Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Flyers try to climb over .500 in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS _ When they started the season with a franchise-worst 1-7 record, not many believed the Flyers would rebound so quickly.

Flyers try to climb over .500 in Minnesota

Flyers forward Sean Couturier. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
Flyers forward Sean Couturier. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

MINNEAPOLIS _ When they started the season with a franchise-worst 1-7 record, not many believed the Flyers would rebound so quickly.

But here they are, with a 12-12-2 record and with a chance to get over the international symbol of mediocrity _ the .500 mark _ when they visit the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.

Led by Steve Mason’s goaltending, the Flyers are on an 8-2-1 run, and Monday is the second of a six-game, 6,801-mile trip that started with a 3-2 shootout win in Nashville.

“It wasn’t the best-looking win,” said the game’s best-looking player, Mason, “but it’s nice to come out on top in one of these games. We’ve struggled in tight situations like this before.”

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Minnesota has a 10-3-2 home record, and the Wild is 8-3-2 against teams from the weak Eastern Conference. But Minnesota had faded recently, going 0-3-1 in its last four games.

The Wild, keyed by its even-strength play, is 15-8-5 overall. Minnesota has allowed a league-low 34 goals in five-on-five play. Goalie Josh Harding has surrendered just 17 five-on-five goals in 21 games, and his .950 save percentage in even-strength situations is tops in the NHL among goalies who have played more than seven games.

And, so, yes, the Flyers have a stiff challenge Monday night at Xcel Energy Center.

The Flyers, who are two points behind the third-place New York Rangers in the Metro Division and have a game in hand, are in the process of playing 14 of 18 games on the road, a stretch that could define their season.

Breakaways. Harding is expected to face Mason. (Will update after the morning skate.)…..With Saturday’s victory, the Flyers are 5-1 in their last three sets of back-to-back games; they started the season 0-4 when playing games on consecutive nights….The Wild is fourth in the NHL in winning faceoffs (53 percent); the Flyers are 17th at 49.5 percent…After taking a puck to the face Saturday, Flyers winger Brayden Schenn went off for repairs and returned after missing a few shifts……Minnesota LW Zach Parise, a former Devil, has 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 40 career games vs. the Flyers. His 18 goals are his most against any team…..After meeting Minnesota, the Flyers play in Detroit, Dallas, Ottawa and Chicago. Ottawa is the only opponent on the six-game trip that has a losing record…Wild D-man Ryan Suter leads the NHL with an average of 29:35 per game…..Minnesota has allowed the first goal in seven straight games.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.

Inquirer Staff Writer
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