap).

Michal Neuvirth earns his Ric Flair robe as Flyers roll again at home

Michal Neuvirth earns his Ric Flair robe as Flyers roll again at home


Every season the Flyers come up with a unique prop handed down from one player of the game to the next following each home victory.

Tuesday night, it was goaltender Michal Neuvirth who was rewarded with the Ric Flair black and silver feathered robe, made popular by the WWE superstar. Neuvirth’s 40-save performance helped pave the way for the Flyers' 5-1 victory over the Panthers (see observations).

“I think Neuvy gave us some confidence,” Claude Giroux said. “He made some big saves for us. He was solid. We’re happy for him that he played a great game. We were hoping to give him a shutout in the end there. He stood on his head tonight.”   

The robe, hand-tailored by the daughter of Flyers head equipment manager Derek Settlemyre, seems rather appropriate in the manner in which the Flyers have body-slammed their opponents in their first two games at the Wells Fargo Center, outscoring Washington and Florida by a combined score of 13-3.

“I think we have a lot of depth. We can roll all four lines,” said Sean Couturier, one of 10 Flyers to register a point. “Our depth has been really good and we've got to keep it that way.”

“It’s fun when you’re winning and making plays. That’s the biggest thing,” said Shayne Gostisbehere, who scored his first goal of the season on a give-and-go with Wayne Simmonds. “As a team, we’re making a lot of plays and Coach is giving us the leeway to do that, and like you said, it’s fun hockey out there.”

The Panthers could have seized some of the Flyers' early momentum. With roughly 6:45 remaining in the second period, Gostisbehere broke up a potential 2-on-1, which led to Valtteri Filppula’s long stretch pass to Giroux, who was all alone at the Panthers' blue line. Giroux skated in and snapped a shot through Roberto Luongo’s five-hole to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead, when just seconds earlier the Panthers had a chance to cut the Flyers' lead to a single goal.

“It was up-and-down hockey,” Giroux said. “It was fun hockey to play and after we got that first goal, we kind of relaxed and started playing.”

Playing for the first time in 12 days, Neuvirth certainly needed a goal to relax. Not only was he fighting the puck early on, but also a few butterflies.

“When you don’t start for awhile, you start questioning yourself,” Neuvirth said. “I was a little bit more nervous than what I was used to before the game, but I handled it well.” 

Tuesday’s game may not have been predetermined WWE style, but the Flyers certainly followed Dave Hakstol’s script, as they had the Panthers pinned to the ice leading, 4-0, after two periods — scoring three of those goals off the rush (see highlights). Coming into Tuesday’s game, Florida led the NHL averaging 42 shots on net.

“I said it this morning, they’re a dangerous team,” Hakstol said. “They make a lot of plays. They put a lot of pucks to the net. Sometimes a shot chart isn’t everything. If you can defend and get a save when you need it, and then turn around in transition and get after them at the other end of the rink, you can generate some chances and we did that tonight.” 

As Neuvirth walked away for the night, he left the gimmicky robe hanging from his locker room stall.

It’s not exactly a look that would inspire confidence, especially with the words “Nature Boy” written across the back shoulder.

Simmonds update
Simmonds left Tuesday’s game for precautionary reasons with approximately eight minutes remaining in the third period because of a lower-body injury. He’ll be evaluated further over the next day or two.

Simmonds has missed just one game since the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

A point is a point
Defenseman Robert Hagg collected his first NHL point by simply getting in the way. Hagg collected the secondary assist after he blocked Mark Pysyk’s shot that led to a Flyers rush and Gostisbehere’s eventual goal.

“I mean, yeah, I’ll take it,” Hagg said. “It’s not going to say in the newspaper how I made it, so I’ll take it.”

With Hagg's assist, 16 of the Flyers' 19 skaters have recorded at least a point this season. Only Michael Raffl, Radko Gudas and Travis Sanheim have yet to crack the scoresheet.