UPDATE 11:30 AM
Ray Emery is starting in goal for the Flyers tonight. The team wants to get both goaltenders some work in this busy stretch of games and avoid potentially tiring out Steve Mason.
The Flyers, who had a total off-day yesterday, did not take line rushes at the morning skate.
FLYERS VS. KINGS GAME PREVIEW
(8:30 A.M. EST)
Taking aim at their sixth straight win, the Philadelphia Flyers (38-25-7) will host the Los Angeles Kings (40-25-6) on Monday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The match will be televised locally on CSN Philly.
This is the second of two meetings of the season between the inter-Conference clubs. It is the lone game in Philadelphia. On Feb. 1, the Flyers blanked the Kings, 2-0, in the second game of Philly's three-game road trip through the state of California.
Steve Mason was brilliant in earning his third shutout of the season, and second in three starts. In a game in which LA outshot Philly by a 35-13 margin -- including a 27-9 disparity over the final 40 minutes -- it was the Flyers who were the opportunistic team offensively against the team with the lowest goals against average in the NHL.
The two Flyers goals were simultaneously artistic and hard-working plays marked by pinpoint passing and the eventual goal scorer getting himself into perfect shooting position.
Former Kings winger Wayne Simmonds broke a scoreless deadlock at 7:48 of the first period. Vincent Lecavalier took a pass from Claude Giroux and then faked a shot, drawing both the defense and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (11 saves) out of position. Lecavalier then fed the puck to a wide-open Simmonds.
The power forward had what seemed like an eternity to catch the pass, make sure the puck laid flat and then bury it in the back of the net. The goal was the 100th of Simmonds' regular season NHL career and his 18th of the 2013-14 season.
Late in the third period, still clinging to their skinny 1-0 lead, the Flyers got a power play on a Matt Greene interference penalty. After the Flyers ragged about 12 seconds off the game clock on the delayed penalty, LA finally touched up for the stoppage with 2:53 left in regulation.
On the ensuing power play, the Flyers put the game away after some tense early moments. A good keep at the point by Mark Streit was followed by tic-tac-toe puck movement in the offensive zone. Simmonds retrieved the puck in the corner and put it on the tape to Hartnell. Then Hartnell made a beautiful cross-ice feed to Giroux, finding the Flyers' captain open below the circle to the right of Quick. Giroux made no mistake, scoring his 17th of the season to give the team some insurance.
The Flyers will spend the remainder of March near or at home. On Wednesday, Philly travels to Manhattan for a clash with the New York Rangers. Thereafter, the Flyers are at home to play Toronto on Friday and Boston on Sunday.
The Flyers are 8-2-1 after the Olympic break and 13-3-1 over their last 17 games. They currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the Rangers with two games in hand. Philadelphia holds a four-point edge on the Washington Capitals with two games in hand and a five-point edge on the Columbus Blue Jackets with one game in hand.
Tonight's opponent is the latest in a series of games against many of the NHL's top teams.
Coming off a weekend home-and-home sweep of the archrival Pittsburgh Penguins and a rousing 3-2 home overtime victory against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Flyers had a more uneven effort in a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers downed the Western Conference leading St. Louis Blues by a 4-1 count.
Steve Mason backstopped the Flyers to victory in a game where the club got outshot by a 33-19 margin. Scott Hartnell (power play), Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds (empty net) provided the goal support. The Flyers went 1-for-5 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill. Philly has killed off 26 of its last 27 penalties.
Offense has generally not been a problem for the Flyers since their early-season struggles. Through the first 15 games of the season, the Flyers scored just 22 goals (1.47 per game). Since that time, Philly has tallied 181 goals in 55 games (3.29 per game).
No player in the NHL has been hotter offensively than Giroux has over the last several months. He has 37 points (13 goals and 24 assists) in the 29 games played since January 4, which was the first game after the last time he was held pointless in back-to-back games.
In the first five games after the Olympic break, the Flyers yielded 21 goals. However, they have allowed just 10 in the last six games.
Steve Downie (upper body injury) had to leave Saturday's game early in the first period after a check to the head by the Blues' Patrik Berglund. He is officially day-to-day. The Flyers recalled Tye McGinn from the Adirondack Phantoms yesterday.
Still the stingiest defensive team in the NHL, the Kings have scuffled for offensive output this season despite an abundance of talented personnel. The last time the Kings played the Flyers, Los Angeles was mired in a deep slump offensively. They have come on a bit since then, and that has been enough to propel the Kings to seven wins in their last 10 games.
Los Angeles enters this game coming off a 4-0 shutout of the Florida Panthers. With the victory, Jonathan Quick surpassed Rogie Vachon to become the winningest goaltender in Los Angeles franchise history (172 wins). The Kings have won their last two games.
In eight of their 10 games this month, the Kings have allowed two goals or less. They are 7-1-0 in those games. When allowing three or more, they are 0-2-0.
Playing against Los Angeles is similar to playing against the Blues. Los Angeles does not yield much time or space to opponents, and it takes a lot of patience to generate chances. Additionally, the Kings are the top faceoff team in the NHL, so it can be tough to gain puck possession off the draw against this club.
Offensively, Anze Kopitar (22 goals, 58 points) and former Flyers Jeff Carter (24 goals, 45 points), Mike Richards (10 goals, 40 points) and Justin Williams (17 goals, 37 points) lead the way for LA. Drew Doughty leads the defensemen with eight goals, 35 points and a plus-17 rating at even strength.
When the Flyers last played the Kings, former Philadelphia captain Richards was mired in the worst offensive slump of his career. He had just one goal in his last 31 games and two goals in last 39 games since scoring goals in three straight games in early November. Richards, who scored last game to break a six-game pointless drought, has three goals and one assist since the Olympic break.
In order to spruce up the offense a bit, the Kings acquired Marian Gaborik before the trade deadline. He has four points (two goals, two assists) in eight games.
KEY STAT COMPARISONS (NHL OVERALL RANKING)
Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.86 (9th), Kings 2.35 (27th)
Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 2.76 (17th), Kings 2.04 (1st)
Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.98 (15th), Kings 1.22 (5th)
Power play efficiency: Flyers 19.9% (10th), Kings 15.1% (25th)
Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 84.5% (8th), Kings 83.3% (11th)
Faceoff percentage: Flyers 49.9% (16th), Kings 53.1% (1st)
(Subject to change)
19 Scott Hartnell - 28 Claude Giroux - 93 Jakub Voracek
40 Vincent Lecavalier - 10 Brayden Schenn - 17 Wayne Simmonds
12 Michael Raffl - 14 Sean Couturier - 24 Matt Read
15 Tye McGinn - 18 Adam Hall - 36 Zac Rinaldo
44 Kimmo Timonen - 5 Braydon Coburn
8 Nicklas Grossmann - 32 Mark Streit
47 Andrew MacDonald - 22 Luke Schenn
29 Ray Emery
[35 Steve Mason]
: Steve Downie (upper body), Erik Gustafsson (healthy), Jay Rosehill (healthy), Hal Gill (healthy), Chris Pronger (LTIR, post-concussion syndrome).
12 Marian Gaborik - 11 Anze Kopitar - 14 Justin Williams
70 Tanner Pearson - 77- Jeff Carter - 73 Tyler Toffoli
13 Kyle Clifford - 10 Mike Richards - 22 Trevor Lewis
74 Dwight King - 28 Jarret Stoll - 23 Dustin Brown
6 Jake Muzzin - 8 Drew Doughty
44 Robyn Regehr - 26 Slava Voynov
33 Willie Mitchell - 27 Alec Martinez
32 Jonathan Quick
[31 Martin Jones]
: Jordan Nolan (healthy), Matt Greene (healthy).
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