Flyers confident heading into tough back-to-back
The Flyers believe if they continue to play the way they did Tuesday night, they're going to win most of their games.
Despite an overtime loss to the Islanders on Tuesday, the Flyers were dominant. So the theme coming out of their locker room was this: If we continue play this way, we're going to win a majority of our games.
The problem is, now they embark on a two-game road trip against powerful opponents, facing defensively sound St. Louis (16-8-4) on Thursday and high-scoring Dallas (21-5-2) on Friday.
"It's not an easy back-to-back we're going into here," said winger Brayden Schenn after Wednesday's optional practice in Voorhees. "St. Louis is always a tough building to play in. They play hard there, they play physical, they play fast. And then following that is Dallas. We travel and play a very good Dallas team that is scoring a lot of goals."
Dallas has the league's best record and is averaging an NHL-leading 3.50 goals per game.
"It's a huge challenge for us," Schenn said. "We feel we're playing some good hockey of late, and we feel we could have earned the two points very easily [Tuesday]."
The Flyers outshot the Islanders, 46-26, and had an 89-51 domination in shots attempted. They also held Isles star John Tavares without a shot.
"We deserved better," coach Dave Hakstol said. "We played a good hockey game."
Thanks to a 4-1-1 run, the Flyers (11-11-6) entered Wednesday just three points out of a playoff spot.
"I don't think we ever thought we were out of it," Schenn said.
Radko Gudas, the team's most physical defenseman, has finished a three-game league suspension for an illegal hit on Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad and is expected to return to the lineup Thursday.
"It's been a while, so I'm looking forward to it," said Gudas, who has continued to participate in practice and has had extra sessions with assistants Ian Laperriere and Gord Murphy to stay in shape.
Gudas said he will still play physically, "but keep my elbows a little lower. The league didn't have a problem with anything else, so there's no reason why I should change it."
Hakstol wouldn't reveal his lineup for Thursday. He praised Andrew MacDonald's play in his return to the NHL on Tuesday.
"I thought he had a real solid game," Hakstol said. "He quietly defended well and moved the puck real well."
MacDonald, who had three blocked shots and an "even" plus-minus rating in the game, is the most likely defenseman to be replaced by Gudas.
Breakaways. The Flyers lost in 1-0 shootouts in each of their last two visits to St. Louis. The respective losing goalies in those games, Ray Emery and Steve Mason, had shutouts. . . . Mason's goals-against average (2.25 to 2.93) is significantly higher than last season's, and his save percentage has dropped from .928 to .905. . . . In honor of Chris Pronger going into the Hall of Fame, bobbleheads of the former defenseman will be given to fans Thursday. . . . Forward Sam Gagner, who has been sidelined the last seven games because of a concussion, will make the road tip and can play if called upon. He has been cleared to play. . . . Defenseman Mark Streit had his third practice with the team since undergoing pubic-plate surgery and said his goal is to return to action when the Flyers start a West Coast trip in Anaheim on Dec. 27.