Flyers

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

Success at home hasn’t come easy for the Flyers this season. They’ve mustered just 15 goals and have dropped seven of their first 10 games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The suddenly resurgent Flyers (7-10-2) will try to reverse that trend when they open a three-game homestand against the Ottawa Senators (8-8-4) on Tuesday night.

With puck drop set for 7 p.m., here are five things you need to know for the Flyers’ second meeting with Ottawa in the past week:

1. Familiar foe
These two clubs met last Tuesday, and the Flyers put together one of their best performances of the season in a 5-0 victory at Canadian Tire Centre.

Jakub Voracek netted a pair of goals for the Flyers and Steve Mason turned aside all 24 shots fired his way. Matt Read, Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn also scored, while Claude Giroux picked up two helpers.

The Flyers peppered Senators netminder Craig Anderson, who returned to the lineup after missing more than a week with a neck injury, throughout the game, firing 31 shots on net.

Nicklas Grossmann and Luke Schenn spearheaded a strong effort from the Flyers’ defensive corps. The two defensemen combined for six hits and three blocked shots. In all, the Flyers registered 30 hits and 13 blocks and also limited stars Jason Spezza, Bobby Ryan and Erik Karlsson to five combined shots.

Ottawa enters this rematch having lost its last two matchups with the Flyers. However, the Sens have collected wins in two of their last three visits to Philadelphia.

2. New-look Flyers
The Flyers, who will play their 20th game of the season on Tuesday, have looked like a completely different team over the past week. They’ve collected at least a point in four consecutive games and have potted 13 goals during that stretch.

More importantly, the Flyers aren’t making the same mistakes -- careless turnovers, dumb penalties etc. -- that plagued them in their 3-9-0 start to the season. They’re consistently winning battles and have shown a better awareness of where teammates are on the ice.

Now, it’s time for the Flyers to carry over the success from their road trip to the Wells Fargo Center ice. They’ve been outscored 29-15 at home this season and have heard far more boos than cheers from the Flyers faithful.  

3. Struggling special teams
The Flyers are on a bit of a hot streak while on the man advantage. They’ve collected power-play goals in four of their last eight opportunities. However, the orange and black still rank toward the bottom of the NHL at PP effectiveness (13.9 percent).

What’s more concerning is the Flyers’ recent struggles while shorthanded. They’ve yielded four goals over the last 13 times they’ve been a man down, including two in Friday’s shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

“The two [power-play] goals in Winnipeg should have been defended,” head coach Craig Berube admitted Monday (see story). “There was a line change, and they shouldn’t have changed. The puck wasn’t in deep enough to change. The other one, I think we have to do a better job of getting a stick on that shot.”

Ottawa hasn’t fared much better on special teams as of late, either. The Senators got a power-play marker from Karlsson in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but have gone just 2 for 21 on the man advantage over their last six games.

The Senators’ penalty kill is having problems, as well. They’ve allowed opponents to connect on 7 of 23 power-play attempts in six games.

4. Keep an eye on
The Flyers may have shut out the Senators in their last meeting, but that doesn’t mean Ottawa’s offensive attack should be taken lightly.

Ryan, a first-year Senator, has collected four goals and 11 points in his past nine games. The New Jersey native is tied with Karlsson for the team-lead in points with 20.

And don’t forget about Spezza. The Senators’ captain has registered eight goals and 16 assists in 28 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The last time Ottawa visited Philadelphia, Colin Grenning scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:36 remaining in a 3-1 victory for the Sens on April 11.

• Mason is 2-0-2 in his past four starts and has allowed two goals or fewer during that stretch.

• Erik Condra is the only Senator on the team’s injury report. He’s out with a pulled muscle in his right leg.

• Voracek has four goals over his last four games against Ottawa.

• Adam Hall’s faceoff percentage is 85.7 percent (30 for 35) over his past five games.

Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

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AP Images

Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

A roster spot for Samuel Morin appears to have opened up.

Andrew MacDonald will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Sunday. MacDonald will likely land on injured reserve.

The injury likely occurred midway through the third period against the Oilers on Saturday, when MacDonald blocked a Mark Letestu slap shot with 10:48 left in regulation and 1:44 left on an Edmonton power play.

MacDonald hobbled around on basically on one leg before being able to clear the puck and make it to the bench after 44 seconds. MacDonald blocked a game-high six shots Saturday.

“You just got to get up,” MacDonald said after the Flyers’ 2-1 win. “If you don’t get up, it’s 5-on-3. There are other opportunities that can arise from it. Do your best and try to hang in there. Wait for some help. Wait until you clear it. Everyone battles through it.

“You take a shot. You just get up, get back in there and help your guys.”

With MacDonald injured, the Flyers now have six defensemen. Brandon Manning has been a healthy scratch the past two games as Travis Sanheim drew back into the lineup.

The Flyers have yet to make a corresponding roster move, but considering Morin nearly made the team out of training camp and hung around for the four-game season-opening West Coast trip, it’s a safe assumption that Morin will find his way back to the NHL.

Morin had a goal and an assist for the Phantoms on Saturday night, an assist Friday night and points in all his three games in Lehigh Valley.

If Morin does come back up, the question is will he play?

The Flyers were reluctant to play three rookie defensemen on their season-opening trip and scratched both Sanheim and Morin for the season opener.

Things have changed now, though. MacDonald is third on the Flyers in ice time, averaging 19:36 while playing with Ivan Provorov, who will now find himself with a new partner.

Dave Hakstol could insert Manning into the lineup, which is a strong possibility. How Hakstol draws up his pairings remains to be seen, though it’s unlikely he’ll break up Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie Robert Hagg. It’s possible Provorov finds himself with Manning or Morin, or perhaps Radko Gudas. We’ll know more after Monday’s practice.

Calling up Morin is not Hextall’s only option. The Flyers also have T.J. Brennan in the AHL, who is a better fit as a seventh defenseman.

Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

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Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

After spending nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign at Lehigh Valley, Flyers center Scott Laughton looks like a whole different player this season. But the demotion and time spent in the minor leagues aren’t the only reasons behind his NHL rebirth.

Laughton also became a far better skater.

Through eight games, Laughton has two goals and one assist with a plus-one rating – hardly the kind of numbers that typically garner a lot of attention. However, the former first-pick is centering a quality fourth line for the Flyers, a grouping that has been strong in its own end while also generating impressive offensive opportunities at the other. Laughton leads the club’s forwards in shorthanded time on ice as well, playing a huge role in a penalty-killing unit that’s managed to ward off all but one of the last 13 power plays it’s faced.

The difference is apparent, and Laughton knows it, too. Some of that comes with age and experience – he’s only 23, with 117 NHL games under his belt. Yet Laughton directs much of the credit for his growth on the ice to his longtime skating coach, Dawn Braid.

“Worked with the same skating coach I have been for the last six, seven years,” Laughton said Friday of his offseason regimen. “She actually just got hired with Arizona. She was a skating coach there.

“I've been working with her. I did a lot of tight edges, a lot of tight work, and I did a lot of crossovers to try and develop speed. I think everything kind of comes together though — your off-ice training combined with that — and just getting stronger as I get older. I'm getting older and coming into my body.”

A former figure skater, Braid was named the Coyotes' skating coach in August of 2016, become the NHL’s first full-time female coach in the process. From the sound of things, the hiring was long overdue.

Braid had built a following around the league, and from players vastly more acclaimed than Laughton.

“She works with (Islanders center and four-time All-Star) John Tavares and helped him,” Laughton said. “She's got (Stars center Jason Spezza). She's got a bunch of guys. A lot of guys go to her. She's like Barb Underhill in Toronto. They were partners.

“I've been skating with her since I was in first year of juniors, so I really like her.”

It sounds like Laughton is getting an education in more than how to be better on his skates. As Braid has worked with more NHL stars and teams, she’s began teaching more than just being quicker and more fluid on the ice.

There are applicable hockey lessons and techniques involved in their training.

“I think she's really incorporated puck work,” Laughton said. “It used to be no pucks. She watches game film and things like that, and sees what's going on in the game and tries to help you that way.”

Whatever Laughton is doing, it appears to be working. A year ago, he couldn’t crack the Flyers’ main roster, managing to appear in just two games. He finished with 19 goals, 20 assists and a plus-17 rating in 60 games for the Phantoms in 16-17, with an additional two goals and one assists in five playoff tilts. Despite finishing with a 39-33-10 record and missing the postseason, the big club never felt as though Laughton was needed.

It’s early into the 17-18 campaign, but it’s already difficult to imagine this Flyers squad without Laughton’s contributions – so give the assist to Baird on this one.