Goalie Brian Elliott will make his 14th straight start as the Flyers begin an important four-game homestand Tuesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who have lost their last two.
“Obviously these are huge; this is how we can make our way back into the playoff push,” right winger Wayne Simmonds said after the Tuesday morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers (16-14-8) are four points out of a playoff spot and one point behind the Penguins (19-18-3).
Pittsburgh has been an awful five-on-five team but has the league’s second-best power play, so one of the Flyers’ goals is simple: Stay out of the penalty box.
Elliott has appeared in 22 of the last 23 games. In the last 13 games, all starts, he is 8-4-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
“He’s been unbelievable; he’s kept us in every single game. Whether we’re playing good or bad, we know he’s going to be there no matter what,” Simmonds said. “It’s a huge confidence boost. We know we can have a hiccup here or there and we’ll still be in the game at the end of it. It’s up to us in front of him to put pucks in the net and play strong defensiveely because we know he’s going to have our back.”
Elliott is 7-2-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in his career against the Penguins.
The Flyers blew a late lead and dropped a 5-4 overtime decision in Pittsburgh on Nov. 27.
“We have to make sure we’re playing the right way and worrying about ourselves,” Simmonds said. “Pittsburgh’s a great team; we know that. We just have to bring to the table what we do best and do that for a full 60 minutes, not half the game.”
The Penguins will use backup goalie Tristan Jarry, who is 5-3-2 with a 2.40 GAA and .921 save percentage. (Starter Matt Murray has been struggling.)
Jarry got the win but was not effective against the Flyers in a relief role earlier this season.
Giroux streaking. Claude Giroux has a seven-game assist streak, during which he has collected 12 helpers. It is one game short of the longest-assist streak in the NHL this season – eight by John Tavares and Josh Bailey of the Islanders.
Breakaways. Defenseman Brandon Manning will again replace Travis Sanheim in the lineup, and left winger Jori Lehtera will play in the fourth line while Taylor Leier is a healthy scratch for the second straight game. … After missing three games with an unspecified lower-body injury, defenseman Kris Letang (25 points, minus-15) is expected to be in the Penguins’ lineup. He has 14 of his points on the power play. … Defenseman Justin Schultz (10 points, plus-1) is also expected to return after missing 11 games with a lower-body injury. Letang and Schultz were with the regulars at the morning skate. … Sean Couturier has 15 of his 18 goals at even-strength, putting him tied for fifth in the NHL. … Robert Hagg is second in the NHL with 127 hits (3.34 per game). The last NHL player to average more hits during their rookie season was Radko Gudas (3.74 per game) with Tampa Bay in 2013-14. … Dave Hakstol needs four wins to reach 100 in his career.