Flyers

Flyers-Senators: What you need to know

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Flyers-Senators: What you need to know

Flyers vs. Senators – 12 p.m., CSN
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

Records
Flyers: 10-11-1 (Third in Atlantic Division, ninth in Eastern Conference)

Senators: 12-6-3 (Third in Northeast Division, fifth in Eastern Conference)

Last meeting
In the last matchup between these two clubs, the Flyers erased a 3-0 deficit with three second-period markers, but ultimately fell to the Senators, 4-3, in a shootout on March 31, 2012. Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier and Braydon Coburn each scored in regulation for the Flyers. Ottawa’s Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek beat former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky in the shootout to lift the Sens to a victory.

Saturday will mark the first of three games between the Flyers and Senators this season. In the 2011-12 series, the Flyers went 2-1-1 against Ottawa and have earned at least one point in eight of their last 10 home games versus the Sens.

Previous games
In his first game back with the orange and black, Simon Gagne scored a goal to help the Flyers come away with a 4-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist and Max Talbot recorded his first tally of the 2013 campaign. Washington’s Joel Ward ruined Ilya Bryzgalov’s shutout bid by scoring his sixth goal of the season with just 2:09 remaining in the game.

The Senators, who also played on Thursday, are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins. Jim O’Brien tallied the lone goal for Ottawa, which had its five-game winning streak snapped. Robin Lehner, who was recalled from the AHL Binghamton Senators on Feb. 22, made 44 saves in his first start of the season.

Who's hot
Giroux enters Saturday’s contest with a six-game point-scoring streak. The Flyers’ captain has four goals and eight assists during that span and should continue to produce regularly with a healthy Scott Hartnell back and Jakub Voracek on his line.

Who's not
Ottawa’s offense ranks towards the bottom of the league in goals per game (2.19). Kyle Turris is leading the team in scoring with just 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 contests.

Keep an eye on ...
The Senators will be without their top three point scorers from last season and possibly their starting goaltender when they take on the Flyers. Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek, who combined for 222 points in 2011-12, are all out with injuries and Craig Anderson has missed the past three games with a sprained ankle.

The Flyers’ power-play unit has been red-hot as of late, going 9 for 27 on the man advantage over the last six contests. They went 2 for 3 in Wednesday’s win over the Caps.

While their offense has struggled, the Senators' defense and goaltending have been stellar all season long. They have allowed just 38 goals, killed off 88.5 percent of their shorthanded situations and have the best save percentage in the league at .945.

Danny Briere has had a ton of success against the Senators over the past few seasons. In his last 18 games against Ottawa, the forward has lit the lamp eight times and has collected 11 helpers.

Did you know?
Gagne’s second-period marker on the power play was his first goal since Nov. 17, 2011 -- a span of 28 games. The veteran forward had 259 tallies and 524 points from 1999-2010 with the orange and black.

Injuries
Flyers: Erik Gustafsson should be ready to go versus Ottawa after taking a hard shot off his left shin in the Flyers’ win over Washington.

Matt Read (torn rib cage muscles), Tye McGinn (broken orbital bone), Andrej Meszaros (left shoulder) and Jody Shelley (hip) are all on injured reserve and remain out.

Senators: Karlsson, last season’s Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman, is out for the rest of the season after having surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon, which was cut by Penguins forward Matt Cooke’s skate during a game on Feb. 13. Although he has missed the last seven games, Karlsson is still leading the Senators in goals with six.

Anderson is doubtful for Saturday’s game with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day. Mike Lundin is recovering from flu-like symptoms and is questionable to play against the Flyers.

Spezza (back surgery), Michalek (sprained knee), Guillaume Latendresse (whiplash), Jared Cowen (left hip surgery) and Peter Regin (upper-body) are all on injured reserve.

Sound off
How long do you think Giroux’s point-scoring streak will last?

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