Flyers

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Finding meaning in the season finale

Flyers-Hurricanes 5 things: Finding meaning in the season finale

Flyers vs. Hurricanes
7 p.m. on CSN, streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live begins at 6:30.

And so we've reached the final curtain.

The Flyers will cap off an underwhelming campaign when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday evening in the season finale for both Metropolitan Division clubs.

But just because this is the final game of the year for two teams out of the playoff picture doesn't mean we're without things to keep an eye on.

Let's take a closer look at the final NHL game in Philadelphia until October.

1. Remember the name
Players taking part in Sunday's finale have pride to play for. Some have more than that to play for -- they have jobs on the line, whether here in Philadelphia or in another NHL city.

Sunday marks the Flyers' last chance to make an impression on Ron Hextall and prove they should still be wearing orange and black by the time next season rolls around.

After the final buzzer hits Sunday night, five Flyers are set to be restricted free agents and five more are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. The RFAs include Nick Cousins, Roman Lyubimov, Mike Vecchione, Shayne Gostisbehere and Anthony Stolarz. The UFA group includes Chris VandeVelde, Jordan Weal, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz and Steve Mason.

With the way the Flyers underperformed this year and with another season of experience under the belts of talented prospects, change will be inevitable over the summer. And don't forget about that pesky expansion draft for Vegas, either.

There are 60 minutes left to make a lasting mark in the boss' mind for the summer.

2. Another Stolie audition?
Mason started and beat the Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon. With the back-to-back set, Mason's swan song with the Flyers may have already come and gone as all signs point to Anthony Stolarz getting the starting nod against the 'Canes. Michal Neuvirth is out with an upper-body injury.

In six appearances (three starts) this season, the 23-year-old is 2-1-0 with a 1.93 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and a shutout. He last played last Sunday against the Rangers, when he took his first NHL loss on the chin in a 4-3 defeat that officially booted the Flyers from the playoff picture.

The Flyers' goaltending picture is currently in a state of flux as Mason will be a UFA, Stolarz will be an RFA and Neuvirth, who recently inked a two-year extension, is eligible for the expansion draft. Remember, Vegas GM George McPhee was Washington's GM when the Capitals selected Neuvirth in the second round of the 2006 entry draft.

So if Stolarz does indeed get the start Sunday evening, it's a big chance to show he's worthy of being a part of the Flyers' plans next year and into the future.

3. Principal Skinner
The 'Canes aren't going to the playoffs, but that doesn't mean Jeff Skinner still can't torch the Flyers.

Skinner has owned the Flyers to the tune of 13 goals and 18 assists for 21 points in 25 career games against the Flyers.

Even worse news for the Flyers is that Skinner comes into Philadelphia riding high off a two-goal performance in Saturday's shootout loss to St. Louis. The 24-year old now has a career-high 37 goals and a team-high 63 points. Three points on Sunday and he'll set a new career mark.

Oh, and by the way, he's got 14 goals in his last 13 games.

4. Keep an eye on
Flyers: Has any Flyer looked more dynamic over the last month or so than Shayne Gostisbehere? Ghost has once again looked like the play-making, impact defenseman who took the league by storm and finished second in Calder Trophy voting last season. His shiftiness and booming, on-target slapper from the point have both shown up on a consistent basis over the last several weeks as he's shaken off whatever lingered from that offseason hip and abdomen surgery. And remember, he's haunted the Hurricanes with four goals and four assists in eight career games against them.

Hurricanes: Skinner's been so good he deserved his own section in these game notes. But how about 19-year-old rookie winger Sebastian Aho? He's had an excellent rookie campaign with 23 goals and 25 assists while playing in all 81 of the games on the schedule. You may recall the hat trick he recorded on Jan. 31 when the 'Canes routed the Flyers in Raleigh in the first game back from the All-Star break. He's a key piece of what looks like a bright future in Carolina.

5. This and that
• Defensive prospect Robert Hagg has been called up and is available to make his NHL debut against the ‘Canes. For more on Hagg’s call up, click here.

• The Hurricanes have now missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons, the longest active drought in the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers qualified this season for the first time in 10 years, passing the torch to the ‘Canes.

• Sunday marks the fifth meeting of the season between the Flyers and Hurricanes. The Flyers own a 3-1 advantage this season. The Flyers own a 7-2-1 record in the last 10 meetings with Carolina at the Wells Fargo Center.

• Coming into Sunday, six Flyers have played all 81 games so far this season -- Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ivan Provorov and VandeVelde

• In their history, the Flyers are 22-18-8 in regular-season finales.

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

How Flyers prepare for life without Simmonds, Neuvirth

One Czech is out, and another has checked in.

Petr Mrazek has endured a rather eventful past 24 hours. Following news of the trade to the Flyers, Mrazek didn’t go to bed until 2 a.m. and was awake at 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Philadelphia that had him at the Wells Fargo Center in time for the Flyers' morning skate.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Mrazek said. “I got a call at 9:30 from (Red Wings GM) Ken Holland and then Ron Hextall. Yeah, I’m excited. A couple of months ago I had a good conversation with Ken Holland about it and he said if he had a good opportunity to do it, he was going to try and move me. I was really happy.”

With Michal Neuvirth now expected to miss the next 4 to 6 weeks with a lower-body injury, and Brian Elliott scheduled to be out until late March recovering from core muscle surgery, Mrazek will now be the Flyers' go-to guy in net. 

“Petr’s a proven guy,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That goes without saying. We’ve said all along we have confidence in Alex and he’s starting tonight, but Hexy alluded to it, going out and getting an established veteran NHL goaltender and that’s what Petr is.”

Mrazek’s game has definitely reached another level since the calendar flipped to 2018. The 26-year-old netminder has a 5-3-2 record to go along with a 2.29 GAA and a .925 save percentage since Jan. 1. 

“I changed a couple of things during the summer,” Mrazek said. “I didn’t play much the first half of the season and it was tough for me to find my game playing once in two weeks or once in three weeks. It was tough but I worked hard during that stretch on the ice to try and improve my game, and I think over the past few months it was going in the right direction.”

Mrazek will also find comfort in a clubhouse with three Czech teammates: forward Jake Voracek, defenseman Radko Gudas and Neuvirth. They’ve played together at the IIHF World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey.

“I won’t be surprised if we signed Jags after the Olympics,” said Voracek, jokingly regarding Jaromir Jagr. “Obviously, something needs to be done regarding Neuvy and Elliott. Petr’s a great goalie and I think we’re having a great season this year. Obviously, he’s very competitive. As long as we find a way to win with him in the net, that’s all that matters.”  

“They’re different style goalies for sure,” Gudas said of the differences between Mrazek and Neuvirth. “He’s a great goaltender who challenges a lot. That’s a good thing for us to have someone who cares as much as he does. I think our goalies were doing a really good job of keeping our defense intact and keeping them honest, and I think Petr is going to do the same thing, especially our young D corps, and help them out.” 

In Bloom
Many expected Oskar Lindblom to make the Flyers out of training camp. Few expected the call-up to come during the heat of a playoff race. 

Regardless, the 21-year-old Swede will make his NHL debut Tuesday against the Canadiens and should see an extended look into March following an upper-body injury to Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers' power forward is expected to miss the next 2 to 3 weeks of action.

“I’ve grown as a person and as a player,” Lindblom said. “I just felt I had to go down there (Lehigh Valley) and just do my thing and get better every day.”

“It’s so valuable going into the American League and have the opportunity to gain that experience, especially for Oskar being his first year in the smaller NHL rink,” Hakstol said. “He’s grown as a player. I think his confidence has always been good.”

Certainly, confidence won’t be lacking as Lindblom was lighting it up with the Phantoms, scoring a goal in three straight games, along with another scoring streak that included five goals in a six-game span.  

“I don’t know why I’ve been that way this season,” said Lindblom. “But it’s good when it comes and I need to keep riding on that wave a little bit.”

“He’s got a great shot, great hockey sense,” Claude Giroux said. “He’s been playing some great hockey with the Phantoms, and he’s a great guy in the locker room too, so I’m pretty excited to see him on the ice since I haven’t seen him in awhile.”

Lindblom will be on the Flyers' third line along with center Scott Laughton and winger Michael Raffl.

“He’s a smart player, a really heady player,” Laughton said. “I’m excited to play with him. I haven’t talked to him too much. I’m sure we’ll talk more before the game with what me and Raffl like to do and we’ll go out there and continue to push forward and look for him in the slot where he likes to score goals.”

Projected lines and pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny

Jake Voracek-Nolan Patrick-Jordan Weal

Oskar Lindblom-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Dale Weise


Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere

Andrew MacDonald-Robert Hägg

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas


Alex Lyon

Petr Mrazek

2 more key Flyers out with injuries

ap-michal-neuvirth-flyers.jpg
USA Today Images

2 more key Flyers out with injuries

There's more bad news on the injury front for the Flyers.

Winger Wayne Simmonds (upper-body injury) will miss two to three weeks and goalie Michal Neuvirth (lower-body injury) will be out the next four to five weeks.

With yesterday's news that the Flyers had recalled surging forward prospect Oskar Lindblom (see story), a corresponding move seemed imminent. With Simmonds out, Jordan Weal took his place on Nolan Patrick's line, which had been clicking lately, during the morning skate. It appears Lindblom will see his first NHL action on Scott Laughton's line along with Michael Raffl.

With Brian Elliott likely out for the rest of the regular season and Neuvirth's status, the Flyers' trade for goalie Petr Mrazek makes obvious sense (see story). Mrazek was on the ice for morning skate and will be available tonight vs. the Canadiens (7 p.m./NBCSP), according to GM Ron Hextall, who was a guest on 97.5 The Fanatic's midday show.