Thursday, December 25, 2014

Giroux says fading Flyers welcome the challenge

The Flyers, losers of three straight, are about to face perhaps the toughest part of their schedule, and they must regroup to avoid having their season spiral out of control.

Giroux says fading Flyers welcome the challenge

(Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
(Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

The Flyers, losers of three straight, are about to face perhaps the toughest part of their schedule, and they must regroup to avoid having their season spiral out of control.

The team that went 24-12-5 in an impressive three-month stretch has become soft to play against during the last three games. They are allowing too many odd-man rushes, too many shots, too many long cycles. Their breakouts have been poor, and their forecheck_ which had been consistently good as they rebounded from their 1-7 start _ has been virtually non-existent for most of the last three games.

And now they get to face Boston and Detroit, two difficult opponents, before heading on a West Coast trip and playing Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose _ teams that have a combined 55-9-8 home record.

Gulp.

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Claude Giroux, the Flyers’ slumping center, sees the schedule as a welcoming test, not as an albatross.

“To play those tough teams, is a challenge for us,” said Giroux, who has just one goal in his last nine games. “I love it. That’s when you find out what kind of team you are, what kind of character you have.”

Steve Mason will return to the nets Saturday afternoon when the Flyers (25-21-6) host the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins (31-15-3). Mason has a 4.21 goals-against in his last five starts, but he has not received much defensive support.

Flyers opponents have had too much time and space and have launched shooting galleries in recent games. The Flyers, who have slipped to fourth place in the tightly contested Metropolitan Division, have allowed 43, 36 and 39 shots in their last three games, respectively.

“We’ve got to do a better job defensively; follow the system right,” Giroux said. “I think everybody on the team needs to play better.”

After winning 10 straight at home, the Flyers are 1-2-1 in their last four games at the Wells Fargo Center. They need to return to a defense-first mentality.

On Saturday, they will face a Boston team that is allowing just 2.16 goals per game, second in the NHL.

“You get one win against a good team, that’s when you bounce back; your confidence comes back and you start believing in yourself a little more,” Giroux said.

In Thursday’s 5-2 loss in Columbus, coach Craig Berube moved  Vinny Lecavalier from third-line left winger back to center on the second line, shifted Brayden Schenn to left wing on that unit, and dropped left winger Scott Hartnell to the third line.

Berube plans to keep that setup for the time being.

Lecavalier is a “natural centerman and it wasn’t working at wing, so we changed it up,” Berube said. “I thought he was better in the middle, so as of right now, that’s where he’ll stay.”

In Thursday’s defeat, Lecavalier contributed a power-play goal _ his second tally in the last 19 games _ but won just 20 percent (two of 10) of his faceoffs.

Breakaways. The Flyers will have an optional 11:30 a.m. practice in Voorhees on Friday....The Flyers have been outshot in four of their last five games, allowing 36 shots per contest in that span...Each member of the fourth line _ Steve Downie, Chris VandeVelde and   Adam Hall _ was minus-2 on Thursday....Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds had their five-game points streak stopped in the loss to the Blue Jackets...Actor David Boreanaz is co-chairman of the Flyers Wives Carnival, which will hold its 37th annual event Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.

Sam Carchidi Inquirer Staff Writer
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Sam Carchidi Inquirer Staff Writer
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