Flyers-Devils 5 Things: Dire Need to Figure Out New Jersey

[CSNPhilly] Flyers-Devils 5 things: Dire need to figure out New Jersey

Flyers vs. Devils
7 p.m. on CSN, and the NBC Sports app. Pregame Live begins at 6:30

The Flyers, winners of three straight, will try to keep the breath in their faint playoff hopes when they welcome the New Jersey Devils to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday evening.

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The Flyers (82 points) enter Saturday six points back of the Boston Bruins (88 points) for the final wild-card slot in the Eastern Conference, but still have to jump the New York Islanders (84 points), Carolina Hurricanes (84 points) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (85 points) to even get close to the Bruins.

Let's take a deeper look into Saturday's contest between the two Metropolitan Division rivals:

1. Devil of a problem
After Thursday's win over the Islanders, the echoes out of the Flyers' locker room were about how, despite the long odds, the Flyers still feel they have a real shot at the final wild-card spot. The seriousness of those sentiments will be tested Saturday night when they Flyers go face to face with their boogeyman from North Jersey, the Devils.

To say the Devils have dominated the Flyers this season would be an understatement. They've flat-out owned the Flyers. New Jersey has won all three previous meetings this season has outscored the Flyers by a 14-3 margin in the process.

None of the games have been close. The Devils took a 4-0 decision on Dec. 22 in Newark. They then steamrolled the Flyers, 4-1, on Jan. 21 in South Philly. And they most recently crushed the Flyers in embarrassing fashion, 6-2, on March 16 in Jersey.

Sure, the last meeting was a black eye for the Flyers. But let's go back to that game on Dec. 22 for a minute or two.

The Flyers were just a few days removed from their 10-game winning streak and were riding high into Prudential Center after topping the Washington Capitals in a shootout the previous evening. But everything came crashing down as the Devils brutalized the Flyers on the ice and on the scoreboard. It was almost like the Devils wrote the blueprint on how to beat these Flyers that night as that loss sent the Flyers into a months-long malaise that has seen them win just 17 of 41 games since.

With the way the Flyers have their back against the wall, now would be good time for them to figure out a Devils team that was eliminated from playoff contention long ago. 

2. Ghost flips the power switch
Remember the start of this week when the Flyers were 3 for 46 on the power play in March after failing on their two attempts Sunday in Pittsburgh? You likely do because it was talked about plenty. And rightfully so as the power play  was just downright brutal at times, gave momentum to opponents and helped changed the course of games.

Well, the last two games have been a bit different. The Flyers are 2 for 6 on the man advantage over the last two games, with a goal each against the Isles and the Ottawa Senators. That may not seem like much, but with the way the Flyers struggled mightily on the power play prior, even small progress is a confidence boost.

The key the past two games? Shayne Gostisbehere and his ability to get shots through from the point. Ghost's struggles earlier this season have been written about plenty, but one area of his game that was particularly disheartening was his inability to hit the net. Ghost missed the net a ton earlier in the year and it certainly didn't help the Flyers' power play, which features a first unit that runs through him at the point and Claude Giroux on the half-wall.

On Tuesday against the Sens, Ghost's point drive was deflected home by Brayden Schenn. On Thursday against the Isles, Wayne Simmonds scored a painful one after Ghost drilled a slapper off his knee and into the cage. 

The good news going into Saturday: New Jersey has a bottom-tier penalty kill with a 80.5 percent success rate. The bad news heading into Saturday: the Flyers are 0 for 11 on the power play against the Devils so far this season.

3. Moving day?
Thursday presented a chance for movement in the wild-card standings as the Flyers and the teams they're chasing were all in action. The problem was that every team, save for the Islanders since they played the Flyers, won on Thursday, cancelling out everything.

Saturday presents as another chance for movement as four of the five teams in the wild-card picture, including the Flyers, are in action. Boston hosts Florida, Tampa hosts Montreal, Carolina hosts Dallas and, of course, the Flyers host the Devils. If you're looking a bit further up the standings, Toronto (89 points - one point ahead of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division) visits Detroit.

The Flyers have preached lately about taking care of their own business, but you know there will be some eyes peeking toward the Wells Fargo Center's out-of-town scoreboard.

4. Keep an eye on
Flyers: There's a handful of Flyers who have been hot lately, but we're going with Jordan Weal. The 5-foot-10 forward has added some much-needed offensive punch with goals in each of the last three games. He puts himself in position to make things happen. He's not afraid to go to the dirty areas around the net and he gets rewarded for it. He continues to be a spark.

Devils: Kyle Palmieri has burnt the Flyers all year long with three goals and an assist in the teams' three previous meetings this season. It's been the continuation of a career arc that has seen him continually torch the Flyers. In 10 regular-season games against the Flyers, the 26-year-old Palmieri has eight goals and five assists for 13 points. That's a clip of 1.3 points per game.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason is likely to start for the 15th time in the last 17 games. His struggles against the Devils over the course of his career are well-known. In 11 career appearances against New Jersey, Mason is 0-9-0 with a .852 save percentage and a 3.93 goals-against average.

• Saturday will mark the fourth of five meetings between the Flyers and Devils this year. They'll finish out the season series Tuesday in Newark.

• The Devils come in losers of five straight and 17 of the last 19 games. Of course, they entered the March 16 contest against the Flyers on a 10-game skid and then went and pummeled the Flyers that night.

• Saturday's game will be the second of a back-to-back set for the Devils. They dropped a 2-1 decision to the Islanders on Friday night in Brooklyn.

• Matt Read is out for six to eight weeks with a broken arm, so expect a new line combination or two for the Flyers on Saturday. Read was playing on the top line with Giroux and Jake Voracek.

• Newly signed Mike Vecchione will take morning skate with Flyers on Saturday, and while there's a chance he will play against New Jersey, he's still expected to debut Sunday at MSG against the Rangers.

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