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.

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.”