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.

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Something important to remember with Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

VOORHEES, N.J. — Maybe fans wanted more than just a one-game tryout.

See what the kids can do.

That is certainly an understandable response after Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe were returned to their junior clubs Tuesday. Excluding the prospects game, Frost and Ratcliffe played in a single preseason game apiece with eight on the schedule.

Both headed back to the OHL, their teams open the 2018-19 season this week with Frost's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds playing Wednesday and Ratcliffe's Guelph Storm Thursday.

For the most part, the 19-year-olds were long shots for the Flyers' roster. Frost had an outside look at the team's third-line center job (see story), while Ratcliffe, albeit rising among the prospect pool, was all but destined for his fourth junior campaign.

No problem.

But if fans are upset with the Flyers' semi-quick trigger, there's something important to remember. The Flyers could easily have neither of these two kids in their system. If it weren't for a pair of tough decisions — one particularly bold — made by general manager Ron Hextall, such a scenario would be the case.

If you recall, Hextall had to trade Brayden Schenn in order to grab the No. 27 overall pick of the 2017 draft, where the Flyers selected Frost. Parting ways with Schenn was no effortless call. The forward was 25 years old at the time, finished second on the 2016-17 team in goals with 25, 17 of which came on the power play, tying him for most in the NHL alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov.

Here we are, though, about a year and three months later, and Frost has created a debate over his chances at making the Flyers as a 19-year-old. He's considered a top-50 prospect in the NHL and is looking to build off a 112-point season in which he was a staggering plus-70. 

While Schenn had a career year with the Blues (28 goals, 42 assists), he cooled off considerably, scoring 12 markers in the final 51 games following 16 in his first 31 as St. Louis missed the playoffs. Not only does Frost's future look bright, but the Flyers also acquired a conditional first-round pick in the deal, drafting winger Joel Farabee at No. 14 overall this summer.

The Flyers snagged Ratcliffe in the same draft as Frost, just a day later in the second round. Landing the 6-foot-6 winger didn't come easy, either. To slide up to No. 35 overall, the Flyers had to send their second-round pick (44), a third (75) and a fourth (108) to the Coyotes. Similar to Frost, that's how badly they wanted Ratcliffe.

He has the Flyers feeling good about it. 

Ratcliffe scored 41 goals and 68 points over 67 regular-season games in 2017-18. He has developed a ton in one year, now possessing intriguing ability for a player his size (see story).

In this draft, the Flyers could have been conservative and satisfied after hitting the jackpot on No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick.

They weren't.

These were calculated risks the Flyers took in adding Frost and Ratcliffe. Hextall and his staff trusted the diligence behind their scouting efforts.

So far, so good on hitting with them.

It should make up for a disappointing day, for those that deem it one.

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Flyers 5, Islanders 1: 2016 draft pick raises eyebrows in another preseason win

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Flyers 5, Islanders 1: 2016 draft pick raises eyebrows in another preseason win


NEW YORK — Anyone sick of the New York Islanders yet?

The Flyers, playing their third game in three days in three different buildings against the same team, came up with a big second period to defeat the Islanders, 5-1, Tuesday.

Which 2016 draft pick continues to raise eyebrows, another injury to the Flyers' goaltending crop and more from Brooklyn:

1. Two days after a lethargic and uninspiring effort at Nassau Coliseum, the Flyers came out with a more inspiring start Tuesday with the same top line of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny, who had two scoring chances off the rush in the opening 20 minutes — one from the right side and another coming down the left wing. 

2. Alex Lyon was originally scheduled to start tonight and even took the ice for pregame warmups. He proceeded to tweak something as he motioned to the trainer. Late in the first period, the Flyers announced Lyon was out with a lower-body injury, leaving Anthony Stolarz to play the full 60 minutes. 

3. As for Stolarz, he's had a solid camp and preseason so far, especially when you consider how little he's actually played last season. The knee surgery doesn't appear to bother him at all. After a flawless first period, which included a slapper that knocked him completely back on his numbers, Stolie allowed one soft goal on a delayed penalty. With the Islanders working the puck around the perimeter, Stolarz was slow in moving from the middle of the crease to hugging the right post, allowing David Quenneville to sneak a slap shot through the near post.

4. There's still no fix for slow and playing in his first preseason game, Jori Lehtera still plods around the ice in second gear. Ron Hextall said before the game that Morgan Frost needed to work on creating time and space with the puck. He won't gain any pointers watching Lehtera, who had a difficult time manufacturing anything offensively until he scored a garbage-time goal late in the third period. Still, if I was Hextall, I'd place Lehtera on waivers for the purpose of sending him to Lehigh Valley before the season starts.

5. Carsen Twarynski was one of the more impressive prospects during the rookie game last week, playing alongside Oskar Lindblom and Mikhail Vorobyev. He scored a goal off a quick turnover and he gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead in this game when he snapped a shot from the top of the right circle that had perfect placement and appeared to catch Robin Lehner by surprise. If you’ve noticed anything about Twarynski, it's that he possesses a better than average NHL snap shot and it’s easy to see how he scored 45 goals last season with Kelowna.

6. Danick Martel will never forget his first NHL game, which came right here at the Barclays Center on Nov. 22, 2017. However, this game may stand out for Martel a little more as he launched a shot from the left circle that beat Lehner for his first unofficial NHL goal, giving the Flyers a 4-1 lead at the time. I don’t see Martel making this team, but if he can have another fantastic start with the Phantoms, a mid-season call-up isn’t out of the question.

8. Nothing is guaranteed for Taylor Leier, who needs to earn a roster spot on this year’s team coming out of camp much as he did a year ago. He had a so-so start in his first game Sunday, but he brought that fourth-line intensity tonight as he steamrolled Quenneville and supplied an aggressive forecheck. Leier also managed some offensive opportunities as the battle for the last three forward positions are too close to call right now.

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