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/ 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.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).

Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

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Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

Lost amid the Flyers’ 5-3 defeat at the hands Blue Jackets on Thursday was yet another stellar relief appearance in goal from Alex Lyon.

Lyon was sensational after replacing Petr Mrazek between the pipes early in the second period, stopping all 18 shots that came his way. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised the rookie netminder for giving his team an opportunity to come from behind.

“He’s a battler, and that’s what we asked from him last night going into that situation,” Hakstol said following Friday’s practice.

“You need to have a mindset of going in there and absolutely slamming the door to give your team a chance to win. In order to do that, you have to have a real battling mentality, and I thought he had that right from when he stepped in the net.”

Success in a sort of stopper role has become increasingly commonplace for Lyon since joining the Flyers.

Lyon came off the bench to make five saves during the final eight minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Capitals in his January debut. The 25-year-old later earned his first NHL win against the Rangers in February, blocking 25 of 26 shots over the second and third periods to help procure a 7-4 victory.

His play has been on the rise ever since. Lyon appears to be improving with experience, posting a 2-1-0 record with a .939 save percentage in his last four games.

“I don’t know if I’d say confidence so much as comfortability,” Lyon said of his growth. “I think I always had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It’s just you have to get comfortable enough to kind of believe that.”

He shined as a substitute goaltender all along. Including his performance against the Blue Jackets, Lyon has amassed a .980 save percentage in three relief appearances — a number emblematic of his season.

Lyon began 2017-18 as the emergency-goalie-in-waiting at Lehigh Valley. He earned the call-up to the Flyers’ main roster after the injury to Brian Elliott, then saw an uptick in ice time due to Michal Neuvirth’s subsequent maladies.

The club traded for Petr Mrazek after Neuvirth went down, but Lyon still finds himself in the mix. He’s expected to start against the Hurricanes on Saturday — a pivotal contest for the Flyers’ bid to make the playoffs.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Lyon said. “This is what you think about when you’re a little kid.

“It’s not quite the same, but down in Allentown we were in a pretty hot playoff race last year and always at the top of the standings, so I’m going to draw on my past experiences.”

Elliott returned to the ice this week and could be back in uniform soon, at which time Lyon will be sent back to the minor leagues. But if the Flyers do manage to reach the postseason, his fill-in contributions will have played a big part.

Perhaps Lyon will even warrant a closer look for a full-time spot on the Flyers’ roster next season.