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At the Rink blog

Flyers' defense has been rounding into form

Tuesday, 10.29.2013 / 1:02 PM

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

PHILADELPHIA -- While much has been made of the Philadelphia Flyers' inability to generate much offense -- they enter their game Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks 28th in the League with an average of 1.80 goals per game -- their defense quietly has rounded into shape.

After allowing 12 goals in three games against the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins, all losses, the Flyers have allowed three goals in their past two, wins against the New York Rangers and New York Islanders.

They're 16th in the League in goals-against at 2.70 per game, but that effort will be put to the test Tuesday by the Ducks, who are seventh at 3.17 goals per game.

The first object in slowing the Ducks, as it has been the past few seasons, has been trying to slow top scorers Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who between them have 11 goals and 25 points.

"Getzlaf and Perry are great players, so when you're out there you really have to do a job on them," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "You have to make sure that you're thinking about that first of all, that's your first priority out there, to not let them capitalize or get the opportunities."

Luke Schenn, one of the Flyers who will be tasked with attempting to prevent those chances, said he knows how much of a challenge the Ducks pose.

"Those two guys, that 1-2 punch, you could argue is one of the top line combos in the League," he told NHL.com. "They've been playing for a long time, they've got lots of skill, they're strong on the puck. It's not just going to be one or two defensemen trying to shut them down; it's everyone contributing in the defensive zone. They play against the top players every night and they always seem to get the job done. ... It's definitely going to be a great test for us." 

As a whole, Berube said he's much happier with the way the team is playing defense since he replaced Peter Laviolette as coach.

"I think it's come a little ways," he said. "I think we're doing a pretty good job. Positional-wise we're keeping the odd-man rushes down quite a bit, which is important. Our defensemen are doing a good job with their gaps and closing on people quickly. Overall, besides the Vancouver game and the one goal there out front, we've done a good job around our net with having people down there with coverage and collapsing and blocking shots, stuff like that. It's a work in progress."

There likely will be two changes to the six-man group for the Flyers, as Andrej Meszaros apparently will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past five games. He'll replace Erik Gustafsson, who had an assist Saturday in a 5-2 win against the Islanders but played 17:37, the least amount of ice time for any of the team's defensemen.

Berube also likely will split up the pairing of Kimmo Timonen and Luke Schenn; Timonen will skate with Meszaros, while Schenn will be paired with Mark Streit.

The Flyers held an optional skate Tuesday, so this is how the lineup likely will look against the Ducks:

Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Vincent Lecavalier

Scott Hartnell - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Zac Rinaldo - Maxime Talbot - Jay Rosehill

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossmann

Kimmo Timonen - Andrej Meszaros

Mark Streit - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Erik Gustafsson, Hal Gill, Adam Hall

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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery