PHILADELPHIA — Only five teams in NHL history have ever followed a winless streak of 10 or more games with five consecutive wins. The Philadelphia Flyers, who became the latest team to achieve the feat Thursday night with a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, might be heartened to know that the other four teams reached the playoffs in the same season.
In fact, the 1966-67 Toronto Maple Leafs went on to win the Stanley Cup.
On Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers (13-11-7) will try to make it six in a row when the Dallas Stars (18-14-1) make their only visit. The Stars are coming off Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their third stop of a four-game road trip that ends in Philadelphia.
The Flyers’ five-game win streak began with coach Dave Hakstol re-arranging all four forward lines and employing a safer 1-2-2 forecheck. The results have been impressive. During their winning streak, the Flyers have outscored opponents 7-1 in the third period. Thursday night’s win over the Sabres was just their third by one goal all season (3-4-7).
“It’s all about confidence,” said Flyers right winger Jakub Voracek, who was dropped to a second line with center Valtteri Filppula and right winger Michael Raffl. “Two or three weeks ago when we went into the third period, we would lose that game. Now it’s about making sure those loose pucks get out of the zone and don’t make any dumb decisions.”
The Flyers are also playing more disciplined with their sticks. They’ve given opponents no more than two power-play opportunities in each of their last five games.
“That’s something we had struggled with in that 10-game (losing) stretch,” said Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott (11-6-6, 2.68 GAA, .913 save percentage), who is expected to get his seventh straight start. “We’ve done a good job with checking with our feet and not our sticks, and that’s the (reason) we’re not taking as many penalties.”
The Stars lost three straight games before heading on their four-game road trip and opened the trip with wins over the Rangers and Islanders. They have been riding the goaltending tandem of veterans Ben Bishop, 31, and Kari Lehtonen, 34, this season. Lehtonen played against the Devils Friday night, so Bishop (13-9-0, 2.75, .909) is expected to get the start against the Flyers.
After a short stint in Los Angeles last season, Bishop signed a six-year, $29.4 million contract with the Stars over the summer and is poised to replace Lehtonen as the Stars’ No. 1 netminder. Lehtonen’s contract expires after this season.
“We’re in a very unique situation in that we have two starters,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock told the Dallas Morning News. “We have two guys who know how to start, they know how to carry the ball, they know how to manage their body clocks, and it’s very effective for us. We’re in good shape.”
Martin Hanzal scored his second goal and Alexander Radulov scored his 11th goal in the Stars’ loss to the Devils.
Antoine Roussel, who missed the previous two games with an elbow injury, returned to the lineup in New Jersey.
The Stars fell to 7-3-1 against the Eastern Conference, including 4-2-0 against the Metropolitan Division.
The Stars went 1-for-3 on the power play against the Devils and are now 2-for-38 on the power play over their past 13 games.
Hitchcock began his NHL coaching career in Philadelphia as an assistant under Paul Holmgren in 1988.