Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux has no doubt about why his team is struggling lately. The Flyers are 2-4-1 in their last seven NHL games and have been outscored 17-10 in those games.
In today's tight-checking NHL, such a gap can be considered a canyon and Philadelphia will try to improve its offensive game Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
"We have to find a way to produce (goals)," said Giroux referring to his line and the team after practice Saturday.
"If we knew (the cause of the struggles) we would have fixed it four of five games ago," Giroux. "We're getting a lot of shots on the net."
The Flyers' scoring troubles are reflected in Giroux's own output. He has only two goals in his last 23 games.
"I'm getting five shots every game, so I'm doing something right," Giroux said.
On the road, though, things have not gone right for the Flyers. They are 2-10-2 in their last 14 games outside of Philadelphia. They have gone 0-6-2 in their past eight games in Western Canada.
"We've been playing good defensively," said Giroux. "We weren't good up in Edmonton (in a one-sided 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday), but the last six or seven games before, defensively, we were very strong."
The Flyers will attempt to boost their production while making a forced change to their second line. Journeyman winger Dale Weise, who has played sparingly of late, will replace injured rookie Jordan Weal (upper body) alongside top scorer Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier on Philadelphia's second line.
"I?m glad to be back in the lineup," Weise said. "You never want to be out of the lineup. It's frustrating. I'm just trying to do my work here in practice and trying to be ready when I can, and I think this is a pretty good opportunity to come in and play with two good players, so I'm looking forward to it."
Weal, a 24-year-old North Vancouver native, had stood out in only three games since being called up from the minors and there is little doubt that he would have played Sunday if he were healthy.
Weise, a former Canuck, will get a chance to show his value after being a healthy scratch in the past two games and seven of the last 12 overall.
"It's probably the most difficult season I've ever had," said Weise, 28. "I've never been scratched this much in my life. A couple games in a row, I've never been through that before."
He is grateful for the fresh start and aims to improve on a modest two goals and three assists in 46 appearances this season.
"I'm just really hoping to get in and just find a way to contribute and get a couple bounces and score a number of goals," Weise said.
He has only one point in his last 29 games and has not scored since Nov. 23.
"He's got a great opportunity to go in and to step in and to help our team," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said.
The Flyers are battling to stay in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Canucks will try to improve their playoff hopes in the West while facing the possibility of considerable fatigue.
Sunday will be the second of back-to-back home games for the Canucks following a difficult six-game U.S. road trip.
"We have a challenge coming in," said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, whose club beat Calgary 2-1 in overtime Saturday night. "They're a fresh team."
Sunday's game will be Vancouver's third in four nights but Alex Burrows isn't fretting about the quick turnaround.
"That's the NHL. That's the NHL schedule," Burrows said. "You have a World Cup at the beginning of the year and a bye week, too, so it's a compressed schedule, and there's nothing we can do. We moved across the U.S. there for a two-week period. It was a lot of travelling, but we just come back, try to make sure (we're) energised and put in our best effort."
The Canucks faced the Flames and Burrows is confident that they can excel against the Flyers.
"I don't think (the second game in two nights) will be that much harder," he said. "Sometimes you feel better when you play back-to-back because you're still in game mode. The other team has been off for a few days, so they're not as sharp or as crisp as they want to be. Sometimes, that's an advantage, especially early on. And, if you can get the lead early, it's always tough for a team to come back."
The Canucks and Flyers rarely face each other. They will meet for the second and last time this season, but captain Henrik Sedin still feels they know enough about the Flyers, who posted a 5-4 shootout victory Jan. 12 in Philadelphia.
Teams are scouted so well," Sedin said. "When we came into the league, there (were) no videos. Now, you spend an hour looking at the (penalty kill), power play, five-on-five. There's not a whole lot of secrets out there."