Flyers-Capitals 5 things: All cards stacked heavily against Flyers

Flyers-Capitals 5 things: All cards stacked heavily against Flyers

Flyers (30-26-7) at Capitals (43-13-7)
7:30 p.m. on CSN, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7

The Flyers take their two-game winning streak to the nation's capital where they face the NHL-leading Washington Capitals on Saturday night at the Verizon Center.

Here are five things to know for the game.

1. Scene of the crime
The Flyers return to the arena where they were embarrassed before their NHL mandated bye week.

Back on Jan. 15, the Capitals bombarded the Flyers with four goals in five minutes of the third period to turn a competitive 1-0 game into a 5-0 laugher.

It sent the Flyers off into the break with a nasty taste in their mouths.

And they still have it.

"When a team beats you up like that, it doesn't matter who it is, it's in the back of your mind," Brandon Manning said Friday. "It even goes back to last year in the playoffs."

2. Added ammunition
As if the Capitals weren't loaded enough, they went out and acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues at the trade deadline.

The 2015 All-Star joins the league's stoutest defense and brings 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) to the table, tied for the fifth most among NHL blueliners.

So, yes, Washington just got better.

The Capitals are 23-4-2 since New Year's Eve, a stretch in which they've scored 117 markers and yielded 58, a goal differential of plus-59.

Oh, and they're also riding a franchise-record 14-game home winning streak.

3. Net gain?
Steve Mason said there were no contract talks with the Flyers leading up to the deadline. The team then went out and re-signed Michal Neuvirth to a multi-year extension.

Both were set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Neuvirth no longer is, while his goalie partner looks destined for the market.

Maybe this was the motivation Mason needed for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. A day after the deadline passed, the 28-year-old delivered 39 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over the Panthers.

Mason, who is 2-0-0 with 72 saves on 73 shots his last two games, will receive his third straight start on Saturday.

"I didn't really plan on negotiating until the summer," Mason said Friday. "And this summer, I'll be a free agent. I'm not sure I'm in their plans here.

"For me, my job is to get this team in the playoffs and that's my sole focus right now. If I can finish strong here, summertime will take care of itself."

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Valtteri Filppula had a very positive and impactful Flyers debut. He worked well with Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn. Let's see if he can be a difference-maker against high-powered Washington.

Capitals: Alex Ovechkin is pointless over his past four games, tied for his longest skid of the season. You know that won't continue through Saturday on home ice, so expect a bang from the big Russian.

5. This and that
• Mason is 9-6-2 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 18 career games against the Capitals.

• Washington goalie Braden Holtby is 33-8-5 with a 1.91 goals-against average and eight shutouts -- both best in the NHL.

Travis Konecny will return to the lineup after missing nine games with an ankle and knee injury.

• Capitals forward T.J. Oshie will be back in the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs hand Kings 1st regulation loss of season

USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Maple Leafs hand Kings 1st regulation loss of season

TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 36 saves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs handed the Los Angeles Kings their first regulation loss of the season with a 3-2 victory on Monday night.

Matt Martin, Tyler Bozak and Patrick Marleau scored for the Maple Leafs (7-2-0). Mitch Marner added two assists.

Toronto has won at least seven of its first nine games for the first time since the 1993-94 season and just the seventh time overall in franchise history.

Adrian Kempe and Trevor Lewis scored for Los Angeles (6-1-1), which had won four in a row. Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots.

Toronto defenseman Roman Polak made his season debut after signing a $1.1 million, one-year deal on Sunday. He had one assist and played 12-plus minutes (see full recap).

Couture, Jones lead Sharks past struggling Rangers
NEW YORK -- Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, Martin Jones stopped 33 shots and the San Jose Sharks beat the struggling New York Rangers 4-1 on Monday night.

Tim Heed, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson also scored to help the Sharks win for the third time in four games. Jones got his fourth straight win after losing his first two starts.

Mika Zibanejad scored and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 20 saves for the Rangers, who fell to 2-6-2 on the season. New York finished 0 for 6 on the power play and is 3 for 25 over the last six games.

With the Sharks leading 3-0 after two periods, Couture took the puck away from Lundqvist behind the goal and sent it to Karlsson, who put it in for his second of the season at 2:51 of the third. Couture got his 200th career assist on the play.

San Jose turned the puck over in its defensive zone and Zibanejad snapped a shot into the top right corner to spoil Jones' shutout bid at 4:23 of the final period (see full recap).

Flyers shuffle defensive pairings with Andrew MacDonald out

AP Images

Flyers shuffle defensive pairings with Andrew MacDonald out

VOORHEES, N.J. — When Andrew MacDonald took the direct brunt of Mark Letestu’s blistering slap shot to the left knee in the third period of Saturday’s win over Edmonton, the Flyers' experience within their defensive corps also took a hit.

The Flyers announced Sunday MacDonald will miss the next four to six weeks with a lower-body injury.

Now in his ninth NHL season, MacDonald has logged 481 games, and while Flyers fans may quickly write off his contributions and longevity in the league, he has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in each of his previous eight seasons. MacDonald has earned the respect of his teammates, who voted before the season to name him as one of two new alternate captains.

“[MacDonald] is a pro,” said general manager Ron Hextall. “I hear there’s criticism. It’s unfair. I think everyone knows what his teammates think of him and what we think of him. He’s just persevered through whatever.”

“He’s a very good player,” Ivan Provorov, MacDonald's typical defensive partner, said. “We had a really good chemistry. We played a lot together last year and a little this year and it sucks that he’s out.”

Take MacDonald out of the equation and now the Flyers will be forced to lean on a very talented, but still inexperienced defense. According to, 57 active defensemen have more games played than the Flyers entire current six-man unit combined.

“He’s been the biggest part of our defense. He’s the most experienced guy that we have,” Radko Gudas said of MacDonald. “Losing him, it’s obviously tough for us, but it’s opportunity for some of the other guys to step up and show they’re capable of playing a big amount of minutes.”

Complicating MacDonald’s injury for head coach Dave Hakstol is losing a right-side defenseman. As a result, Hakstol elected to rearrange all three of his defense pairings during Monday’s practice, likely signaling what we'll see Tuesday against the visiting Anaheim Ducks:

• Provorov/Robert Hagg (98 combined games) — There may not be another top shutdown pair in the NHL with less experience than Provorov and Hagg, which is not to say they can’t handle the responsibilities. Provorov and Hagg were paired together for a couple of preseason games and a few shifts so far in the regular season. They’ll have a monumental task of containing the Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry duo.

“We’ll try and communicate as much as we can and talk before the game, probably talk today about some plays and I think we should be fine,” Provorov said.

• Shayne Gostisbehere/Gudas (427 combined games) — Interestingly, this pair has the most experience, yet according to Gostisbehere, the two guys have never played together. Gudas is expected to fill MacDonald’s role on the team’s top penalty-killing unit alongside with Provorov, and together, "Ghost" and Gudas compliment each other well. Gudas is a stay-at-home defenseman while Gostisbehere is active offensively.

“Obviously things are a little different now,” Gostisbehere said, “We just got to feel each other out right now. I’m sure there will be some growing pains. Hopefully our mistakes won’t be magnified too much. It’s a good fit. Obviously, Gudy’s a bit more defensive and is going to kill people. I’m the guy who’s a puck mover.”

• Brandon Manning/Travis Sanheim (150 combined games) — For two players who have been interchangeable over the first eight games, Tuesday will mark the first time Manning and Sanheim will have played together. Manning will stay on the left side as Sanheim transitions to the right. Actually, I’m intrigued to see Sanheim on the right once a spot opens up for Samuel Morin.

“I think it’s just personnel you have to be aware,” Manning said, “You got to be aware of guys who can skate and obviously other guys who can finish their checks and play you hard.”   

“There’s different roles that each unit has,” said head coach Dave Hakstol, “There’s a different rhythm back on the back end, than there certainly is up front.”

Now with a roster that has no reserves on defense, there’s a curiosity of which Phantom could have been promoted from Lehigh Valley. However, Hextall doesn’t anticipate recalling Morin or another defenseman to serve in a backup role at this time.

“We’re going to go with six right now,” Hextall said, “We’re at home and there’s no reason to call someone up to sit.”

On whether the Flyers will call up a seventh defenseman up before the next road trip begins Thursday in Ottawa, “I don’t know that," Hextall said. "We’ll approach it on a day-to-day basis. We’ll see how tomorrow goes and if we get banged up and whatnot. The one great thing about having your minor league team an hour away is you don’t have to cover yourself all the time.”  

Projected lines, pairings and goalies
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl/Dale Weise

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth