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At the Rink: Flyers at Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will have Michal Neuvirth in goal when they begin a stretch of five games in eight days on Friday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center (7 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, MSG+ 2).

Neuvirth, who will make his first start in three games, is 4-2-4 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in 10 games against the Devils. Steve Mason is 0-7-0 with a 3.70 GAA and .861 save percentage in eight games against New Jersey.

"Mason's career record against New Jersey wasn't a big factor in starting Neuvirth," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "Neuvirth had a real good performance in his last game against Nashville and both guys are going pretty good right now; this is Neuvirth's game."

The Flyers have won four of their past five games.

One reason for the turnaround has been the play of Sean Couturier centering left wing Mat Read and right wing Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has not only been a physical force but has three goals and five points in the past two games. Over that same stretch, Couturier has two goals and four points and Read has a plus-5 rating and nine shots on goal.

"I think we're generating more offense off the rush and going to the net and then stopping at the net and jumping on those second pucks and rebounds," Couturier said. "We were playing pretty good hockey earlier but the puck wouldn't go in. Sometimes it's tougher to get those goals, but right now things are clicking and we just have to build on that."

Simmonds points to the fact they've been able to get inside on defenses for second and third opportunities as the key in recent games.

"Goalies in this League are so good they're going to stop the first opportunity the majority of the time, so if you're not in there on the second or third opportunities, digging away hard, not many goals will go in," Simmonds said.

Couturier said players are trusting each other a lot more and it has made a difference the past two weeks.

"I think system-wise we're sticking to our game plan for 60 minutes, where earlier in the season we were a little scared to lose games and maybe when we'd be up a goal we'd panic and get away from our game," Couturier said. "Lately, we've been closing games out and finding ways to win instead of giving up that late goal. We're sticking with it for 60 minutes."

The Flyers have killed 20 straight power-play chances spanning seven games. Philadelphia, which finished 27th in the NHL on the penalty-kill in 2014-15, ranks 13th this season at 81.2 percent.

"We have a lot of talent in this locker room," Simmonds said. "As long as we stay the course and continue to play the full game, paying attention to details, chipping pucks into their zone and getting pucks out, that will take us a long way."

Hakstol said paying attention to details has benefitted Simmonds.

"He's just playing the right way and doing all little things," Hakstol said. "He's doing them consistently and when you see the extra effort he's making, that's leadership."

Forwards Sergey Kalinin and Bobby Farnham, and defenseman David Schlemko will be in the Devils lineup.

The Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Thursday. Kalinin will replace Travis Zajac, who was to be evaluated by doctors Friday after sustaining an upper-body injury in the first period against the Hurricanes.

"[Zajac] got bumped in the corner," Hynes said. "I'm not sure exactly at what point he got hurt on that play but I'll have more information [Friday night or Saturday]."

Jacob Josefson will fill in for Zajac at second-line center with left wing Patrik Elias and right wing Kyle Palmieri. Kalinin will center the third line with Stefan Matteau and Tyler Kennedy.

Farnham will replace Brian O'Neill, and Schlemko, who has missed the past six games, will replace Eric Gelinas.

"We have tough decisions to make having back-to-back games; there's a lot of hockey," Hynes said. "None of the decisions we made for guys sitting out were performance related. It's an opportunity to use our depth and utilizing all of guys."

The Devils play the Florida Panthers on Sunday at Prudential Center.

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael RafflClaude GirouxBrayden Schenn

Matt ReadSean CouturierWayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVeldePierre-Edouard BellemareJakub Voracek

Scott LaughtonNick CousinsColin McDonald

Nick Schultz - Evgeny Medvedev

Luke Schenn - Michael Del Zotto

Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere

Michal Neuvirth

Steve Mason

Injured: R.J. Umberger (lower body), Mark Streit (groin), Ryan White (upper body), Sam Gagner (upper body)

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Radko Gudas (suspended)


Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak

Patrik Elias - Jacob Josefson - Kyle Palmieri

Stefan Matteau - Sergey Kalinin - Tyler Kennedy

Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

John Moore - Damon Severson

Jon Merrill - David Schlemko

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Travis Zajac (upper body), Tuomo Ruutu (right foot fracture), Jiri Tlusty (upper body)

Scratched: Brian O'Neill, Eric Gelinas

Status report: Cousins was injured at the morning skate when a Gostisbehere shot hit his visor and left a cut above his right eye. Cousins returned to the ice following treatment and Hakstol expects him to play. … Schultz will return to the lineup with Gudas beginning his three-game suspension. … White and Umberger are still not ready to return. … Streit is expected to miss at least three more weeks. … Tlusty skated on his own Friday and did several drills but is not ready to return to the lineup.

Who's hot: Giroux has five goals and 14 points in the past 15 games. … Henrique has four goals and six points in the past six games.

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