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Neuvirth starts against McDavid, Oilers

Flyers after fourth consecutive victory

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

OILERS (24-34-7) at FLYERS (29-22-11) 

TV: 7 p.m. ET; SNW, CSN-PH, NHL.TV

PHILADELPHIA -- Goalie Michal Neuvirth will make his fifth straight start for the Philadelphia Flyers as they try to extend their winning streak to four games when they face Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday.

It will be the first time McDavid, the No, 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, plays against the Flyers since Nov. 3, when he sustained a broken left clavicle after he fell into the boards. He missed nearly three months. 

 

"Don't really think it was a hit or anything," McDavid said. "Just an unlucky play."

For Neuvirth it will be his eighth game in the past nine, and seventh start. In his previous eight games he's 5-1-2 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .908 save percentage.

"I think both the goalies have been our MVPs this year," forward Wayne Simmonds said about Neuvirth and Steve Mason. "Doesn't matter who's playing, they've both continued to play amazing. I think at this point right now [Neuvirth] has strung together some pretty good games and been playing well. I'm sure when [Steve Mason] goes back in the net he'll be lights out as well."

Though it appears that Neuvirth has supplanted Mason as the Flyers' No. 1 goaltender, coach Dave Hakstol said he believes he has two good goaltenders.

"We're going to need both guys to be successful," he said.

The Flyers' recent winning streak has pulled them within three points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. A Flyers win and a Penguins regulation loss Thursday against the New York Rangers would cut that deficit to one point. 

Their focus will be on the Oilers, the players said there would be some scoreboard watching. 

"Probably not in game, but probably the first thing I'll do after the game is take a look at the score and see how it is," Simmonds said. "We've got business to take care of. As long as we take care of our own business we should be fine and then we can worry about everything else later."

The Oilers have won two straight games; they haven't won more than two in a row since a six-game win streak between Dec. 2 and Dec. 14. They also can win two straight on the road for the first time since Oct. 17-18.

"I can't really remember the last time we had two wins on a road trip," McDavid said. "It's been a while. We definitely put ourselves in a good position starting this road trip well in Buffalo [a 2-1 overtime win Tuesday]. It's up to us to keep it going here in Philly."

Cam Talbot was the first goaltender off the ice for the Oilers after their morning skate and will make his ninth straight start. In four career games against the Flyers he's 2-2-0 with a 1.28 GAA, .957 save percentage and two shutouts. 

Here are the projected lineups:

OILERS

Nail Yakupov - Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle

Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Zack Kassian

Patrick Maroon - Mark Letestu - Lauri Korpikoski

Matt Hendricks - Anton Lander - Adam Cracknell  

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne

Adam Pardy - Brandon Davidson

Darnell Nurse - Adam Clendening

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

Injured: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand), Eric Gryba (undisclosed), Oscar Klefbom (undisclosed), Andrew Ference (hip)

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Iiro Pakarinen, Benoit Pouliot, Nikita Nikitin

FLYERS

Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Michael Raffl - Sean Couturier - Sam Gagner

Scott Laughton - Nick Cousins - Matt Read

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Andrew MacDonald - Shayne Gostisbehere

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Evgeny Medvedev - Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth

Steve Mason

Injured: Jakub Voracek (lower body), Jordan Weal (upper body), Michael Del Zotto (wrist)

Scratched: R.J. Umberger, Brandon Manning

Status report: Oilers coach Todd McLellan said Maroon, who will make his Oilers debut, will start with Letestu and Korpikoski but won't necessarily remain there. "I just want to see Patrick Maroon play," he said. "... We just want him to feel comfortable. Will he move up? Will he move down? Of course he will because we're trying to adapt and adjust to a bunch of new players. Let's let him get his feet wet, let's let him get comfortable and then we'll worry about where he fits." ... Hakstol would not comment on his lineup but Umberger and Manning were two of the final healthy players off the ice after the morning skate. ... Gostisbehere said what's stood out to him most about McDavid is his speed, and said he'll adjust the way he plays defense to combat it. "He comes with so much speed down the wall, I see a lot of [defensemen] try to skate backwards and get the crossovers going," he said. "I don't think that's [successful]. If I see him coming that fast down the wing I'm not going to try to match it backward because it's pretty much impossible with how fast he is. I'll probably just turn around and go forward. It's something you have to adjust to. He's different but he's probably one of the fastest players in the League so you have to adjust to it."

Who's hot: McDavid has seven goals and 19 points in 15 games since his return. ... Schenn has seven goals and 13 points in his past 10 games.

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