5 THINGS: Flyers vs. sabers

This is the third and final meeting of the season between the teams and the lone game in Buffalo. The Flyers are 0-2-0 against the Sabers this season.

On the afternoon of Jan. 22, the Flyers suffered a 6-3 road loss to the Sabers. The Flyers held a 2-1 lead in the first period on goals by Rasmus Ristolainen before the wheels fell off. Buffalo led, 4-2, by the end of the first period and then expanded the edge to 5-2 in the second period. Tage Thompson (three points), Jeff Skinner (three points) and Peyton Krebs notched two goals apiece for the Sabres, while Giroux scored twice for the Flyers. Three of the Sabers’ goals came on the power play.

This weekend, on Saturday night, the Flyers led 2-0 at the end of the first period but then got massively outplayed (including an 18-4 shot deficit and a 10-1 scoring chance differential) jn a disastrous second period. The Sabers struck for four goals in the middle stanza and went on to defeat the Flyers, 4-3. Joel Farabee (17th goal of the season), Owen TIppett (9th overall, 3rd as a Flyer) and Travis Konecny (14th) scored for the Flyers. Kyle Okposo (power play, 20th), Rasmus Dahlin (11th), Vinnie Hinostroza (12th) and Tage Thompson (power play, 34th) tallied for the Sabers.

The Flyers have lost four straight games in regulation. The Sabers have won two of their last three games. Here are five things to watch on Sunday:

1. Sandstrom vs. Tokarsky

On Saturday in Buffalo, Martin Jones stopped 25 of 29 shots in a losing cause for the Flyers. For the Sabers, 40-year-old Craig Anderson earned the win with 18 saves on 21 shots.

In the rematch on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers will tab Felix Sandström to make his third NHL of the season. Carter Hart remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. For Buffalo, former Lehigh Valley Phantoms netminder Dustin Tokarski (7-11-5, 3.27 GAA, .901 save percentage) is likely to get the start.

According to Yeo’s statements after practice on Friday, it is possible that one or both among Cam Atkinson (lower-body injury) and/or Cam York (lower-body injury) could return to the Flyers’ lineup for Sunday’s game after missing the last two games. Atkinson skated briefly on Friday, while York did not. Alternatively, the team may opt to wait until Atkinson and York can get back in a full practice before returning.

2.Avoiding Family Problems

What happened in Buffalo on Saturday has happened all too frequently to the Flyers throughout the 2021-22 season. The Flyers undoing was both in the underlying details and the resulting bottom line:

* Atrocious second period: No matter what happens during the first period, the Flyers have had a season-long tendency to get widely outplayed in the middle stanza. There have been a few games where they’ve flipped the script, but not many. After Saturday’s game the Flyers have been outscored in second periods by a combined 914 to 738 and outscored by a combined 94-66 margin.

* Special teams failures: The Sabers scored two power play goals and a 6-on-5 delayed penalty tally among their four goals on Saturday. The Flyers’ penalty kill dropped to 75.8 percent on the season (ranked 23rd in the 32-team league). Philadelphia went 0-for-4 on the power play including three consecutive power plays in the third period with a chance to tie the game. Already ranked last in the NHL, the Flyers’ power play dropped to 12.4 percent for the season.

* Points left on the table: Buffalo entered Saturday’s game with the lowest points percentage in the NHL when leading after two periods (17-4-6). There was ample opportunity for the Flyers, even after the second period debacle to overcome a one-goal deficit and at least get a point from the game. However, as has quite often been the case since the All-Star break in particular, games in which the Flyers are either tied or trailing by a single goal in the third period have rarely amounted to anything but losses. The Sabers are now 8-4-6 when leading after two periods. The Flyers dropped to 2-31-4 when trailing at the second intermission (they are 9-9-4 when tied after two periods).

3. Inside the Numbers

Saturday’s game marked the first time during the 2021-22 season in which the Sabers won a game in which they trailed by at least two goals at some point. The Flyers, meanwhile, have yet to win a game under that circumstance (which did not arise on Saturday).

The Sabers, as noted above, are far from automatic to win even when leading after two periods or when scoring the first goal of the game (21-13-5). The Flyers, however, have struggled all year to avoid downward spirals when they face adversity. Philly scored first and lost on Saturday but they’ve especially struggled this season when trailing first: 5-33-4.

Tweet from @billmeltzer: April 17: Flyers vs. SabersKey team stats pic.twitter.com/HF22QLlcIu

One positive from Saturday was that the Flyers got goals from the previously slumping Farabee and Konecny, while Tippett finished off his third goal since coming over from Florida in the Claude Giroux trade. Bobby Brink picked up his second NHL assist in his third game, as the Flyers opened the scoring.

4. Behind Enemy Lines: Buffalo Sabers

Tage Thompson’s power play goal in Saturday’s game gave him 19 points (11g, 8a) over his last 18 games. Kyle Okposo’s power play marker gave him 20 tallies on the season for the first time since 2015-16; his final season with the New York Islanders. Meanwhile, Victor Olofsson has 12 points (6g, 6a) in his last 11 games with four multi-point games in that span.

Jeff Skinner has recorded four points (2g, 2a) across the two games the Sabers have played against the Flyers this season. Overall, the resurgent forward has compiled 15 points (8g, 7a) across his last 15 games.

Playing in his third career NHL game, Sabers defenseman Owen Power logged 22:59 of ice time against the Flyers in Saturday’s match in Buffalo. Fellow young defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, the son of Flyers’ development coach Kjell, returned from an injury on Saturday to notch 22:45 of the time (including 4:00 of PK time) and three hits. Henri Jokiharju (22:08 TOI, 2:05 PP TOI, 4:05 SH TOI) was credited with seven shots on goal as well as an assist and two blocked shots. Dahlin, who had a running battle with Travis Konecny ​​in Saturday’s game, had a goal and an assist over his 22:33 TOI (4:22 PP TOI, 2:37 TOI).

By rolling two defense pairs as much as possible, Granato was able on Saturday to limit the exposure of the team’s third pair: Casey Fitzgerald (1a, 2 shots on goal, 1:09 SH TOI) skated 12:02 while Jacob Bryson skated 10 :54.

Talented 21-year-old forward Dylan Cozens has gone six games without a point. He nearly scored on against the Flyers on Saturday. Overall, the Sabers’ 2019 first-round pick has posted 13 goals and 36 points in 74 games played this season.

5. Players to Watch: Frost and Krebs

morgan frost is still having trouble converting scoring chances — either on the playmaking or shooting end — into points. After a run of about 10 straight strong games where the 22-year-old center played significantly better than the sporadic points would suggest, his most recent three games of his have been inconsistent. Some segments of games have been effective, other times he’s doing too much reaching for pucks and forcing plays.

On the positive side, in Saturday’s game, Frost did have a close-range scoring chance in the first period and set up Owen Tippett for a power play scoring opportunity in the third period on which Hinostroza prevent a potential game-tying goal with a vital shot block. Frost won seven of 13 faceoffs and was a traditional plus-one in the game but he wasn’t getting the consistent puck touches and faring as well in puck battles as he did in some previous recent games. This was particularly true in the teamwide struggle in the second period.

Acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights along with Alex Tuch in the Jack Eichel trade, Peyton Krebs generated a nicely executed power play assist in Saturday’s game but the 20-year-old center has posted seven goals and 20 points in 43 games with Buffalo. Over his last eight games, Krebs has two points (0g, 2a).

Sunday’s game aired onNBC SportsPhiladelphia.

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