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Philly's flying

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Flyers rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has had a huge impact on his team, much as Dylan Larkin has had with the Wings. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT -- The Red Wings have been playing well but so have the Philadelphia Flyers, making Wednesday night's game the biggest regular-season game in recent memory.

In their last 19 games, the Flyers have gone 13-4-2, going from five points out of the playoffs to the second wild card spot.

They have leapfrogged the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, the Boston Bruins and the Wings in that span.

"They've played with a lot of confidence over the last two months, they've earned that through their play," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Claude Giroux's one of the better players in the world, has been for a long time. He's got the whole forward group, I think, playing real well. They're playing with a good pack mentality, they look after each other and they seem to have their roles real defined and I think Steve Mason's been real good in net. Both goalies, well Mason obviously lately has been really good in net so it's been a good combination for them."

Mike Green knows the Flyers well from his days with the Washington Capitals.

"Going back to my first year in the league we played them in the playoffs, and then there’s always been sort of an understanding of the way they play," Green said. "I think if you don’t play them a lot it can catch you off-guard. They’re a very intense team that forechecks extremely hard and can cause confusion. If you can sort of address that and know what to expect I think you can overcome that intensity that they bring."

The Flyers are a physical team. According to sportingcharts.com, the Flyers average 27.2 hits per game, fifth in the league. Only the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Senators and Anaheim Ducks have more.

Defenseman Radko Gudas leads that category with 292. Forward Ryan White has 198, Wayne Simmonds has 188 and Brayden Schenn has 180.

For the Wings, Justin Abdelkader leads the team with 201.

"We got to skate, get the tempo as high as we can and stick to our game plan, how we want to play," Abdelkader said. "Obviously they're going to try to be physical, they're a physical, forechecking team so we got to stick to our principles and how we're successful."

Gustav Nyquist said the Wings have to hold onto the puck.

"They have some dangerous players that can make you pay for turnovers as well," Nyquist said. "We just have to keep the same focus here and not turn the puck over. I think that’s been the biggest problem in games that we lost, turning the pucks over in the neutral zone and having teams come on top of us that way. We’ll just have to make sure we get the pucks deep and try and get on their D."

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol expects a different game than the one the Wings lost 4-3 in Philadelphia on March 15.

"We came out, I think we had 20-some shots on goal in the first period, we gave up 20 in the third period," Hakstol said. "There's going to be ups and downs to this hockey game like there is any other. There's a lot on the line. Both teams I'm sure will be ready to play at their top level. Obviously our concern is going out and being ready to play a good road game, play our game and do it with consistency through 60 minutes."

ROOKIE SENSATIONS: One of the biggest boosts that the Flyers have gotten is from rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who made his season debut Nov. 14 at Carolina.

Gostisbehere made his NHL debut on Oct. 25, 2014 against the Wings.

In 60 games, Gostisbehere has 16 goals, 27 assists and is plus-6.

"Gostisbehere's been great," Blashill said. "That shouldn't be a surprise. I obviously follow college hockey, I knew Gostisbehere was going to be a real good player. I couldn't predict this necessarily, but some of that comes with opportunity."

Gostisbehere won the NCAA championship with Union College, was named Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player and was a Hobey Baker finalist.

"You always have your goals, your dreams, per se," Gostisbehere said. "I mean, I wanted to be the best player I could be but more importantly, do whatever I could to help my team. Everything that's happened this year, I've taken in stride and my teammates, especially the coaches as well, have really helped me along in staying humble, staying grounded."

The Wings have gotten a special season out of their own rookie, Dylan Larkin, who has 23 goals and 22 assists in 77 games.

Larkin has been impressed with Gostisbehere.

"He’s a great player," Larkin said. "Their power play is one of the best in the league because of him. He’s a great skater, he moves the puck well. I think he’s very smart. We’ve got to be aware when he’s on the ice."

Similarly, Gostisbehere appreciates what Larkin has done so far this season.

"He’s a tremendous skater," Gostisbehere said. "He’s got great offensive ability but he’s also a great defensive guy. He’s reliable. He’s a great two-way player and he’s contributed to his team very well and it’s fun to see."

With Edmonton's Connor McDavid, Chicago's Artemi Panarin, Buffalo's Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Arizona's Max Domi and Anthony Duclair among others, it's been a great crop of rookies.

"I watch them all the time," Larkin said. "You follow up on how they’re doing. I was telling someone a few nights ago when Chicago were playing Boston that was the first time I was rooting for Panarin. He was on fire. It’s exciting to see all the rookies and how well they’re doing. It was pretty cool seeing Noah score that goal. I know him pretty well. I’m sure he was pumped to play in his hometown and score. I think it’s awesome to see how they’re doing."

Gostisbehere has also paid attention to his fellow rookies and the success they've had.

"It's a combination of things," Gostisbehere said. "I feel like it's a good dynamic with your team, the veterans are so good with especially me, I don't know about the other guys, but just the way they handle us and give us the confidence to go out there and play and make us realize we're NHL players and we're here to play. It's a lot of fun and it's definitely cool to see all the rookies contributing to their teams very well."

Gostisbehere was born in Florida and started playing hockey because his older sister was a figure skater so he was always at the rink. Plus his grandfather is from Montreal.

He was the 78th overall pick, chosen in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

With his accomplishments and impact on the Flyers, Gostisbehere has entered the Calder Trophy conversation.

"It's definitely pretty cool," Gostisbehere said. "It's a tremendous honor just to be associated with the award itself. It means a lot and I really can't thank my teammates and the coaching staff and all my family and support system (enough)."

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