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.