Flyers-Blues 5 things: Returning from holiday break with different look

Flyers-Blues 5 things: Returning from holiday break with different look

Flyers (20-12-4) at Blues (18-12-5)
8 p.m. on NBCSN, and the NBC Sports App

The Flyers are back from the holiday break and should look somewhat different when they play the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on Wednesday night.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. A boost from Coots?
The Flyers will get their top defensive forward Sean Couturier back, who has missed 16 straight games with a left knee injury.

“Coots has a shot at playing soon,” general manager Ron Hextall said Tuesday at practice.“Hopefully he plays [Wednesday]. We will probably flip Reader (Matt Read) to LTIR.”

Couturier’s presence would be timely and welcomed given forward Michael Raffl — playing well on the top line — is out one to two weeks after suffering a knee sprain right before the holiday break.

Couturier, of course, won’t join the team’s top line. He won’t play on the second unit, either, because head coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t want to break up Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. So Couturier appears set for a third-line role.

“I haven’t seen him or talked to him in a few days, but he’s a huge part of our team and we’ve seen that time after time, when he’s in the lineup versus out,” Hakstol said Tuesday. “If he’s available, it would be nice to have him back.”

2. Leier sees the top
So who takes Raffl’s first-line duty with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek?

Make that 22-year-old Taylor Leier in his 15th NHL game and ninth of the season.

“If I get put up there, they are putting me up there for a reason and that’s to play my game,” Leier said Tuesday. “I’ll stick to my strengths. Bring speed. Those guys are world-class talents. It’ll be nice to play with them if I get the opportunity.”

Leier was called up on Dec. 5 from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, where he posted six goals and 14 assists in 22 games. With the Flyers, he has a goal and an assist in eight games this season, receiving 8:28 of ice time.

“He’s done a good job in a couple different roles,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t seem to change his game. He’s a pretty intelligent two-way player, responsible defensively. Each and every night he’s brought good pace and tenacity.”

Speaking of changes, defenseman Nick Schultz is expected to play his first game since Nov. 11, as Brandon Manning will sit as a healthy scratch.

3. A look at St. Louis
After going 14-7-3 in their first 24 games, the Blues have lost seven of 11.

However, St. Louis poses a much bigger challenge at home than on the road. The Blues, who went to the Western Conference Final last season, are 13-2-4 at the Scottrade Center compared to 5-10-1 away from it. They’re also allowing a league-worst 3.69 goals per game on the road but just 2.26 at home, seventh-best in the NHL.

St. Louis, which ranks second in penalty-kill percentage (87.4) and seventh in power-play percentage (21.3), will also have center Paul Stastny back following his one-game absence because of an upper-body injury.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere has lit the lamp just once in his last 21 games dating back to Nov. 8. He’s gone 13 games without a goal, matching his longest drought from last season in which he was the Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) runner-up. Against the Blues, he’ll have a new defensive partner in Schultz.

Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko is a handful. The explosive winger is fourth in the NHL with 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists). The 25-year-old is pointless over his last two games. He has not gone three straight games without a point this season.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 8-6-3 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 19 career games against St. Louis.

• Blues goalie Jake Allen has faced the Flyers only once. He allowed four goals on 31 shots in a 4-3 loss in Philadelphia back on Dec. 21, 2015.

• The Flyers are 4-0-2 in their last six meetings with the Blues.

• The Flyers are coming off their worst margin of defeat (four goals) this season vs. the Devils.

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goalie Ray Emery dies at 35

Former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery died Sunday morning. First responders pulled his body out of Hamilton Harbour, where he had been swimming with friends. An investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing. 

Emery was 35.

According to local authorities, Emery was checking out a friend’s boat docked at Royal Hamilton Yacht Club when the group he was with decided to jump in the water around 6:30 a.m. Emery’s body never surfaced and was eventually recovered around 2:50 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Hamilton police say Emery’s body was recovered in close proximity to where he was last seen.

Emery was last seen publicly with a handful of his former teammates Saturday night as the goaltender participated in Zac Rinaldo’s charity hockey game in Hamilton. Emery can be seen standing during the playing of “O Canada.”

"The Philadelphia Flyers are stunned and extremely saddened to hear of the tragic passing of former Flyers goaltender Ray Emery," president Paul Holmgren said in a statement from the team. "Ray was an outstanding teammate and an extremely gifted goaltender. He had exceptional athleticism, was a fierce competitor and battled in every game he played with the Flyers.

"His performances through the 2009-10 season were a very big part of the team's success in making the playoffs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Ray's talent, work ethic and determination helped him enjoy a successful 11-year NHL career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."

Several of Emery’s former teammates over the years offered their condolences via Twitter after learning of the tragedy.

Former Flyer Daniel Carcillo shared the he was crushed by the news (NSFW).

Jakub Voracek also shared his condolences (NSFW).

Emery joined the Flyers in June 2009 on a one-year contract, shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in his Flyers debut. The goaltender’s first stint in Philadelphia was cut short when he suffered a muscle tear in his abdomen in December missing the remainder of the season. Emery was later diagnosed with avascular necrosis — a degenerative condition to the bone tissue in his hip.

After undergoing successful surgery, Emery eventually joined the Ducks before winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013. Impressively, Emery finished the regular season with a 17-1-0 record. He re-signed with the Flyers that summer as a backup to Steve Mason.

Emery’s most infamous moment in Philadelphia came during an ugly 7-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on November 1, 2013, as the Flyers netminder pummeled Caps goalie Braden Holtby during a line brawl in the early stages of the third period.

Emery faced criminal charges over a handful of off-the-ice incidents and altercations. Most recently, he was arrested for assault with a weapon in 2017 against former fiancé Keshia Chanté. 

Emery played a total of 287 NHL games, 88 with the Flyers. 

Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

USA Today Images

Flyers' Danick Martel accepts qualifying offer; team re-signs Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne

Updated: 9:44 p.m.

Three young forwards will all be staying in the Flyers organization, at least for one more year.

Sunday, the team announced that Danick Martel accepted his qualifying offer on a one-year contract, and that restricted free agents Taylor Leier and Tyrell Goulbourne signed one-year deals.

Restricted free agent goalie Anthony Stolarz has also accepted his qualifying offer of $761,250, according to a report from John Hoven. Stolarz, 24, played in just one game for the Phantoms in the 2017-18 season after undergoing surgery on a meniscus tear last summer. A second-round pick by the Flyers in the 2012 draft, Stolarz went 18-9 and posted a 2.92 goals against average with Lehigh Valley in 2016-17.

Though the team didn't include any salary details, Martel's deal is reportedly a two-way contract worth $715,000.

The 23-year-old Martel made his NHL debut last season, finishing with no points and six shots over four games. He scored a career-best 25 goals for Lehigh Valley.

With Leier, the Flyers avoided a possible arbitration hearing. According to CapFriendly, Leier's contract is a one-way deal for $720,000. Leier's hearing was scheduled for Aug. 3. The team also earlier avoided a hearing with Alex Lyon, their other player who filed for arbitration, signing the goalie to a two-year deal.

A fourth-round selection in 2012, Leier had one goal and four assists in 39 regular-season games with the Flyers as a rookie.

Goulbourne, who made his NHL debut on Jan. 6, appeared in nine regular-season contests, with 15 hits.

If Stolarz is indeed back in the fold, Robert Hagg would be the team's only remaining restricted free agent. 

More on the Flyers