Flyers' defensemen confident despite criticism

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Flyers' defensemen confident despite criticism

VOORHEES, N.J. The Flyers defensemen know what youve been saying about them.

They know you think that, as a group, theyre weaker now than they were heading into last season. Theyre aware of your skepticism as to whether theyll be good enough to give goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov a chance.

But they see things differently.

I like it, Nick Grossmann said of the teams defense as a whole. We got a couple additions in Bruno Gervais and Luke Schenn, and I think it adds a lot of skill and size. I like our group. Theres a few guys who played together last year here, theres still the same core. And these guys, I think its a good addition. Im looking forward to playing with them.

Along with Schenn and Gervais, the Flyers most recently brought in veteran D-man Kurtis Foster to help bolster their blue line. All three are solid acquisitions, but none of them will be the next Chris Pronger or Matt Carle -- two players who were on the active roster entering last season.

You take out a Hall of Famer in Chris Pronger, and Matty Carles a good player, as well, Braydon Coburn said. But we put some good players back in the lineup with Kurtis Foster and Bruno and a young guy, Luke Schenn. I think that gives our defense a pretty solid three pairings.

Theyre three big pairings, as well. With their newest additions, the Flyers now have one of the leagues biggest defensive corps -- the eight blue-liners in camp average out to 6-foot-2 and 219 pounds each.

And lest you worry about their ability to move the puck and assist in coach Peter Laviolettes run-and-gun system, they believe theyre up to the task.

I think weve got pretty good mobility, Coburn said. Our team is an attack-oriented team. Were a team that moves, and weve got guys that can skate. Weve got a good combination of skating and size back there.

Its foolish to suggest the Flyers are better off having not brought in a top-tier defender last summer, but given the short 48-game season and six-day training camp, the teams defensemen do believe they have a leg up over other teams with vastly changed back ends.

Anytime you play with each other before, its going to help out, Grossmann said. You know each other, you know how to read off each other, everyone kind of knows the system. And then these two guys come in and it feels like youre able to play with them thats how you know theyre good guys. Im looking forward to playing here and see what they can bring to the table.

Of course, there are some issues. Andrej Meszaros is working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon, and isnt sure whether hell be ready to go for Saturdays season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Erik Gustafsson, whos shown talent at moving the puck and generating offense, has an ankle injury and isnt attending camp. Marc-Andre Bourdon, who had a breakout season in 2011-12, is suffering from post-concussion symptoms.

There's also a matter of uneven conditioning. Some players, like Kimmo Timonen, haven't played in a game since the Flyers were eliminated from the playoffs last April.

But all that aside, the Flyers' defensemen are a confident group. They've been all business at training camp. And theyve got a message for those who believe that they might not be good enough to help the team be a real contender.

We dont know that yet, do we? Timonen said. Well see how the season gets going. But we got some new guys, we got some young guys. Hopefully we can play good defense and help the forwards and help the goalies.

We have to wait and see.

E-mail Sarah Baicker at sbaicker@comcastsportsnet.com

Flyers reveal split squad rosters for Monday's preseason opener

Flyers reveal split squad rosters for Monday's preseason opener

The Flyers on Monday night kick off their preseason schedule, with split squad games against the Islanders in Brooklyn and New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.

And Monday night offers the first chance for prospects Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov to impress the Flyers' brass in game competition, as their quest to make the orange and black continues. Both Konecny and Provorov will be with the Flyers' split squad in New Jersey.

Carter Hart and Mark Dekanich will be the goalies with Konecny and Provorov in New Jersey, while Anthony Stolarz and Martin Ouellette will goaltend in Brooklyn.

Travis Sanheim and Sam Morin will be with the split squad team in Brooklyn, along with veteran defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

The Flyers' game in Brooklyn can be streamed on their official website, while the game in New Jersey will be aired on the radio at 97.5 The Fanatic.

Here are the full lineups for Monday's split-squad contest, via the Flyers.

Provorov, Schenn shine in Flyers' last scrimmage before preseason

Provorov, Schenn shine in Flyers' last scrimmage before preseason

VOORHEES, N.J. – Five games.

That’s what the Flyers are facing this coming week, which is why coach Dave Hakstol had his players involved in a full scrimmage Sunday morning at Flyers Skate Zone.

“I like it better than practicing,” Michael Raffl said. “A little more action. A little physical and it gets you in game shape. I enjoyed it.”

The Flyers have two split-squad games Monday – one in New Jersey against the Devils and other in Brookyln against the Islanders.

The scrimmage was uptempo. So much so, Raffl and defenseman Will O’Neill were involved in a dangerous collision in the left corner that could have been disastrous with both players getting up slowly, but uninjured on a puck chase.

“I don’t know, I was coming in hard,” Raffl said. “At first, I thought about playing the body and then I didn’t want to. So I was mixed in-between trying to slow down and there was a lot of contact as I fell into the boards. I felt fine afterwards.”

Raffl hit his neck awkwardly and was lucky to be uninjured. O’Neill took the hit.

“I went into the wall and knew he was coming and tried to be strong on my feet,” said O’Neill, a free agent signed over the summer. “Contact play in a bad area. Tough part of the ice.”

Hakstol held his breath there.

“It could have turned out differently,” he said. “It was kinda awkward play. You’re always happy to see him pop up and come out for another shift right after that.”

Raffl’s gray team won the scrimmage, 2-1, with rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov setting up a play that resulted in Brayden Schenn’s game-winning goal from Wayne Simmonds.

“Good tempo, competitiveness … kind of like the first few days where tempo and work levels were good,” Hakstol said of the scrimmage. “It tends to be a little scrambly in those first scrimmages.”

Jordan Weal centered the top line with Schenn on the left. Hakstol has Schenn on the left right now to get him used to playing there again. Once Claude Giroux returns from the World Cup of Hockey, the top line of Schenn-Giroux-Simmonds will be reunited.

“I made the play up there to Simmer and a nice pass by Provy to me and then Simmer back door to Schenn,” Weal said of the game-winning goal. “It felt good … I’ve played just one game in nine months.

“I’m just trying to get a feel for being on the right side of pucks. It’s not going to come in the first game.”

Weal was impressed with Provorov.

“He’s a really good player,” he said. “You can see it in his skating, his passing. He’s got a lot of confidence. He tore up the WHL and that’s a great league. It’s going to be exciting to see him moving forward.”

Hakstol rated Provorov as “solid and efficient” in the scrimmage.

Loose pucks
Steve Mason worked with Carter Hart in goal. Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz worked for the black team. Mason didn’t give up a goal. “We have eight exhibitions on the schedule and I will get into three or four of those,” Mason said. “By the time those wrap up, I’ll be where I want to be. Right now, I am feeling great which is a good start.” … Hakstol said Mason won’t play Monday. … Rookie forward Travis Konecny sat the scrimmage out (maintenance day). He said he was given a day off, but Konecny was receiving treatment by the medical staff Saturday. “I see the trainer every day, I’m fine,” he said. Konecny will be with the Flyers' split-squad team in New Jersey against the Devils on Monday. … Greg Carey had the other goal for the gray squad; Nicolas Aube-Kubel had the lone goal for the black squad. … The defense rotated for both teams. Provorov was with Philippe Myers much of the game. … Jakub Voracek practiced on his own. He won’t see action in the first three games and neither will Shayne Gostisbehere because of the World Cup, Hakstol said. … The scrimmage consisted of two, 25-minute periods with a running clock. Sounds like the Public League, no?