Bye Comes at Wrong Time for Flyers


Brian Elliott is headed to the Bahamas for vacation.

Sean Couturier is making his way back to Quebec to work on a home he's having built.

Brandon Manning and Valtteri Filppula will be dogsledding in Vermont.

And Claude Giroux is boarding a plane to Ottawa to see family and friends.

The Flyers' five-day bye week is here and they can relax a little bit easier riding a three-game winning streak and having played some of their best hockey recently with a record of 11-4-1 since Dec. 4.

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"I think anytime you have that much time off you want to feel good about your game," defenseman Brandon Manning said. "I think something we need to focus on is staying even keel."

"We're very close to the playoffs right now," Jakub Voracek said. "I was reading some articles and listening to some people that this team should get blown up during that 10-game losing streak. We didn't. We stayed patient. We're in the playoff right now, so that's good for us."

The 4-1 win Sunday over the Sabres was vitally important for backup Michal Neuvirth, who saw action for just the fifth time since his last victory Nov. 2 against the Blues (see observations).

"It's a huge win for me," said Neuvirth, who was on his way to board a flight for Mexico. "I haven't been feeling good about myself lately. It's frustrating when you get injured and you can't help your teammates, but I feel good about myself right now. Kind of a shame that we've won three in a row and leaving for the break, but it's the schedule."

The Flyers leaned on Neuvirth heavily in the first six minutes of the game, as they were forced to kill off Voracek's hooking penalty and then Wayne Simmonds' slashing call just 47 seconds after successfully killing off the Sabres' first power play.

Neuvirth's signature stop was a highlight reel glove save on Sabres forward Sam Reinhart on Buffalo's second power-play opportunity. Overall, Neuvirth turned aside 30 of the Sabres' 31 shots on net.

"I had a good warmup and I was feeling good all morning," Neuvirth said. "Playing the third period against Pittsburgh helped me a lot, so I was more relaxed coming into the game."

"I think it's a great way for him to go into the break and to come back into our lineup," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's been a long time since he's had the opportunity to start a game. For him to come in, and I think back to that (Reinhart) save he had in the first period. I thought that was a great way to say I'm ready to step in and help this team."

After Buffalo beat Neuvirth in the opening minutes of the second period for a 1-0 lead, the Flyers had an immediate response less than two minutes later. Shayne Gostisbehere forced a neutral zone turnover and then converted his ninth goal of the season in the same sequence to tie the game.

 "It's kind of a risky play there coming down and I backed off," said Gostisbehere, who has 32 points in 39 games. "Thankfully, he pushed it. I was trying to push it to him and I just followed up the play."

Minutes later, Couturier answered with a power-play goal for a 2-1 lead and the Flyers never looked back.

Impressively, the Flyers also improved to 4-2-2 in the second game of a back-to-back, and with a pair of victories in a span of 24 hours, the Flyers temporarily pushed their way past the Islanders and the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division, where 10 points separate the eight divisional teams.

When the Flyers collectively return from their bye week destinations, they'll be facing a crucial stretch of hockey with six of their next nine games coming against divisional opponents with the All-Star break sandwiched in between.

"I don't know if we need any recovery time," Hakstol said. "We've got it now in front of us, so we'll try and take advantage of it and come back. We've gone one real hard work day and right back into games. That's going to be a real hard turnaround."

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