Flyers

Flyers-Canadiens: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Canadiens: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Canadiens
7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

Winners of five of their last six, the Flyers (23-22-8) will continue their four-game road trip when they travel to the Belle Centre for a matchup with the Montreal Canadiens (34-15-3) on Tuesday night.

Here are five things you need to know before puck drop:

1. Ray of hope?
With Steve Mason sidelined for the immediate future, backup Ray Emery is now firmly in possession of the Flyers’ crease, and perhaps the team’s dim playoff hopes.

Mason’s latest injury came during a TV timeout on Sunday, when he was stretching by the Flyers’ bench and suddenly appeared to tweak his right leg, which he could not put any pressure on. Emery relieved Mason and wound up making five saves on six shots to pick up the win against the Capitals.

Rob Zepp, who was called up twice from the Phantoms this season, has a lower-body injury of his own, giving the Flyers no choice but to recall young Anthony Stolarz, the club’s top goalie prospect, to serve as Emery’s backup until Mason’s length of absence is determined.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall admitted Stolarz probably isn’t ready to play at the NHL level on Sunday, so don’t expect the 21-year-old to see much action. The brunt of the workload belongs to Emery, who has a 3.34 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in 21 appearances this season.

Unfortunately, Emery’s first start since Jan. 27 will come against Montreal. The veteran netminder has allowed nine goals on 66 shots in two games against the Habs this season, both losses. If the Flyers are to continue their run of success, they’ll need Emery to find his 2013 Chicago form.

2. Weise guy
Dale Weise isn’t exactly what you would call a top-line player.

Don’t get me wrong, the 26-year-old is a nice complementary forward who has good size and a stellar work ethic. But he lacks the natural talent to contribute on a nightly basis.

No matter, Weise has proved to be a nice fit with center David Desharnais, the NHL’s reigning Third Star of the Week, and left winger Max Pacioretty on the Canadiens’ top offensive unit over the past two games. Weise scored twice in a 6-2 win over the Devils on Saturday before adding another marker and an assist in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over the Bruins. Chemistry can be a funny thing, eh?

Shutting down Weise, who potted two goals against the Flyers on Nov. 15, and Montreal will be a difficult assignment. The Habs, who have defeated the Flyers twice already this season, have won two straight and seven of their last nine overall.

In fact, the Canadiens’ current surge has them on the verge of overtaking the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. A Montreal win and a Lightning regulation loss at Nashville on Tuesday would catapult the Habs into first in the East even though they have three fewer games played than Tampa.

3. Injuries
Forward Michael Raffl (pneumonia) returned to practice on Monday, but still has some conditioning to do before he’s ready to play in a game. According to CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio, Raffl is 10 pounds under his playing weight of 195 (see story).

Defenseman Braydon Coburn, who hasn’t played since Jan. 12 because of a foot injury, is also skating with the team. He’s battling his way toward a return — literally (see story).

For Montreal, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (concussion) is out. It’s a lucky break for the Flyers as Parenteau collected both game-winning goals for the Habs against the Flyers this season.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Claude Giroux snapped a three-game pointless drought on Sunday in Washington, D.C. He was a factor on two of the Flyers’ three goals, earning secondary helpers on Mark Streit’s second-period goal and Jakub Voracek’s empty-netter. The Flyers’ captain also played a strong physical game. Giroux is at his best when he’s strong on the forecheck and actively pursuing the puck. Look for a carryover performance.

Canadiens: Max Pacioretty is having a terrific season in Montreal. He leads the Canadiens in most offensive categories, including goals (24), points (45), plus/minus (plus-28) and shots on goal (194). The 26-year-old has tremendous speed and quick hands. He can be a threat on any given night, as evidenced by his three goals and four assists over his last six games. It’s hard to miss No. 67 on the ice.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have allowed just 10 regulation goals during their 5-0-1 stretch.

• Andrei Markov has one goal and four assists in two games against the Flyers this season.

• Brayden Schenn has two goals and an assist in two games against the Canadiens this season.

• Emery is 9-8-1 with a 3.05 goals-against average, .901 save percentage and one shutout in 18 career games — 17 starts — against Montreal.

• Carey Price is 10-9-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 20 career games — 19 starts — against the Flyers.

Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

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Best of NHL: Jaden Schwartz hat trick lifts Blues over Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday night.

Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues' first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak

Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves (see full recap).

Maple Leafs ride big 1st period to win
TORONTO -- Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves in his season debut and the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four times in the first period in a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

Starting in place of Frederik Andersen, McElhinney stopped 14 shots in the third period to hold off the Red Wings.

Nazem Kadri, Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews, Connor Brown, Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored to help Toronto improve to an NHL-best 6-1-0. The Maple Leafs were coming off a 2-0 victory at Washington on Tuesday night.

Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Jonathan Ericsson scored for the Red Wings, and Nick Jensen had three assists.

Jimmy Howard gave up three goals on four shots before getting yanked in favor of Petr Mrazek late in the first period (see full recap).

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.