Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 1/3/15 @ NJ, Plus Giroux, Flyers-CAR, WJC, Phantoms, Alumni

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PREVIEW: FLYERS @ HURRICANES

Looking for their first win since the Christmas break, the Philadelphia Flyers (14-17-7) conclude an eight-game road trip on Saturday night with a meeting against the New Jersey Devils (13-20-7) at the Prudential Center in Newark. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.

This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, and the first of two in New Jersey.

The teams will rematch at the Prudential Center on March 8. On October 9, the Flyers dropped their home opener to the Devils by a 6-4 count. On Dec. 11, the Flyers skated to a 4-1 home win without much resistance from New Jersey.

The Flyers are 3-3-1 thus far on their current road trip. The team is in the second half of back-to-back games and for the third time in four nights. However, the two teams are on equal footing. With a 1-4-1 mark over their last six games, the Devils are also playing the second half of a back-to-back schedule and at the end of a three-in-four. Flyers outlook

After starting out their road trip with three straight regulation wins prior to the Christmas break, the Flyers have dropped three regulation decisions and an overtime game. In Carolina on Friday night, the Flyers nearly lost their captain.

Playing the lowly Carolina Hurricanes — who play a lot of low-scoring games but rarely come out victorious no matter the combined goal total — the Flyers dropped a 2-1 regulation decision. A terrible first period, in which Philly got outshot by a 12-5 margin and yielded the period’s only goal. was the biggest issue along an early second period gaffe that ended up in the net and an 0-for-3 showing on the power play.

Fourth line forward Chris VandeVelde scored Philadelphia’s only goal, cutting a 2-0 deficit in half at 8:45 of the third period. Steve Mason stopped 24 of 26 shots in a losing cause, while Cam Ward stopped 23 of 24.

Nearly overshadowing the outcome of the game was a third period incident that saw the back of Flyers captain Claude Giroux’s lower left leg inadvertently sliced by the right skate of Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk. Thankfully, Giroux was wearing cut-resistant kevlar socks and escaped serious injury.

Giroux is expected to play tonight in New Jersey. At the time of the accident on the ice, things appeared to be much worse. Giroux bled through his sock near his Achilles tendon and had to be helped back to bench with him apparently unable to put any weight on his left leg. After the game, however, a relieved Giroux said he should be fine after taking some stitches.

The Flyers fell to 5-4-2 in their last 11 games and 6-4-4 in the last 14. For the season, Philadelphia has consistently shown an inability to win low-scoring or even moderate-scoring (i.e. three-goal) games. When scoring three or fewer goals in a game, Philly has a 2-16-6 record. That includes just one win apiece when scoring three (1-3-3) or two (1-3-1) goals.

Jakub Voracek has only one point — a goal in Colorado on New Year’s Eve — in four games since the Christmas break. However, he still leads the NHL in scoring with 47 points and assists (32). Giroux is tied for third in the league in assists (30) and tied for third in overall scoring (43 points).

In the goal-scoring department, Voracek and Wayne Simmonds are tied for the Flyers’ team lead with 15 apiece. Simmonds has been held scoreless in five of the last eight games and has just one goal in that span after a stretch of six goals and seven points in the previous six games.

Mark Streit is tied for seventh among NHL defensemen in overall scoring (25 points). With 10 power play points (one goal, nine assists), Streit is tied for 10th in the NHL among defensemen. At even strength he is plus-four after a minus-three night in Arizona, minus-one in Colorado and minus-one in Carolina. Streit earned an assist in the Carolina game but did not get a plus-one for the play because he was off the ice by the time VandeVelde scored the goal.

Brayden Schenn (nine goals, 24 points) has been cold offensively for several weeks. He has just two points in his last nine games and has gone 11 games without a goal since a two-goal outburst in the Flyers’ 3-2 overtime loss in Columbus on Dec. 9. Schenn has scored just three goals in his last 22 games and has 11 points in that span.

Sean Couturier (nine goals, 20 points) picked up offensively in December after struggling in November. For the month of December, Couturier had five goals, 12 points and a plus-five rating in 14 games. However, he was held off the scoresheet both in Colorado and Carolina.

On the Flyers’ injury front, Zac Rinaldo is available to return tonight from an upper-body injury sustained on Dec. 20. He has been practicing with the team all week. Rehabbing center Ryan White (torn pectoral muscle) is on a conditioning assignment with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Devils outlook

Since the last time the Flyers saw the Devils, New Jersey fired head coach Pete DeBoer. The change came on Boxing Day. On an interim basis, Adam Oates and Scott Stevens are running the bench on game nights with general manager Lou Lamoriello also behind the bench.

The Devils are 1-3-0 since the Christmas break and have dropped back-to-back regulation decisions to Detroit and Montreal since toppling the Penguins on Monday. Last night, the host Devils dropped a 4-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens.

New Jersey trailed the Habs by a 3-0 score in the third period before rallying back to cut the deficit to one on goals by Michael Ryder and Mike Cammalleri. The comeback bid fell short, and an emty net goal in the final half-minute sealed the 4-2 loss.

Backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid took the loss against Montreal after stopping 22 of 25 shots. The Flyers will face Cory Schneider tonight. For the season, Schneider has posted a 2.47 goals against average and .918 save percentage with two shutouts.

Future Hall of Famer and ex-Flyers right winger Jaromir Jagr leads the Devils in overall scoring (22 points) and assists (16). He is one point ahead of Adam Henrique (10 goals, 11 assists, 21 points). Cammalleri’s 12 goals top the team. Marek Zidlicky leads the defense with 18 points and 14 assists.

On the New Jersey injury front, Ryane Clowe (concussion), Jakob Josefson (illness), Steven Gionta (broken left hand), team captan Bryce Salvador (lower body) and impressive rookie defenseman Damon Severson (hairline fracture of his left ankle) are all on injured reserve. Steve Bernier (leg/hip) is questionable for tonight. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.74 (15th), Devils 2.08 (28th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.90 (23rd), Devils 2.72 (22nd)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 1.03 (13th), Devils 0.86 (25th)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 21.4% (7th), Devils 19.5% (11th)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 74.4% (30th), Devils 79.2% (T-21st)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.1% (T-10th), Devils 47.7% (T-25th) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

24 Matt Read – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

10 Brayden Schenn – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds

12 Michael Raffl – 14 Sean Couturier – 18 R.J. Umberger

76 Chris VandeVelde – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 40 Vincent Lecavalier

5 Braydon Coburn – 55 Nick Schultz

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 47 Andrew MacDonald

29 Ray Emery

[35 Steve Mason]

Scratches: Claude Giroux (probable, skate cut on back of left leg), Zac Rinaldo (questionable, has been practicing), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Luke Schenn or Michael Del Zotto (healthy), Ryan White (torn pectoral muscle, AHL rehabilitation assignment).

DEVILS

23 Mike Cammalleri – 21 Scott Gomez – 68 Jaromir Jagr

26 Patrik Elias – 19 Travis Zajac – 9 Martin Havlat

8 Dainius Zubrus – 14 Adam Henrique – 17 Michael Ryder

15 Tuomo Ruutu – 12 Tim Sestito – 20 Jordin Tootoo

6 Andy Greene – 10 Peter Harrold

7 Jon Merrill – 2 Marek Zidlicky

5 Adam Larsson – 25 Seth Helgeson

35 Cory Schneider

[1 Keith Kinkaid]

Scratches: Steve Bernier (questionable, leg/hip), Ryane Clowe (IR, concussion), Jakob Josefson (IR, illness), Steven Gionta (IR, broken left hand), Bryce Salvador (IR, lower body), Damon Severson (IR, left ankle).

********* FLYERS PROSPECT WJC UPDATE

The medal round of the 2014-15 World Junior Championships got underway yesterday in Toronto and Montreal. A penalty-prone Team USA was ousted by Russia, while Canada breezed past overmatched Denmark, a three-goal outburst by Sweden in the third period knocked out arch-rival Finland and Slovakia blanked the Czech Republic.

On Saturday, the only game is a relegation round match between Switzerland and Germany. Medal round play resumes on Sunday with a semifinal clash in Toronto between Sweden and Russia at 4:00 p.m. EST and Canada versus Slovakia at 8:00 p.m.

Here’s a look at how Flyers-affiliated prospects fared in the medal round quarterfinals:

* 2014 fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom took over the overall scoring lead in the tournament as he notched a goal and an assist in the third period of Sweden’s 6-3 win over Finland. For the tourney, Lindblom has nine points (four goals, five assists) in five games. Linemate William Nylander, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2014 first-round pick, has two goals and seven assists. In the Canada-Denmark game, Sam Reinhart (selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the second overall pick of the 2014 Draft) pulled even for the second lead. He has four goals, five assists and nine points. Goals scored is the first tiebreaker.

* Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Robert Hägg has settled in after a rough start to the tournament and has started to play up to the expectation of being a top-pairing defenseman for the Swedish team. He had a good game against the Finns, which included an assist on Lucas Wallmark’s empty net goal in the waning seconds of the game. For the day, Hägg was plus-one with one shot on goal. For the tourney to date, the Flyers’ second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft has two assists, 11 shots on goal and an even plus minus. He has played well defensively since a minus-three start with a couple of goals against for he was partially culpable in the first two games of the preliminary round.

* Sam Morin, the Flyers’ first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, had a pair of early-game shots on goal and finished at plus-one in Canada’s 8-0 rout of Denmark on Saturday. His best performance of the tournament to date came in Canada’s hard-fought win over Team USA. For the tourney to date, Morin is plus-three with no points and one minor penalty.

********* PHANTOMS UPDATE: LEHIGH VALLEY GRABS OT WIN IN NORFOLK

A third-period surge and a goal in sudden death overtime spurred the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to a 3-2 road win over the Norfolk Admirals on Friday night. The Phantoms, who are 3-4 in overtime and 3-1 in shootouts, improved their season record to 15-12-4-1 and moved the Flyers’ farm club to within two points of the playoff cutoff in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference standings.

Nick Cousins scored the game-winner at 2:32 of overtime. The second-year pro scored his eighth goal of the season, snapping a right circle shot that beat John Gibson to the long side.

The Phantoms trailed for much of the game as Norfolk made a first-period power play goal by former NHL star Dany Heatley stand up until 13:01 of the third period. Second-year pro Brandon Alderson, who was recently recalled to the Phantoms after a demotion to the ECHL’s Reading Royals, fired home a shot from the right boards that beat Gibson. Brandon Manning and Brett Flemming drew the assists.

With Andrew Gordon in the penalty box for slashing and the score tied 1-1 in the final two minutes, Jason Akeson intercepted a puck and scored on a shorthanded breakaway for his eighth goal since clearing NHL waivers and being reassigned to the Phantoms by the Flyers.

The Phantom now led 2-1 but were unable to close out the win in regulation. The Admirals pulled Gibson for an extra attacker and Heatley buried a one-timer for a 6-on-4 power play goal with 35 seconds left in the game.

Multiple fights broke out after the buzzer at the end of the third period. Brett Hextall fought John Kurtz while the Phantoms’ Steven Delisle and Norfolk’s Marc Cantin received game misconducts for engaging in their secondary fight. The game then moved to overtime, where Cousins won the match for Lehigh Valley.

Rob Zepp was strong in goal for the Phantoms, turning back 34 of 36 shots. He made a critical kick save on Heatley in overtime to keep the game going before Cousins scored the winning goal.

Gibson finished with 31 saves on 34 shots.

The Phantoms will be without Mark Alt for at least a month. The second-year defenseman, who previously missed a month with a shoulder injury, sustained a broken hand while blocking a shot in Lehigh Valley’s last game. He underwent successful surgery on New Year’s Day.

The Phantoms are 1-1-0-0 on their current five-game road-trip. The Phantoms and Admirals will face off again tonight in Norfolk. Including Friday’s overtime win, Lehigh Valley has beaten Norfolk in all three games the clubs have played this season. Two were decided in overtime, one via shootout. Game time on Saturday night is 7:15 p.m. EST.

The Phantoms return home to the PPL Center in Allentown on January 16 against the Albany Devils. The next night, Lehigh Valley hosts the Binghamton Senators on Bob Clarke Night at the PPL Center.

********** FLYERS ALUMNI UPDATES FROM FlyersAlumni.org

*On Friday, January 9, the Flyers and the members of the Flyers Alumni Association will work in conjunction with USA Hockey and AAA Mid-Atlantic to host a youth hockey night at the Wells Fargo Center. There will be three hockey clinics for children ages eight and under, with 60 kids apiece in each segment taking part in drills and receiving hands-on instruction.

Among the participants in the event are Flyers club president Paul Holmgren, Flyers Hall of Fame inductee Brian Propp and longtime fan favorite Todd “Fridge” Fedoruk.

The event runs from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. (there will be media availability beginning at 6:30). Along with the Flyers taking the youth players through drills and instruction, there will be Q and A sessions for parents in attendance. USA Hockey personnel will run the on-ice clinics and “Chalk Talk” sessions with the parents.

* On Saturday, Jan. 10, the Flyers Alumni will play a benefit game at the Ice Works in Aston, PA.The game, pitting the Alumni against the Checkmates Charitable Association, will raise money for the fight against Ulceratve Colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

All proceeds will go to benefit Woodbury Medical Plaza Gastrointestinal Associates (DiMarino-Kroop-Prieto). There will also be a fundraising dinner with the Alumni. Tickets for the game cost $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. Adults can also purchase tickets for the dinner for an additional $10. For more information, click here.

* On Jan 17, the Flyers Alumni return to the Ice Works for the Third Annual Center for Autism Winter Classic.

Puck drop for the game game between the Flyers Alumni and the Autism Puzzlers will be at 7;30 p.m. with doors opening at 7:00. Ninety minutes prior to doors opening, at 5:30 p.m., day-of-event tickets will be available along with a silent auction. In addition to the silent auction, the Winter Classic activities will include a 50/50 raffle, a Chuck-a-Puck contest, and a postgame autograph signing & player meet & greet with the Flyers Alumni.

* A special thank you goes out to everyone who supported the annual Jeff Burd Memorial game between the Flyers Alumni and Cherokee Chiefs Alumni at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ, on Dec. 28.

One hundred percent of the proceeds raised will now go to support four charities:the Jeff Burd Memorial Fund, the National Meningitis Association, USA Wounded Warriors and Wings of Steel Sled Hockey. Here are some special video highlights recapping the night:

* Today in Flyers history: Dave “the Hammer” Schultz notches a hat trick — the first of two he scored within a week — in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers. For more, click here.

* January 3rd Flyers Alumni Birthdays: Rick MacLeish (1950), Rick St. Croix (1955), Kerry Huffman (1968), Todd Warriner (1976), Mike York (1978).

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