Flyers

Flyers-Kings 5 things: Homestand continues against Jeff Carter, red-hot Los Angeles

Flyers-Kings 5 things: Homestand continues against Jeff Carter, red-hot Los Angeles

Kings (26-21-4) at Flyers (26-20-6)
1 p.m. on CSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

The Flyers welcome the red-hot Los Angeles Kings to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon for game No. 2 of their five-game homestand. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Play boldly
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol’s bold move to bench Travis Konecny and Shayne Gostisbehere on Thursday against the Canadiens didn’t come back to haunt the orange and black in a 3-1 win, and Hakstol is leaning toward trotting out the same lineup Saturday.

Konecny and Gostisbehere would again be healthy scratches Saturday, Konecny’s third and Gostisbehere’s fourth of the season. Dale Weise would stay in the lineup for Konecny, and Nick Schultz would remain with Mark Streit for the Kings’ game.

“I can simplify even a little bit more: it’s about winning hockey games,” Hakstol said Friday. “It’s just about a lineup and a roster that gives us the best opportunity to win. ‘Ghost’ and ‘T.K.’ were out of the lineup (Thursday), they’re a big part of things here. And they need to be a very big part of things as we continue on through the next couple of months. They were the guys that were out for good reasons.”

Weise again would skate on the left side of Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds after turning in one of his best performances as a Flyer on Thursday night.

2. Checks and balance
The Flyers’ approach against the Kings will be similar to Thursday’s: Tight-checking.

Against the Atlantic Division-leading Habs, the Flyers held Montreal to 16 shots, the lowest the orange and black has allowed this season. They did an excellent job limiting quality scoring chances, and took care of the puck far greater than they have recently. It was one of their strongest defensive efforts all season, and they’ll look to do the same against L.A.

“We did a good job for 60 minutes just playing some tight hockey, a solid two-way game where we didn’t give up a whole lot,” Sean Couturier said Thursday. “We limited turnovers and had pressure in their end. It’s the type of game we want to do on Saturday.”

Los Angeles doesn’t score a lot of goals — 2.55 per game, 21st in NHL — but does fire a ton of shots toward the net on a nightly basis at 30.8 per game, eighth-best in the league. What the Kings do best prevent shots themselves, as Darryl Sutter’s club plays a staunch defensive brand. The Kings allow the fewest shots per game in the league at 25.8,  and fourth-fewest goals allowed at 2.35. If the Flyers’ goal is to play a similar tight-checking style as they did Thursday, Saturday’s game could be another low-scoring, low-action contest in South Philadelphia.

3. Budaj’s rejuvenation
After losing four straight games, the Kings have flipped the switch and enter Saturday’s matinee surging, reeling off four consecutive games, with two shutouts, outscoring opponents, 14-3, and outshooting teams, 133-101, during their current win streak.

When Jonathan Quick was lost for the season on Oct. 18, the Kings’ outlook changed. Without Quick, L.A. had goaltending problems — it didn’t have a proven backup. The Kings’ options were Jeff Zatkoff and 34-year-old Peter Budaj, whom they were forced to recall from Manchester. Since, however, Budaj has taken claim of the No. 1 job in L.A.

Budaj comes into Saturday tied with Capitals goalie Braden Holtby for the NHL-lead with six shutouts, and ranks fourth in the league with a 2.01 goals-against average. His .922 save percentage is tied with Carey Price, Pekka Rinne and Matt Murray for ninth.

On Wednesday, Budaj turned in his second shutout in his last three games in a 5-0 win over Colorado, a 22-save effort. He’s expected to start again Saturday in Philly.

“Just playing up here this year, I think, is more than I can imagine,” Budaj told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m just very thankful to be here. The team’s playing great in front of me.”

With Budaj’s emergence, the Kings find themselves in a dogfight — similar to the Flyers — for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, a tight race. Los Angeles currently holds onto the West’s second wild-card spot, and has a back-to-back this weekend.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Couturier snapped a seven-game goal drought Thursday night against Montreal with an empty-net goal, and while the Flyers would benefit from more offensive production from the 24-year-old pivot, his shutdown abilities are equally important. Couturier has always been touted for his ability to shut down an opponent’s top line, and we’ve seen that in action recently — go back to last week’s game against Toronto, when he eliminated the threat of young superstar Auston Matthews. With all nine of his goals coming at even strength, Couturier is more of a threat to score at 5-on-5 play. But, on Saturday afternoon, he’ll have a tall task in shutting down the player the Flyers traded to acquire the draft pick they chose to draft Couturier in 2011.

Kings: None other than former Flyer Jeff Carter, who leads Los Angeles with 26 goals and 46 points and is coming off his second All-Star appearance. The 32-year-old is coming off a two-goal game Wednesday in a 5-0 win over the Avalanche, and has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in his last 13 games. Carter even added a goal and three assists playing for the Pacific Division in the All-Star tournament. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the puck, the type of player the Flyers could sorely use.

5. This and that
• Michal Neuvirth will start consecutive games for the first time since starting four in a row from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5. He stopped 23 shots in the Flyers’ 4-2 season-opening win in L.A.

• During their four-game win streak, the Kings’ penalty kill has gone 16 for 16 and power play 3 for 9. L.A. has the seventh-best PK unit in the league at 83.3 percent.

• With Thursday’s win, the Flyers are now 16-7-3 at home, compared to 10-13-3 on the road. They have three games remaining on this homestand.

• Budaj hasn’t faced the Flyers since he was a member of the Canadiens on Jan. 8, 2014, a game in which he surrendered three goals on 27 shots in a 3-1 loss.

Flyers' win streak gone in a New York minute

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AP Images

Flyers' win streak gone in a New York minute

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — The Flyers looked lost on Broadway while the Rangers put on a show.

A four-game win streak vanished into the New York night for the Flyers, who lost badly to the Rangers, 5-1, on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Not long after Jordan Weal handed the Flyers a 1-0 lead just over two minutes into the game, things went south and never got better.

Dave Hakstol's club was slipshod in all phases, from the power play (which had been terrific) to neutral-zone coverage. You name the area and the Flyers were not sharp. They allowed three breakaway goals, one of which was a shorthanded marker.

At first intermission, the Flyers trailed 3-1. By second intermission, it was 5-1 and all but over. Goalie Brian Elliott was pulled ahead of the third period as Michal Neuvirth finished off the ugly loss.

The Flyers (20-16-8) are now 1-5-2 in their last eight games against New York.

The Rangers (23-17-5), who had lost two straight out of the bye week by a combined score of 12-4, regrouped rather impressively.

The defeat was also not the way the Flyers wanted to kick off their four-game regular-season series with the Rangers. They missed an opportunity to catapult past New York in the Metropolitan Division standings as a regulation win would have done the trick. Instead, the Flyers (48 points) remain behind the Rangers (51) and Islanders (50).

With that said, let's get into the observations:

• Over the four-game winning streak, Sean Couturier had four goals and nine points, Claude Giroux seven assists and eight points, and Jakub Voracek seven assists. Those three were neutralized as the trio went scoreless and had only four shots on goal.

Voracek had an ugly sequence of events in the second period, resulting in the Flyers' deficit ballooning to 4-1. Voracek committed a questionable hooking penalty (he visibly disagreed with the call) and when he left the box after the Flyers had killed off his infraction, the right winger was stripped of the puck by Michael Grabner, who netted his 20th of the season on a semi-breakaway look. The goal felt like a dagger in the fashion it was scored halfway through the middle stanza.

• Third-pair defenseman Brandon Manning had a rough first period. New York scored a pair of breakaway goals (Rick Nash at even strength, Paul Carey at shorthanded) and Manning was on the ice for both in which a Ranger snuck behind the defense for broad daylight. On the first, Nash beat both Manning and Radko Gudas. On the second, Manning was seeing some power-play time and a miscue by the Flyers resulted in a rush for the Rangers as a lead pass beat Manning.

The 27-year-old undrafted Manning hasn't been as bad as the criticism he receives, but he'll have to be better than Tuesday's performance if he wants to keep 21-year-old Travis Sanheim in the press box.

• The Flyers' power play was out of sync on its first chance late in the first period. The first unit nearly allowed a shorthanded marker before the second unit actually did. Overall, the man advantage looked passive at times and went 0 for 3. In its defense, the power play was 7 for 14 over the team's four-game winning streak with the NHL's best percentage since Jan. 4, the start of its run. Meanwhile, the Rangers' power play was 3 for its last 31 but went 1 for 2.

• Weal likes to play with speed and shiftiness, but when things haven't gone his way, he's worked his tail off around the net, where he's found production. He did it just over two minutes into Tuesday's game by standing right on Henrik Lundqvist's doorstep and deflecting a shot for the 1-0 lead. Give the 5-foot-10, 179-pounder credit for his willingness to adjust styles in order to make an impact as he has three goals and five points in his last six games. That was one of few positives on Tuesday for the Flyers.

• The NHL's sixth-ranked power play of the Flyers was going up against the league's third-ranked penalty kill of the Rangers. New York clearly won the matchup of this special teams battle.

• Travis Konecny, now on the first line, entered with six points (two goals, four assists) in his previous seven games, but went scoreless against New York.

• Elliott, making his 18th start in the last 19 games, did not have much help from his defense. The Rangers also got a power-play tally in which two Rangers lined up in front Elliott, with J.T. Miller redirecting a point shot by Ryan McDonagh. Elliott's final goal allowed was one he'd like to have had back as Nash beat him on a straight shot from the circle late in the second period for the 5-1 advantage.

• Lundqvist, who turns 36 years old on March 2, is now 35-14-4 in 55 career games against the Flyers. He made 25 saves on 26 shots.

• Since their 10-game losing streak, the Flyers were 12-4-1 with a plus-15 goal differential, outscoring the opposition, 58-43, coming into Tuesday. This was a clunker and the Flyers will have to play better against divisional opponents because that's the majority of the remaining schedule. The Flyers are 3-2-4 against Metropolitan competition thus far.

• The Flyers practice Wednesday and then host the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday (7 p.m./NBCSP). Before puck drop, the Flyers will hold a special ceremony honoring Eric Lindros, who is having his No. 88 retired by the club (see story).

NBC Sports Philadelphia looks back at life and career of Eric Lindros in 'The Case for 88'

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AP Images

NBC Sports Philadelphia looks back at life and career of Eric Lindros in 'The Case for 88'

PHILADELPHIA — As the Flyers get ready to retire Eric Lindros’ jersey,  NBC Sports Philadelphia looks back at Eric’s life and career as a Philadelphia Flyer.  In addition to live coverage of his jersey retirement ceremony during Thursday’s game, NBC Sports Philadelphia will air “The Case for 88,” a look back at his storied career.
 
Earlier today, John Boruk posted a story to NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com on Eric’s coming full circle in Philadelphia: Eric Lindros Coming Home
 
Lindros will have his No. 88 jersey retired on January 18, making him only the sixth player in Flyers history bestowed with such an honor. NBC Sports Philadelphia will have complete coverage of the ceremony. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. and can be streamed through NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com or through the NBC Sports App.
 
The Case for 88
From the drama around him being drafted, the chaos surrounding his trade from the Nordiques to the Flyers, to his up and down career with the team, and ultimately his trade to the Rangers, “The Case for 88” covers it all. Lindros also reflects on his return to the Flyers during the 2012 Winter Classic Alumni Game, and his induction into the Flyers Hall of Fame in 2014.  We’ll hear from team executives and former players including former Flyers President, Jay Snider, former Flyers GMs Bob Clark and Russ Farwell, and teammates John Leclair, Mark Recchi and Keith Jones during the one-hour retrospective.
 
“The Case for 88” will air on the following dates and times

NBC Sports Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 17: 10 p.m. (Premiere)
Thursday, January 18: 11 a.m. & Midnight
Saturday, January 20: 5 p.m.
 
NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Wednesday, January 17:  2 a.m.
Friday, January 19: 9:30 p.m.
 
Preview here: The Case for 88