Flyers

Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

Flyers at Hurricanes
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

Fresh off a 2-1-1 homestand, the Flyers (26-23-11) will hit the road for a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes (21-30-7) at PNC Arena on Tuesday night.

Here are five things to get you ready for the tilt:

1. Into the wild
When the Flyers were 13 points out of a wild-card spot on Jan. 16, not many people believed they had a shot at climbing back into the playoff race.

A month later, the Flyers, to their credit, have made things interesting. They enter Tuesday just one point behind ninth-place Florida and four points back of Boston, which owns the second and final wild-card spot.

How have they done it? Having the third-best power play in the league certainly helps, but their 8-1-4 run is mostly because of their improved play on the penalty kill and their defense finally finding some consistency. It’s also important to note they’ve managed to stay afloat without No. 1 netminder Steve Mason, who is nursing a lower-body injury.

Really the only area of concern right now is the Flyers’ play at even strength. Head coach Craig Berube has juggled the lines over the past week in hopes of sparking his team. The changes paid off in weekend wins over Nashville and Washington.

Now it’s time to buckle down. The Flyers have 22 games remaining, 10 against teams who are not currently in a playoff position. We could be in line for a frantic finish.

2. Wreck-it Rinaldo
When are the Flyers going to learn? Sunday was a perfect example of how Zac Rinaldo is a detriment to the team every time he takes the ice.

An argument can be made that the minor for elbowing he was whistled for in the first period against the Caps was a reputation call. That’s fine. But in the second period, he launched himself at Mike Green and found himself in an altercation after Jason Chimera took exception to the hit attempt. Rinaldo actually showed some restraint for once, refusing to drop his gloves with Chimera, but was on the wrong end of a bare knuckle punch to the jaw. Did Rinaldo deserve a five-minute major for fighting? No. But it’s clear that referees aren’t giving him any breaks because of his checkered past.

“I know if it was me, I would have been kicked out, probably suspended,” Rinaldo told reporters after the game. “That’s what just pissed me off.”

When you refuse to change your habits that have gotten you suspended before, do you really expect officials to show some sympathy? Rinaldo, after serving an eight-game suspension for a cheap shot on Kris Letang and sitting out two games as a healthy scratch, has fallen into the same routine, collecting 17 penalty minutes in his first two games back in the lineup. He was handed a 10-minute misconduct on Saturday against Nashville because he wouldn’t shut his mouth after a whistle. He just can’t seem to help himself.

Reckless behavior aside, has Rinaldo really done anything to deserve a spot on the roster anyway? Look at the numbers: Zero goals, two assists, 27 shots and 92 PIMs in 38 games. Where is the value? I understand benching Vinny Lecavalier because he’s slumping, but trotting out Rinaldo isn’t anywhere near close to being an upgrade. How many more chances does Rinaldo deserve?

3. Just Staal-ing?
Sitting 15th in the Eastern Conference and dead last in the Metropolitan Division with just 49 points this season, it’s obvious the Hurricanes will be sellers at the trade deadline.

Carolina has a list of impending unrestricted free agents. Veteran defensemen Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason and forwards Pat Dwyer, Jiri Tlusty and Jay McClement will draw significant interest from contenders looking to bolster their lineups for a playoff run.

There was also some speculation that Pittsburgh was interested in re-acquiring center Jordan Staal, but Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis put an end to that buzz.

“We’re not moving Jordan Staal,” Francis told News & Observer reporter Chip Alexander.

A big hurdle coming up for Carolina is what to do with longtime captain Eric Staal, whose contract expires after the 2015-16 season. The Staal brothers could bring back substantial returns if the Hurricanes intend to rebuild. Stay tuned.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Claude Giroux snapped out of his offensive funk with a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Capitals. The Flyers’ captain has embraced a shoot-first mindset since being separated from winger Jakub Voracek, firing 11 shots on goal over his past two games. Wayne Simmonds has helped open things up for Giroux, who put an end to his 11-game goalless drought. Giroux will still get his chances with Voracek on the power play, but, for now, the trial separation seems to have sparked the top-line center.

Hurricanes: There hasn’t been many bright spots for Carolina this season, but the emergence of defenseman Justin Faulk is something Hurricanes fans can take solace in. The 22-year-old, who represented his team at the All-Star game last month, leads the Hurricanes in assists (26) and points (36) while averaging just over 24 minutes a game. He has tremendous confidence with the puck on his stick and a strong shot from the point. His defensive game is still a tad bit raw, but he’s certainly made up for it with his offensive acumen. He wears No. 27.

5. This and that
• The Flyers have killed off 34 of their last 38 shorthanded situations (89.5 percent).

• Jeff Skinner has six goals and six assists in 14 career games against the Flyers.

• Simmonds has six goals and four assists during a career-high eight-game point streak.

• Carolina has scored three goals against the Flyers this season. Eric Staal has two of them.

• The Flyers have received at least a point from their defensemen in six straight games with a total of two goals and 10 assists during that span.

Flyers-Canucks observations: Losing streak reaches 5 straight

Flyers-Canucks observations: Losing streak reaches 5 straight

BOX SCORE

The last-place Flyers continue to lose ground in the Metropolitan Division as they suffered a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday. The loss was their fifth in a row and sixth in their last seven home games. 

The Canucks' leading scorer, rookie Brock Boeser, scored twice as Vancouver ripped off four unanswered goals after falling behind, 1-0.

Making his first start in 17 days, Michal Neuvirth surrendered four goals and was pulled at the 14:40 mark of the second period in favor of Brian Elliott. Elliott stopped all 13 shots he faced.

Vancouver’s power play was 2 for 3 as the Flyers have allowed five power-play goals over their last two games.

The Flyers’ record (8-9-4) dipped below the .500 mark for the first time this season. 

• From just inside the left circle, Jakub Voracek ripped home a big shot that beat Jacob Markstrom glove side high in the third period. That seemed to wake up the Flyers, who had been sleepwalking through the previous 30 minutes.

• Dave Hakstol elected to switch up his second and third lines, pairing Michael Raffl with Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds.

• The Flyers had another defensive breakdown, which led to a Canucks’ 2-on-1 opportunity. Robert Hagg stepped up to deliver a hit on Sven Baertschi, which allowined the Canucks to break out of their zone — a real problem area throughout this game.

• Travis Sanheim was called for a very minor slashing penalty during the second period, but anything with a stick near the hands will be called.

• On Vancouver’s power play in the second, the Canucks had a clean entry over the blue line after Taylor Leier had a shorthanded chance. Once again, the Sedin brothers teamed up. Brandon Manning stepped up in coverage, which allowed Boeser to slide into the slot unguarded and score an uncontested shot that Neuvirth had no shot to stop.

• The Flyers were actually outshooting the Canucks six and a half minutes into the second period, 24-12. Yet they trailed in the game, 3-1. Once again, the Canucks’ quality superseded the Flyers’ quantity of shots.  

• Not sure what Valtteri Filppula was looking for on the Flyers’ first power play of the second period as he flipped the puck out to the point with nobody home. That gave the Canucks a shorthanded chance.

• The Canucks extended their lead to 4-1 with their fourth straight goal. Neuvirth failed to corral a somewhat easy rebound and allowed Sven Baertschi to bat in the puck out of midair. At that point, Hakstol elected to replace Neuvirth with Elliott.

• Voracek had his second breakaway opportunity in the final period. This time, he cut back into the middle of the ice but he couldn’t finish the play as the Canucks’ defenseman tied him up.     

• Now that Raffl was moved off the fourth line, the unit doesn’t possess the same speed with Jori Lehtera at right wing. However, the line had good pressure early on in the game.

• Voracek seems to have more east-west speed with the puck than he does moving north-south. He didn’t quite have the burst on a potential breakaway as Canucks defenseman Alex Biega caught up with him and denied him of a quality scoring chance.

• The Flyers won 68 percent of their first period faceoffs. The biggest one came when Filppula won the draw in the offensive zone and allowed Ivan Provorov to make a move and throw the puck on net. The puck deflected off the right arm of Alex Biega and past goalie Markstrom for the Flyers’ only goal of the first period.

• I just don’t like Shayne Gostisbehere’s game over the past few weeks. Obviously, his lack of discipline cost the Flyers a potential win against the Flames, and he allowed Daniel Sedin to get behind him on Vancouver’s first goal. Credit Henrik Sedin, who threaded a one-handed pass to brother Daniel Sedin that allowed him to make a move on Neuvirth. The Flyers’ netminder had it covered but the puck hit the post, deflected off Neuvirth and rolled past the goal line.

• Earlier in the first period, “Ghost” lost track of Markus Granlund, who separated himself from the coverage and got off a shot to Neuvirth’s right. Gostisbehere looks like a different player depending which side of the ice he’s on. He’s obviously much more confident in the offensive zone, where he blasted a point shot off the post.

• The Flyers had a neutral zone turnover, were also on a defensive change and failed to get the puck deep when the Canucks scored their second goal just 19 seconds after their first one. Boeser took a big slap from the right circle that beat Neuvirth blocker side. Neuvirth appeared to be slightly off his angle.

• A solid opening minute from the Flyers’ first power-play unit that generated three shots on net. It appeared as if Simmonds took a cross check in the back on a Gostisbehere slap shot as he couldn’t locate the rebound. 

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forwards Dale Weise and Matt Read (healthy), and defenseman Radko Gudas (suspended).

Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

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Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

WASHINGTON -- Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games and the Calgary Flames beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Monday night.

Gaudreau scored and assisted on Sean Monahan's goal, one of two on the power play for Calgary, which has won four of its past five. Mikael Backlund and captain Mark Giordano also scored for the Flames, who got 29 saves from Mike Smith.

Gaudreau, nicknamed "Johnny Hockey," has eight goals and 11 assists during his point streak. Led by the Carneys Point, New Jersey, native, the Flames are 7-3-0 in that time.

Lars Eller scored the only goal for the Capitals, who took five minor penalties and lost for the third time in four games. Braden Holtby allowed four goals on 39 shots.

The Flames came in feeling good after a comeback victory in Philadelphia and a 1950s-themed train ride to Washington. But the Capitals took a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds in when Jakub Vrana found Eller for his fourth goal of the season.

Calgary controlled much of the play from that point on, tying it on Gaudreau's goal 4:49 in and taking a lead on Monahan's power-play goal 5:22 into the second. Monahan had a goal and an assist after a power-play hat trick Saturday against the Flyers.

Washington's parade to the penalty box gave the Flames momentum and then their third goal at 4:38 of the second when Backlund buried a loose puck. Giordano's goal to make it 4-1 was effectively a third power-play goal as it came 1 second after ex-Flames forward Alex Chiasson's penalty expired (see full recap).

Blue Jackets edge Sabres for 4th straight win
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sergei Bobrovsky made three of his 30 saves on a power play in the final two minutes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets. Markus Nutivaara had two assists.

Buffalo dropped its sixth straight game. Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart scored for the Sabres, and Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots.

Bobrovsky made his biggest save when he slid across the crease to kick away a Ryan O'Reilly one-timer with 1:49 remaining. Bobrovsky got a piece of Kyle Okposo's shot off the rebound and the puck trickled across the goal line while Okposo fell into the net. Officials determined on replay that the goal did not count.

The Blue Jackets scored first for the fifth straight game when Dubois collected a loose puck in the slot and lifted a wrist shot over Lehner four minutes into the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand set up Dubois' third goal of the season with a pass from behind the net.

Panarin scored his fifth on a high wrist shot from the right circle 5:47 into the third. Jenner added his third goal of the year on a play in front of the net midway through the period (see full recap).

Raanta, Coyotes end Maple Leafs' win streak
TORONTO -- Antti Raanta made 26 saves and the Arizona Coyotes ended the Toronto Maple Leafs' winning streak at six games with a 4-1 victory Monday night.

Brendan Perlini, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi and Tobias Rieder scored for the Coyotes (5-15-3), who have won three in a row for the first time this season.

Arizona rookie Clayton Keller had two assists to give him 20 points in 23 games.

James van Riemsdyk scored for the Maple Leafs (14-8-0).

Frederik Andersen had his shutout streak snapped at 1:41:28 when the Coyotes scored in the first period. Andersen, who made 28 saves, had blanked the opponent in back-to-back games.

Toronto star Auston Matthews, playing in his 100th career game, appeared to tie it 2-all with 3:50 to play but the goal was overturned after a replay review because of goalie interference by Zach Hyman (see full recap).