Flyers

Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Hurricanes: 5 things you need to know

Two struggling Metropolitan Division clubs will hit the ice on Tuesday night.

The Flyers (4-9-0) will look to carry over momentum gained in a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils when they take on the depleted Carolina Hurricanes (2-6-2) for the second time this season.

The puck will drop at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. at 7:30 p.m. (CSN). Here are five things you need to know for the contest:

1. Welcome back, Vinny
After missing one game because of a facial injury suffered in a fight with Washington’s Steve Oleksy on Friday, Vinny Lecavalier will return to the Flyers’ lineup against Carolina (see story).

The Flyers’ big offseason acquisition practiced on Claude Giroux’s line with Scott Hartnell on Monday. Lecavalier denied reports that he had a broken jaw, but did still have some swelling on the left side of his face.

In order to protect himself, Lecavalier will wear a helmet with a half-shield, half-cage. He tried using a bubble shield, but quickly switched to a different bucket.

“I wanted to try both,” he said. “I was happy I started off with the cage because I felt a lot better with the thing [Sidney] Crosby wore last year -- the little protective thing. It fogs up a little bit, but I had better vision with the second one.”

Lecavalier, who missed three games earlier this season with a lower-body injury and four overall through the first 13 games, leads the Flyers with five goals and is tied with Brayden Schenn for the team lead in points with seven. Steve Downie, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, also has seven points but he recorded all of them as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

2. Eye of the storm
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Hurricanes. Carolina enters Tuesday with a five-game losing streak and has several key players sidelined with injuries.

Leading-scorer Jeff Skinner -- nine points in 10 games -- is out with an upper-body injury and missed practice Monday to seek a second opinion on whatever is bothering him. The Hurricanes haven’t clarified exactly what the 21-year-old’s injury is, but he has had concussion problems in the past.

To make matters worse, both of Carolina’s netminders are on injured reserve with lower-body ailments. Starter Cam Ward isn’t skating yet and backup Anton Khudobin, who stopped 17 of 18 shots in the Hurricanes’ win over the Flyers earlier this season, is progressing slowly.

Radek Dvorak (lower body) skated with the ‘Canes on Monday and could be activated from IR to play against the Flyers. In addition, Tim Gleason and Kevin Westgarth are both listed as day-to-day with upper-body injuries and are questionable for Tuesday’s game.

Finally, former Flyer Joni Pitkanen (heel) is out for the season, leaving a big hole on Carolina’s blueline. With the exception of Downie, the Flyers will field a healthy roster.

3. Defensive carousel
The Flyers have already used all eight of their defensemen on the active roster this season, mostly because of inconsistent play on the blueline.

Head coach Craig Berube has inserted Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson in and out of the lineup a few times, but made another move on Saturday. Luke Schenn was a healthy scratch and Hal Gill made his official Flyers debut.

Gill, now in his 16th NHL season, played nearly 15 minutes and was aggressive in front of the Flyers’ net. Only Braydon Coburn logged more shorthanded minutes than Gill among defensemen. The Flyers allowed just 14 shots and did not register a single giveaway in the win.

At practice Monday, Berube’s defensive parings were identical to the ones used in the New Jersey game. It looks like Gill and Meszaros will remain in the lineup, leaving Gustafsson and Schenn to be scratched again.  

4. Struggling offenses
The Flyers and Hurricanes are two of six NHL clubs averaging under two goals per game in the early going.

The Flyers’ offensive struggles returned after a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders. In the three games since that victory, the orange and black have netted just three markers. In addition, their 21 goals are an NHL-low.

Carolina has only five tallies during its current losing streak. The ‘Canes have 27 goals in 14 games overall.

5. This and that
• Luke Schenn netted the Flyers’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Carolina on Oct. 6. Dvorak potted the game-winner for the ‘Canes.

• Steve Mason is 5-1-0 with a .941 save percentage and 1.84 goals-against average in six career starts against the Hurricanes. Ray Emery’s numbers are even better. He’s gone 5-0-0 with a .977 save percentage, 0.74 goals-against average and two shutouts against Carolina.

• The Hurricanes will open a five-game homestand on Tuesday.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

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Best of NHL: Blue Jackets shut out Rangers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky made 36 saves for his 21st career shutout and Zach Werenski and Artemi Panarin scored in the Columbus Blue Jackets' 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

New York ran into a hot goalie in Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who notched his second shutout of the season in powering Columbus to its third straight victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was nearly as good against the increasingly aggressive Blue Jackets, stopping 40 shots on the night. The Rangers (11-8-1) lost their second straight following a six-game win streak.

After a scoreless first period in which both goalies made some slick, sprawling saves, Werenski found the back of the net with his sixth goal of the season 13:34 into the second.

Brandon Dubinsky lost the handle of the puck in the slot, and Werenski picked it up just inside the right circle and beat Lundqvist with a one-timer.

Columbus (12-7-1) was the aggressor in the second frame, outshooting the Rangers 19-9, and kept up the pressure in the third.

Panarin scored his fourth goal of the season on a power play 7:14 into the third period, rocketing a slap shot from the high slot that ricocheted off the bar and in.

The Blue Jackets are 9-1-0 this season when allowing two goals or fewer (see full recap).

Red Wings’ 3rd-period goals enough to top Sabres
DETROIT -- Tomas Tatar scored a go-ahead goal midway through third period and the Detroit Red Wings went on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night.

Detroit's Luke Glendening broke a scoreless tie late in the second period. Ryan O'Reilly pulled Buffalo into a 1-all tie 5:50 into the third.

Dylan Larkin scored late in the game and Jimmy Howard had 19 saves for the Red Wings. They have won consecutive games at home for the first time this season.

Buffalo's Robin Lehner stopped the first 20 shots he faced and finished with 30 saves.

The Sabres have lost four straight, one away from their longest losing streak of the season, but were thankful they didn't lose more than a game in Detroit.

Jack Eichel went to the dressing room late in the second period after coming off the ice slowly, keeping weight off his right skate following a collision with Glendening, and making a brief stop on the bench. Buffalo's standout center was cleared to return at the start of the third period.

After a scoreless first period with a combined 14 shots, Detroit outshot Buffalo 13-4 in the second and took control without that translating to a big lead (see full recap).

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

End to End: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes

Throughout the season, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: How to solve the Flyers' scoring woes.

Dougherty
If Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss in Winnipeg confirmed anything, it's the Flyers cannot break up their top line. They might not be able to score much, but their only scoring is coming from Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

The Couturier line accounts for 48 percent of the Flyers' offense, or 25 goals. Factor the defense and top line together, and that's 59 percent, as the blue line has produced six tallies this season.

Of the 21 goals the Flyers have scored that do not come from the top line or blue line, 12 have come from two players, Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula. Simmonds hasn't scored in 11 games, and Filppula has one goal in his past nine games.

Two lines have stayed intact since Day 1 — the Couturier line and the fourth line of Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier and Michael Raffl. Head coach Dave Hakstol has been hesitant about breaking up his fourth line, and rightfully so. Laughton, Leier and Raffl have chemistry, and they're almost always cycling in the offensive zone.

Nolan Patrick just returned after missing three weeks because of a "suspected" concussion and played sparingly against the Jets. He should help the Flyers' scoring woes, but he won't solve them. I think it's time to break up the fourth line, and based on the Winnipeg game, it looks like a possibility Hakstol is considering.

Here's why. Raffl played on the second power-play unit against the Jets, which was a first this season. Perhaps Hakstol didn't want to throw Patrick back into the fire and watched the rookie's minutes.

Breaking up lines Nos. 2, 3 and 4 is the best course of action. Travis Konecny is struggling with confidence, Jordan Weal hasn't been great, and those are two players the Flyers need to get going. It's time to end the Dale Weise in the top-nine experiment.

With what the Flyers have, here is what I would do:

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

Hall
There's no need to panic if you're the Flyers.

First, you finally have a no-doubt-about-it top line. Voracek, Couturier and Giroux have blended beautifully and are doing damage, as the Flyers entered Friday one of only three teams in the NHL with a trio of players over 20 points each. Don't break that up just because there's an imbalance below it. 

And second, it's a long season. Ups and downs are common and things can change quickly. Just look at last season. The Flyers ripped off 10 straight wins and scored the NHL's second-most goals through the first two months of 2016-17. As we all know, they didn't make the postseason and finished as a bottom-third goal-scoring club.

The Flyers simply need to continue experimenting with their middle six and see what eventually works best. A little patience was going to be required when you're relying on a 19-year-old rookie in Patrick, a 20-year-old still finding himself at this level in Konecny and a 25-year-old facing his first full NHL season in Weal.

And let's not forget, the defense is exceptionally young with two rookies (Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim), a 20-year-old leader (Ivan Provorov) and a third-year player coming off a sophomore slump (Shayne Gostisbehere).

But back to the forwards. 

If you recall, a stretch from Oct. 10-17 featured Filppula centering Weal and Simmonds on the second line, with Patrick centering Konecny and Weise on the third unit. It resulted in a pretty productive three-game span in which the Flyers picked up two wins and outscored the opposition 18-9.

I really liked the dynamic of that middle six. And the Flyers can now return to it with Patrick suiting up. He will be eased back into heavier minutes, but he can make a difference when healthy and comfortable. Patrick and Konecny can still play plenty of minutes on the third line with less pressure and potentially more favorable matchups.

We've seen Weal and Simmonds work well together, and Filppula adds smarts and steadiness down the middle.

But the important thing to remember is the Flyers are only 19 games into an 82-game grind. Scoring can come and go at times, and there's no reason it can't come down the line.

So, here's what I like best for the Flyers right now:

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