Flyers try to bounce back; Michal Neuvirth expected to get rare start

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Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth making a save during a 4-1 win over Buffalo on Jan. 7.

The Flyers hope to return to form when Eric Lindros returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

After a 7 p.m. ceremony in which Lindros’ iconic No. 88 will be retired, the Flyers will face the Toronto Maple Leafs and try to erase the memories of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“I want to say a short memory is the best thing,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said, referring to Tuesday’s drubbing, “but you can’t forget what we did to lose the game.”

They had several defensive breakdowns, never got in sync on the power play, and allowed numerous odd-man rushes as their four-game winning streak ended.

“We didn’t take care of the puck, and we made a few mistakes that turned into goals,” defenseman Ivan Provorov, who was minus-3 in the game, said after Wednesday’s practice in Voorhees.

“We have to make sure we’re back-checking, we’re taking care of the neutral zone and not turning pucks over, and doing a better job defensively,” said Simmonds, whose line, with Jordan Weal and Nolan Patrick, was the Flyers’ best unit Tuesday.

Simmonds said the Flyers have to have a “checking-first” mentality, “and from your checking, you’re going to get your offensive opportunities.”

“After the Pitt game [a 5-1 loss Jan. 2], we just thought it was one of those games and moved on,” Weal said. “We have to do the same thing here. Keep moving forward. You’re going to lose games throughout the year, but it’s how you rebound that determines if you make the playoffs or not.”

The Flyers slipped to three points out of a playoff spot. They are 12-5-1 since ending their 10-game losing streak.

“I think over the last month, this group has done a really good job of narrowing our focus and the task at hand,” defenseman Brandon Manning said.

The next task is trying to contain Auston Matthews-led Toronto (25-17-4), a team the Flyers (20-16-8) have beaten twice this season by 4-2 scores.

Brian Elliott was the winning goalie in those games, but it appears Michal Neuvirth will get the nod Thursday. Neuvirth stopped all eight shots he faced after relieving Elliott at the start of Tuesday’s third period.

“I’m happy I got the 20 minutes, and I’m definitely feeling better about my game,” Neuvirth said.

Coach Dave Hakstol said he was impressed with Neuvirth’s last start, a 30-save performance in a 4-1 win over Buffalo on Jan. 7.

“I felt Neuvy’s confidence and level of play was back to where we need it to be,” he said.

Elliott has started 18 of the last 19 games.

“Moose has definitely been one of our top players,” Neuvirth said, referring to Elliott by his nickname. “For me, I’m just focusing on myself, working hard every practice, and every chance I get to play, I need to be ready.”

Hakstol said the Flyers will “absolutely” need both goalies in the season’s second half.

“It’s a busy schedule both in the short term and in the long haul over the next 11-plus weeks of the regular season,” he said.

Breakaways

Based on practice, it appears the Flyers will use the same defense that played in Tuesday’s loss. Rookie Travis Sanheim has sat out six of the last seven games. Asked if he was considering sending Sanheim to the Phantoms, Hakstol said: “I think every player’s development is going to be different. That’s not a decision for me to make, and Travis has been a really good part of our team. He’s just got to keep working hard. … He’s handled it and pushed hard to make the practice days valuable.” … Claude Giroux had a goal in each win over Toronto. … At practice, the Flyers worked on correcting breakdowns that led to easy scoring chances Tuesday. … Former Flyer James van Riemsdyk has 19 goals for Toronto, which has lost three straight, each by one goal.