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Flyers hope Andrew MacDonald steadies slumping defense

The defenseman is expected to return to the Flyers lineup Monday in Pittsburgh. They won just three of 15 games while he was sidelined with a leg injury.

Andrew MacDonald (l3ft) is expected to return to the Flyers’ lineup Monday in Pittsburgh. The Flyers won just three of 15 games without MacDonald.
Andrew MacDonald (l3ft) is expected to return to the Flyers’ lineup Monday in Pittsburgh. The Flyers won just three of 15 games without MacDonald.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

The Flyers are hoping veteran Andrew MacDonald will steady a defense that has struggled recently.

MacDonald is expected to return to the lineup Monday in Pittsburgh after missing 15 games with a leg injury he suffered blocking a shot. The Flyers won just three of those 15 games (3-6-6).

The Flyers have lost seven straight and have allowed a total of 19 goals in their last four defeats. Radko Gudas, another veteran defenseman, has missed those four games because of a 10-game suspension.

MacDonald, 31, thinks the Flyers' defenders have gambled on the offensive end in recent games.

"You're trying to generate things and maybe you end up cheating a little bit and you give up more defensively," he said Sunday after  practice in Voorhees. "I think we just have to get back to sticking to our defensive plan and capitalizing on our chances."

At practice Sunday, MacDonald was back on the first pairing with Ivan Provorov. An alternate captain for road games, MacDonald said he felt ready to play.

"He's got a big role on this team — not only on the ice but off the ice," captain Claude Giroux said.  "He's a composed guy and makes the right play, and he's going to help our young D for sure."

MacDonald is one of the Flyers' best shot blockers, "and he makes that first pass [to exit the offensive zone] and does a lot of the little details that some people may not see," Giroux said. "But as teammates, we definitely see it."

MacDonald should also help the penalty kill, which has surrendered eight power-play goals over the last four games.

Provorov and MacDonald form the defense on the top penalty-killing unit.

"Mac and I understand each other, we read off each other," Provorov said. "He's in great position most of the time, and that's why he's able to get big blocks and [have] a good stick."

On Monday, the Flyers will try to avoid losing eight straight for the first time since February 2008. That team rebounded from that skid and reached the Eastern Conference finals.

"Little mistakes are haunting us and costing us big time," said Sean Couturier, who leads the Flyers with 13 goals.

"Having Mac back will definitely help us, but overall, I think we have to play better," Provorov said.

During their losing streak, the Flyers (8-9-6) have dropped four games in overtime (three) or a shootout (one). Coach Dave Hakstol hinted he will go back to using the trio of Giroux, Jake Voracek, and Shayne Gostisbehere in the three-on-three overtimes. He has not used them in the last two overtimes.

"You have to be communicating a lot," right winger Wayne Simmonds said about the overtimes. "I think that may be one of our downfalls. Sometimes, we don't talk a lot. We have a lot of younger guys, and communication is like having an extra guy out there on the ice sometimes. A lot more communication within this team will do us well."

Danick Martel, a speedy left winger who has played well in his first two NHL games, is excited to face Sidney Crosby and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (12-10-3). When Martel was with the Phantoms, he had several battles with bitter rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' AHL team.

"The guys hate each other," Martel said.


Based on practice, Jori Lehtera  and Dale Weise will replace Jordan Weal and Taylor Leier on the fourth line. … Samuel Morin is expected to be sent back to the Phantoms. … The Flyers' fathers are accompanying them on the trip to Pittsburgh. "It means a lot," said Couturier, whose father, Sylvain, played 33 NHL games. "They've been there since we were little, supporting us and carrying us around rinks." Said MacDonald: "It's pretty special for the dads to come in and see how it all works." … The 5-foot-8 Martel is listed at 162 pounds, but said he actually was 181 two weeks ago and lost six pounds from stress and is now 175.