By Harry Allison
The Flyers came limping home from a west coast trip with only a victory over the Cup holding L. A. Kings to show for it.
So tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center – who are just ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division standings – gives them a fresh start.
They need one because they are 9-13-5, and 1-3-0 at home since opening at 5-1-2 at the Wells Fargo Center and are growing desperate to find some footing, no matter where it happens.
“Guys have to understand the importance of putting together a streak where you can actually start making up ground,” goaltender Steve Mason told the team’s official website. “You can’t take two steps forward and then two steps back. It won’t get you anywhere.”
They at least earned a point in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Columbus as Brayden Schenn scored twice. Claude Giroux added an assist and knows it’ll take more than what the Flyers showed against the Blue Jackets to combat a sustained stretch of struggles that’s left them 2-8-3 since Nov. 14.
“We have to find a way to get those extra points,” said Giroux, who has four points in his last three games against the Devils. “Good teams find a way to win those kinds of games.”
It’s difficult to lump Mason into the most recent struggles despite having one win in his last seven starts. He’s posted a .922 save percentage in that stretch, though he’s 0-5-0 with a 3.64 goals-against average in his career against New Jersey.
The Devils have dominated the series in Philly with four straight wins there after opening the season series with a 6-4 road victory on Oct. 9.
Including the postseason, New Jersey is 6-0-1 in Philly since May 1, 2012, and has limited the Flyers to eight non-shootout goals.
It’ll likely be on Cory Schneider to continue that run after the Devils’ top goaltender ceded responsibilities for Keith Kinkaid’s first NHL start in Tuesday’s 3-2 home shootout loss to Chicago.
New Jersey failed in its bid to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 11-14, which is something Philly hasn’t done since stringing three together from Nov. 4-8.
Like Mason, Schneider has often done his job with a 2.22 GAA in a 3-6-1 stretch since those consecutive victories. He was in goal for the win in Philadelphia two months ago and made 35 saves.
Schneider has consistently been part of a strong penalty kill with the Devils thwarting 44 of 49 (89.0 percent) power plays in the last 14 games. The Flyers, however, has scored in five straight games with the man advantage (5 for 14).
“Our PK has been pretty good since the first 15-game mark or so when we had that disastrous start,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “Since then it’s been pretty good, and your goalie is always your best penalty killer.”
The Devils could be without forwards Mike Cammalleri (lower body) and Dainius Zubrus (leg laceration). Zubrus missed the Chicago game, while Cammalleri has been sidelined for two. In the first meeting this season, Cammalleri scored twice and Zubrus added one. Wayne Simmonds had two goals and an assist for the Flyers.
New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson has missed four games and remains out with the mumps, while center Travis Zajac also had the mumps but will play after missing six games.
Vincent Lecavalier has been a healthy scratch for four straight games for the Flyers, who have been unable to find a team interested in the 34-year-old on the trade market.