Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 12/11/14 vs. NJ, Gagne Family, Jeff Burd Memorial

297

PREVIEW: FLYERS VS. DEVILS

Starting a four-game homestand on the heels of a 1-1-2 road trip, the Philadelphia Flyers (9-13-5) will play host to the New Jersey Devils (11-13-5) at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.

This is the second of four meetings between the teams this season, and the final one in Philadelphia.

The teams will rematch at the Prudential Center in Newark on Jan. 3 and March 8.

On Oct. 9, the Devils downed the Flyers, 6-4, in Philly’s home opener. After falling behind 3-0 early in the second period, the Flyers rallied for three-late period goals — including two in the final minute — to send the game to the second intermission tied at 3-3. The Flyers found themselves trailing 4-3 early in the third period, responded just 15 seconds later to tie the game and then fell behind for good less than three minutes after that.

After this game, the Flyers host Carolina on Saturday, Tampa Bay on Dec. 16 and the Florida Panthers on Dec. 18. The Devils will play the Dallas Stars on the road on Saturday. Flyers outlook

Wins have been hard to come by for the Flyers over the last month. The team is just 1-4-3 over its last eight games and 2-8-3 over the last 13 games.

The Flyers are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss in Columbus. Brayden Schenn tallied power play and even strength goals, including the game-tying goal in the final 56 seconds of regulation. Steve Mason stopped 21 of 24 shots against the Blue Jackets are a stellar 37-save effort in Philadelphia’s 2-1 win in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Wayne Simmonds leads the Flyers with 11 goals on the season. He and Caude Giroux share the club lead with six power play tallies apiece. Jakub Voracek’s point-production pace has slowed down a bit of late, but he is still third in the NHL scoring race (nine goals, 25 assists, 34 points). Giroux has 22 assists among his 30 points.

The Flyers, who held an optional practice at the Skate Zone yesterday, are likely to use the same starting lineup in this game as they featured in Los Angeles and Columbus. Vincent Lecavalier will be a healthy scratch for a fifth straight game by head coach Craig Berube. Defensemen Luke Schenn (third straight game) and Carlo Colaiacovo are also likely to be scratched. Devils outlook

The Devils are 2-2-1 thus far in December. Head coach Pete DeBoer’s club has posted a 4-6-3 record in the 13 games it his played over the last month.

New Jersey, in action for the third game in four nights, enters tonight’s match coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Gionta scored in regulation, while backup netminder Keith Kinkaid stopped 37 of 39 shots through 65 minutes. Chicago went 2-for-2 in the shootout while New Jersey’s Jaromir Jagr and Martin Havlat were unable to convert their attempts.

Ageless future Hall of Famer Jagr recently secured fifth place in the NHL’s all-time scoring list (1,772 points). The Devils’ scoring leader this season with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) is one assist away from tying Steve Yzerman’s 1,063 assists for seventh on the all-time charts.

Mike Cammalleri leads the Devils with 11 goals and five power play tallies among his 15 point. Adam Henrique (eight goals, eight assists) is one point behind Jagr for the team scoring lead.

On the Devils’ injury list, Cammalleri is questionable for tonight with a pulled gluteal muscle. Dainius Zubrus, who sustained a laceration to his lower left leg in Monday’s game and missed the game against Chicago, is also questionable.

Defenseman Adam Larsson was diagnosed with mumps earlier this week and is not with the team. Team captain Bryce Salvador remains on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, along with forwards Ryane Clowe (concussion), Travis Zajac (lower-body injury) and longtime Flyers nemesis Patrik Elias (groin). Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.59 (17th), Devils 2.31 (T-24th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.00 (T-24th), Devils 2.72 (18th)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.90 (22nd), Devils 0.98 (19th)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 23.4% (4th), Devils 21.2% (9th)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 74.7% (29th), Devils 75.9% (28th)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.3% (11th), Devils 47.3% (T-26th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

12 Michael Raffl – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

10 Brayden Schenn – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds

18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read

36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 76 Chris VandeVelde

5 Braydon Coburn – 55 Nick Schultz

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 47 Andrew MacDonald

35 Steve Mason

[29 Ray Emery]

Scratches: Luke Schenn (healthy), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Vincent Lecavalier (healthy).

DEVILS

9 Martin Havlat – 21 Scott Gomez – 68 Jaromir Jagr

8 Dainius Zubrus (?) – 14 Adam Henrique – 17 Michael Ryder

15 Tuomo Ruutu – 16 Jacob Josefson – 32 Mike Sislo

20 Jordin Tootoo – 11 Stephen Gionta – 18 Steve Bernier

6 Andy Greene – 28 Damon Severson

7 Jon Merrill – 2 Marek Zidlicky

25 Seth Helgeson – 10 Peter Harrold

35 Cory Schneider

[1 Keith Kinkaid]

Scratches: Eric Gelinas (healthy), Dainius Zubrus (questionable, lower left leg laceration), Mike Cammalleri (questionable, pulled gluteal muscle), Patrik Elias (IR, groin), Ryane Clowe (IR, concussion), Bryce Salvador (IR, lower body), Travis Zajac (IR, lower body), Adam Larsson (not with team, mumps).

********** BEST WISHES TO THE GAGNE FAMILY

Boston Bruins left winger Simon Gagne, who played 702 regular season games over two stints as a Flyer, has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the club to be with his ailing father. Pierre Gagne was recently diagnosed with incurable liver cancer.

Gagne issued a personal statement yesterday as well as one released through the Bruins, saying that he would rejoin the club “when the time is appropriate.” In his personal statement, as reported by Ren Lavoie, Gagne said that family is more important than hockey under the circumstances and he wanted to be at his dad’s side in Quebec City while hoping for a miracle.

Everyone at HockeyBuzz, but especially those of us who have had the pleasure of interviewing Simon over the years, sending along thoughts and prayers to the Gagne family.

Recently, Jay Greenberg asked me to transcribe several interviews for his upcoming book on the Flyers. I was honored to accept and especially glad that the first interview was a fascinating multi-hour talk with Gagne that covers his entire life and career. In the early part of the interview, Simon talked glowingly about his father, Pierre.

Unbeknownst to most Flyers fans, Pierre Gagne holds a place in the history of the franchise. As a Quebec Junior Aces player trying out for a spot on the senior team — the Quebec Aces were the Flyers’ first American Hockey League affiliate — he participated in each of the Flyers’ first two preseason training camps (1967 and 1968) in Quebec City. Back in that era, the NHL and AHL hopefuls were intermingled in the same camp.

During his playing days, Pierre befriended standout Aces forward Simon Nolet.

Nolet, who later went on to play in an NHL All-Star Game (1971-72) and won a Stanley Cup in 1973-74 as a member of the Flyers, became an NHL scout after his playing days. As a scout for the Flyers from 1990 until present day, Nolet did the primary scouting for several key draft picks in franchise history. It was at his urging that the team drafted Simon Gagne with the 22nd overall pick in the 1998 NHL Draft and later drafted Claude Giroux in 2006.

Although Pierre did not go on to play professional hockey, he stayed close to the game and remained in contact with Nolet and many others over the years. Pierre joined the Quebec City police force, rising to the rank of sergeant, and by all accounts was a fine police officer as well as a devoted father to his two sons.

Pierre was Simon’s first hockey instructor, and he has remained a sounding board for his son throughout the years. Pierre built a backyard rink for his boys and the former forward would even stand in goal as Simon and his younger brother practiced shooting the puck.

Simon credits both of his parents with instilling the unassuming, classy and dignified nature that defines the longtime NHL star’s personality. For many years, Pierre has been closely involved with many of Simon’s charitable endeavors, particularly the benefit golf tournament that bears his son’s name.

While Pierre has always been available to his son for advice and support, he has never been an intrusive hockey parent who lived vicariously through his son. Simon Gagne told Greenberg that his father always let his coaches coach and told him to respect and pay attention to what the veterans and teams leaders did.

It was not until Simon was drafted by the Flyers — he and his father had thought the Canadiens were going to draft him ahead of Philadelphia, only to find out that the club chose Simon’s Quebec Remparts teammate Eric Chouinard (himself a future Flyer) instead — that Pierre told him of his own past connection to the Flyers. As a child, Simon sometimes looked through his father’s hockey scrapbook but Pierre has never been one to talk up his own accomplishments such as participating in two NHL/AHL camp with the Flyers/Aces.

Over on FlyersAlumni.org, there is an in-depth article on the Gagne famiy and its ties to the Flyers family. At this difficult time for the Gagne family and all who hold them in the highest esteem, Simon is clearly making the right decision to stay by his father’s side.

******** FLYERS ALUMNI TO PLAY IN JEFF BURD MEMORIAL FUNDRAISER IN VOORHEES

During yesterday’s Flyers practice in Voorhees, I had the pleasure of meeting with Scott McKay, the longtime coach of the Cherokee Chiefs and a friend of many of the Flyers’ Alumni from the 1970s and 1980s eras of the club.

Scott, who coached Jeff Burd for years prior to Jeff’s tragic 2004 death at age 16 after contracting menigitis, is the co-organizer of the annual memorial game that raises money for numerous worthy causes. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the game go to three selected charities as well as the Jeff Burd Memorial Fund (a donation and matching-fund award for the Chiefs’ player with the highest academic performance in school to use toward college expenses).

Scott told me about Jeff’s story. A bright, caring and exceptionally mature and responsible teenager who had been adopted as an infant by Pete and Sue Burd, Jeff was both a good student and a hard-working and reliable player for the Chiefs.

What makes meningitis such a deadly killer is how how rapidly it takes hold and how quickly its victim’s condition deteriorates. Jeff and his family thought he had the flu because the symptoms are virtually identical. Within a couple days, the teenager passed away.

Longtime Flyers forward Brian Propp, an inductee in the team’s Hall of Fame, has known Scott McKay for 35 years and considers Scott his best friend. With an assist from Propp, Scott scored the participation of the Flyers Alumni team for the 2014 Memorial Game.

The Sixth Annual Jeff Burd Memorial Alumni Game featuring the Flyers Alumni versus the Cherokee Chiefs Alumni will be held at the Skate Zone in Voorhees on Dec. 28, 2014.

The benefit game at the Skate Zone will start at 3:40 p.m. and run until 5:10 p.m. There will be an after-party from 6:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Victory Bar and Grill in West Berlin, NJ (795 Route 73, phone 856-768-5454). A $15 donation is requested for the Alumni Game, a $20 donation to the after-party or $30 for both.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the donations will go to four causes: the Jeff Burd Memorial Fund, the National Meningitis Association, USA Wounded Warriors and Wings of Steel Sled Hockey.

A full story on the upcoming game and more about how Jeff’s sad story has been turned into a means of helping others in need will be posted in upcoming days on FlyersAlumni.org. For more information about donating to, sponsoring or attending the Alumni game or after-party, contact Scott McKay at 609-377-6866 or RowdyMAX@aol.com.

******* FLYERS HOLIDAY TOY DRIVE

In conjunction with the Salvation Army, the Flyers are holding a gameday holiday toy drive to benefit less fortunate children and teens in the Delaware Valley.

Flyers fans attending Saturday’s game against Carolina or next Tuesday’s game against Tampa are asked to bring along donations of new, unwrapped toys for ages infant to 14 years old. Collection bins for donations will be available at all arena entrances.

On December 17, Flyers players along with Flyers wives and girlfriends, will deliver all donated toys to the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, Foster Care Center in Bala Cynwyd, PA.

******* TODAY IN FLYERS HISTORY: DECEMBER 11  photo Sparky.jpg

On December 11, 1977, Flyers defenseman Tom Bladon enjoyed the greatest single-game offensive performance by any player in Flyers history and any defenseman in NHL history. On this night, Bladon compiled an eight-point game on four goals and four assists while also setting a Flyers franchise record with a plus-10 in an 11-1 savaging of the Cleveland Barons.

Your sports. Your teams. The ISN Daily Digest.

Sign up to the ISN Daily Digest and sit back while we pick the previous day’s best headlines and speed them straight to your inbox every morning.
Email address
First Name*
We abide by all applicable emailing laws including 100% CAN-SPAM/CASL/US CAN-SPAM Act compliance. No spam!