FLYERS (14-16-7) at HURRICANES (10-23-4)
TV: CSN-PH, FS-CR
Forward Jeff Skinner (flu-like symptoms) will not play for the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers, but center Jordan Staal is back in the lineup after missing the game Wednesday because of precautionary reasons.
Staal returned Monday after missing three months with a broken leg. He had an assist and played 19:01 in a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, but was rested Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins because he felt pain in his leg. He will center a line Friday with Eric Staal and Elias Lindholm, one coach Bill Peters expects to match against Philadelphia's top line of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Matt Read.
When asked about how the Hurricanes' lineup dynamic changes with a healthy Jordan Staal, Peters told the Hurricanes website, "Night and day."
"It gives you a match-up center and allows Eric to be a winger," Peters said. "He's a big man, but he spends a lot of time in the offensive zone too. He's a strong man on faceoffs. This is a good faceoff team we're playing against. Giroux and [Sean] Couturier take a lot of them. Now we have a guy who can answer that."
Scoring has been a major issue for the Hurricanes, who have lost 11 of 13. They scored 18 goals in 14 December games (1.29 goals per game) and are 29th in the NHL with 1.95 goals per game. Peters, however, is optimistic the offense will come soon. Despite Carolina's 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh on New Year's Eve, Peters was encouraged with how the Hurricanes made a push in the third period, when they had 12 of their 25 shots on goal.
"I think we can score more," Peters said according to the Hurricanes website. "We can be a better team than we were in the first part of the season in 2014. I thought we had good offensive looks in Pittsburgh. We've said that a lot, but more quality, grade-A's. … Realistically, that's going to be a huge focus: the finish and the ability to finish."
The Flyers began a season-high eight-game road trip with wins against the Minnesota Wild, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, but lost the next three, the latest a 4-3 overtime setback Wednesday to the Colorado Avalanche, and are nine points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"I'm not ready to go home yet," defenseman Mark Streit told the Courier-Post. "We've got some business to finish and finish on the right note. It starts tonight against Carolina. I don't think too much ahead. It's tonight and then we go from there."
Goalie Steve Mason will start for the Flyers. Mason is 6-2-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in nine games against the Hurricanes. Goalie Cam Ward starts for Carolina.
Here are the projected lineups:
Matt Read - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn - Scott Laughton - Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - R.J. Umberger
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier
Nicklas Grossmann - Mark Streit
Nick Schultz - Braydon Coburn
Andrew MacDonald - Michael Del Zotto
Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Luke Schenn, Zac Rinaldo
Injured: Ryan White (pectoralis surgery), Kimmo Timonen (blood clot)
Eric Staal - Jordan Staal - Elias Lindholm
Jiri Tlusty - Victor Rask - Nathan Gerbe
Chris Terry - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer
Brad Malone - Jay McClement - Zach Boychuk
Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore
Tim Gleason - Ryan Murphy
Scratched: Michal Jordan
Injured: Jeff Skinner (illness), Alexander Semin (upper body), Andrej Nestrasil (upper body), John-Michael Liles (illness)
Status report: Semin was on the ice for the morning skate but will not play. "He's got to get up to speed. He has to get on the ice. He hasn't skated much here lately," Peters said. "He's had a variety of different ailments, injuries, sicknesses and everything else. The game is moving, the League is moving and you have to be at the right speed to play." … VandeVelde is in after sustaining a right leg injury in the third period Wednesday. Flyers coach Craig Berube told the Courier-Post he likes the chemistry of the fourth line with Bellemare centering VandeVelde and Lecavalier. "They're all skating and working together as a line. That's the big difference to me," Berube said. … Rinaldo will miss his sixth straight game.
Who's hot: Eric Staal is on a three-game point streak with goals in two straight (two goals, assist). … Tlusty (two assists) has points in two straight. … Ward has a 2.10 GAA and .926 save percentage in 22 games since Nov. 1. … Lecavalier, a healthy scratch for seven games, has four goals in his past five. … Voracek has four goals and 10 points in his past seven games and is 15 from his career-high of 62 set last season. He and Giroux combined for 31 points in December.