Flyers

Flyers-Jets: What you need to know

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Flyers-Jets: What you need to know

Flyers vs. Jets – 1 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

For the third time this season, the Flyers failed to win three straight games after opening their five-game homestand with a disappointing 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

The Flyers have not won more than two games in row all year after they had four win streaks of three or more games in the 2011-12 campaign.

Next up for the Flyers is an afternoon matchup with the Winnipeg Jets. The orange and black have struggled against the Jets over the past few seasons, going 2-10-1 in the past 13 meetings between the two teams.

Records
Flyers: 8-10-1 (Fourth in Atlantic Division, 10th in Eastern Conference)

Jets: 7-8-1 (Third in Southeast Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
The last time these two clubs faced off, Brayden Schenn and Tye McGinn each scored tip-in goals set up by passes from Jakub Voracek to help pace the Flyers to a 3-2 win over the Jets on Feb. 12 in Winnipeg. Kimmo Timonen added a power-play marker and Ilya Bryzgalov made 24 saves as the Flyers earned their second consecutive victory over Winnipeg after dropping the previous six dating back to the Jets’ time in Atlanta.

Saturday’s matchup will mark the second of three contests between the Flyers and Jets this season. It is the only game that will be played at the Wells Fargo Center in the season series.

Previous games
The Flyers failed to capitalize on the momentum gained in back-to-back wins over the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins and looked tired in a 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Thursday night. Luke Schenn and Voracek got the Flyers on the board in the third period, but the game was already over by the time they beat Panthers netminder Scott Clemmensen.

Andrew Ladd, in his 500th career NHL game, registered three points and Blake Wheeler scored twice to lift the Jets to a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Ondrej Pavelec made 27 saves for Winnipeg, which has won the first two contests of a five-game road trip after losing three in a row on home ice.

Who's hot
After a slow start to this lockout-shortened season, Voracek has been absolutely on fire for the Flyers as of late. The 23-year-old has four goals and five assists during his current four-game point streak. He is tied with the injured Matt Read for the team lead in goals with seven, and is leading the Flyers in assists (12) and points (19) through the first 19 games.

For the Jets, Evander Kane enters Saturday with at least one point in each of his last five games (two goals, three assists). The 21-year-old forward has three tallies and eight helpers in 10 career games against the Flyers.

Who's not
Max Talbot has yet to find the back of the net for the Flyers this season. He has just four assists and a minus-4 rating through 19 games. In comparison, Talbot had six goals, five assists and was a plus-2 in his first 19 contests with the Flyers in 2011-12.

Veteran forward Olli Jokinen, who signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Jets this offseason, has gotten off to a horrendous start in Winnipeg. In 16 games, Jokinen has just two goals and two assists. He also has a team-worst minus-9 rating.

Keep an eye on ...
Danny Briere has had tremendous success against the Jets/Thrashers’ franchise in his career. In 31 games against Winnipeg/Atlanta, the 35-year-old has potted 14 goals and assisted 19 more to go along with his plus-10 rating.

After scoring both goals in Winnipeg’s loss to the orange and black earlier this season, Ladd is earning a reputation as a Flyers killer. The Jets’ captain has nine tallies in his last 10 games against the Flyers.

A lot of Winnipeg’s offense comes from its defensive corp. The Jets have received 33.6 percent of their points from defensemen, which ranks first in the NHL this season.

Did you know?
Voracek has nine career three-plus point games and two of them have come this week alone. He had a career-high four assists against the Islanders on Monday and netted his first NHL hat trick two nights later against the Penguins.

Injuries
Flyers: Read will be sidelined for six weeks after suffering torn rib cage muscles in Wednesday’s win over Pittsburgh.

Scott Hartnell (left foot) will make his return to the Flyers' lineup against the Jets. On Thursday, Hartnell said he wasn't 100 percent and was another week away from a return.

Andrej Meszaros is still recovering from a left shoulder injury. General manager Paul Holmgren said Meszaros is expected to miss another 7 to 10 days after a team doctor cleared the defenseman for “limited” practice on Thursday.

Jody Shelley (hip) and Michael Leighton (finger) are on injured reserve.

Jets: Offensive defenseman Tobias Enstrom is out indefinitely with a right shoulder injury.

Forward Antti Mietten (upper-body) and goalie Al Montoya (lower-body) are both on injured reserve and remain sidelined.

Defensive Zach Redmond is expected to miss the remainder of this season after undergoing surgery to repair a laceration to an artery in his right leg after a teammate accidentally stepped on him during Thursday’s morning skate.

Sound off
How many points will Voracek finish with this season?

Ex-Flyer Nick Cousins takes down Islanders

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Ex-Flyer Nick Cousins takes down Islanders

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet praised center Nick Cousins after, not just for his game-winning goal against the New York Islanders but also for his improved overall play.

Cousins scored his second goal of the game 2:21 into overtime to lift the Coyotes to a 3-2 win over the Islanders on Monday night.

"I've got to give him a lot of credit," Tocchet said. "He's done really well. I've sat him out this year. He's worked on his game. He's always got a smile on his face coming to work to practice. He's worked on his game and he's starting to reap the benefits."

Cousins added an assist and the Coyotes ran their points streak to five games, a season high. Arizona has points from seven of eight games, with six of those going to overtime. Brendan Perlini scored for the third time in three games and Antti Raanta stopped 32 shots (see full recap).

Wings blank Devils before welcoming Flyers
NEWARK, N.J. -- Petr Mrazek wants more playing time and Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is probably going to give it to him.

Mrazek had 37 saves in posting his second straight shutout and third of the season as the Red Wings played one of their best games of the season in beating the slumping New Jersey Devils 3-0 on Monday night.

Mrazek has stopped 64 shots in shutting out the Blackhawks and Devils in his last two starts. He now has three shutouts in 14 games with a 5-5-1 record.

"I'm trying to get some confidence every game I play, every save I make," Mrazek said. "I haven't played a lot of minutes, so every game I am trying,” (see full recap).

Avalanche beat Leafs for 10th straight win
TORONTO -- Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier heard the Bronx cheers from the Air Canada Centre crowd on Monday night.

He remembers listening to Toronto fans giving him the same sort of hard time when he was a member of the Maple Leafs as they struggled through the 2015-16 season.

"It's not as bad when you are the away team," he said.

Bernier made 29 saves in his first start at the ACC since Toronto traded him in July 2016, Blake Comeau scored the go-ahead goal with 7:43 left and the Avalanche extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs (see full recap).

Vasilevskiy leads Lightning past Blackhawks
CHICAGO -- Andrei Vasilevskiy was terrific, Chris Kunitz made a clutch play and Tampa Bay's penalty killers had a big night.

The Lightning followed a familiar formula back to the top of the NHL.

Vasilevskiy made 40 saves in his league-best seventh shutout and Kunitz scored a short-handed goal in the second period, leading Tampa Bay to a 2-0 victory over the sliding Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.

Yanni Gourde also scored as Tampa Bay stopped a season-high three-game skid and leapfrogged idle Vegas for the best record in the NHL. The Lightning, who lost to Chicago in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, improved to 11-0-2 against the Blackhawks in their last 13 regular-season meetings (see full recap).

Flyers have a Travis Sanheim dilemma

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AP Images

Flyers have a Travis Sanheim dilemma

Defenseman and prized prospect Travis Sanheim will start playing some big minutes again.

It just won’t be with the Flyers right now.

On Monday, Sanheim was reassigned to AHL Lehigh Valley as the front office also recalled Mark Alt to take Sanheim’s spot on the active roster.

Why?

Trust and development.

With the Flyers playing some of their best hockey of the season with wins in eight of their last nine games and the increased importance of gaining necessary points in an air-tight division (as of Monday morning, the Flyers held the East's first wild-card spot with 54 points, one behind Columbus for third in the Metro, two behind New Jersey for second and just seven behind first-place Washington), Sanheim had been relegated as the seventh defenseman and had served as a healthy scratch in eight of those nine games.

“He comes out of the lineup and the team plays well,” general manager Ron Hextall said recently of the 21-year-old blueliner. “Like most teams when things are going well, you really don’t want to change too much. If you look at the whole year with Travis, I think he’s played well with us. He’s had his moments, but he’s a young player and that’s going to happen. I don’t like him sitting and coaches don’t like him sitting, and I’m sure he doesn’t like sitting.”

Prior to the Devils/Capitals weekend series the Flyers swept, head coach Dave Hakstol was asked about the possibility of utilizing an 11 forward-seven defensemen combination as Tyrell Goulbourne has been used sparingly since his call-up. But Hakstol made it clear he wasn’t going to make concessions to accommodate one player.

“We’re not going to do anything to get anybody in the lineup at this point in time,” Hakstol said. “It can’t solely be about that. If that’s a scenario that’s best for our team, then we’ll consider it. What’s the right combination for our team to win a game that day?”

Coming out of the Christmas break, Hakstol started shortening the length of Sanheim’s leash. The rookie played 14:42 of the Panthers game (a 3-2 loss) on Dec. 28. Brandon Manning was fully healed and ready to return from a hand injury the next night in Tampa, a 5-3 decision the Flyers took from the league-best Lightning.

After missing the next five games, Sanheim received another chance with the Flyers playing their first game against the Devils out of the bye week on Jan. 13. All it took was one play in which Sanheim stepped up to check his man along the boards. He subsequently lost his stick, and by the time he grabbed it, the Devils converted an easy goal to take a 1-0 lead.

That came during Sanheim’s second shift as he finished the game playing a season-low 6:02, including just one 18-second shift in the third period.

“They’ve got to earn the trust of their teammates and the coaches, and sometimes that’s a process,” Hextall said. “Some of what Travis is going through is good for Travis. There’s a lot you learn out there. Part of it is the life lesson of you have to earn things. Things aren’t going to be handed to you. Just because you’re a first-round pick or a highly paid guy, you have to learn things. You don’t come out of college and become a CEO. You have to pay your dues, and you have to earn what you’re going to get.”

Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere learned those life lessons the hard way last season as both young players were pulled out of the lineup after their performance lagged. Hextall believes Sanheim will eventually bounce back and reflect at his rookie season as a valuable learning experience.

“Sometimes the only way they learn is by missing a shift or having their ice cut back a bit or getting sat out at some point,” Hextall said. “Most players have gotten sat out in their career. If you ask most guys, not at the time, they say it was a good lesson. There are a lot of things our young guys are learning right now, not only at this level, but at Lehigh.”

Gostisbehere and Konecny are playing arguably some of the best hockey of their careers right now.

Even if Sanheim has more upside and potential than Manning, the veteran has proven to be more reliable defensively and has even been more opportunistic in the offensive end. In a twist of fate, Sanheim's offensive upside is a big reason why Hextall selected him with a first-round pick in 2014. Sanheim has one goal and four assists in 35 games played this season.

“You've got to get stronger. You make a mistake and if you can’t rebound from it, you're probably not going to be at this level for very long,” Hextall said. “There’s learning curves all along the way. You can’t look at everything in a vacuum. There’s a small picture and there’s a big picture.”

Hextall is right. At this critical point of the NHL season, the bigger picture of winning outweighs the smaller picture of player development.