Flyers Notes: Rinaldo out at least seven days

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Flyers Notes: Rinaldo out at least seven days

BUFFALO Most times, when Zac Rinaldo hits a guy, the opponent goes down hard.

Sunday, Rinaldo slammed into Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr in the first period and Rinaldo went down.

Then he hobbled off the ice, not to return with an ugly skate cut above the right knee that required 20 stitches.

Its hockey, it happens, Rinaldo said. I never caught a skate like that. Its the second time I ever had stitches in my entire life.

General manager Paul Holmgren said the laceration will keep Rinaldo out a minimum of seven days.

I went over top of Regehr and the way we collided was funny and I guess his skate was still in the air when my leg was there, Rinaldo said.

It was a weird feeling. I looked at my pad, and the sock was cut. It was like an X-acto knife cut it. I saw that and I was pissed off it happened.

Rinaldo had two hits in his 2:47 of ice time. His teammates had a combined 10 hits the remainder of the game. Thats nine hits for him in less than 12 minutes played through two games.

A fight
Linesman Steve Miller stepped between Luke Schenn and Marcus Foligno in the first period as they the dropped gloves. Both got roughing minors.

Miller had less success doing that in the second period when Scott Hartnell and Drew Stafford squared off. Hartnell got in the better punch and won the bout, although he fell to the ice first.

It was definitely the right thing for Stafford to do, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. Yeah, you can send a message in a game that were here to play. They like to bump, they like to grind, they like to get in your face, talk a little bit. So remind them your there, its good.

Hipster
Ex-Flyer good guy Ville Leinos right hip is ailing him, which is why he was scratched for the game. He will require offseason surgery, but plans to rehab and get through this season with medical treatment. Leino had surgery on his left hip as a Flyer and feels he probably should have had double hip surgery at the time.

Faceoffs
Heres a leftover from the season the opener: Sidney Crosby won 5 of 6 draws against Sean Couturier and 7 of 12 against Claude Giroux.

In all, Crosby had the games best faceoff percentage of 65 percent, winning 13 of 20 against the Flyers. Pittsburgh won 56 percent of the draws, overall.

Against Buffalo, the Flyers fared better, yet still lost 54 percent of their faceoffs. Sean Couturier is struggling early and won just 8 of 19 (42 percent) on Sunday.

Both nights we were under 50 percent and I dont think its right to talk about one guy, coach Peter Laviolette said. We can all be a little bit better in that area.

And sometimes, thats not just the centerman but the wingers helping out, and making sure the puck goes backwards and not forward. We gotta lot of work to do.

Ruslan Fedotenko is also taking draws in Danny Brieres absence (left wrist injury) given Fedotenko's veteran experience, but he won only 38 percent (3 of 8) against the Sabres.

Loose pucks
The Flyers are 0-2 for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when they lost their first two games of the season to the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. Both were home games This is the second year in a row that Claude Giroux has scored in each of the first two games. A year ago, Giroux scored in each of the Flyers first three games Wayne Simmonds, who is playing very well with nothing to show for it, led the Flyers with five shots on goal. Two others were blocked Buffalos Steve Ott scored on his first shot. The last Sabre to score on his first shot in his first game as a Sabre was Leino in the season opener against Anaheim on Oct. 7, 2011 Thomas Vaneks five points were a career-high. Teammate Jason Pominville (three assists) has 27 points in 27 games against the Flyers.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with NHL leader

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with NHL leader

Flyers (12-10-3) vs. Blackhawks (16-6-3)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Behind captain Claude Giroux's two goals and overtime heroics Thursday, the Flyers enter Saturday's matinee with the Chicago Blackhawks on their longest win streak of the season.

That and more as we get ready for the afternoon showdown at the Wells Fargo Center.

1. Three's company
With their 3-2 OT win over the Senators, the Flyers have now won three (3!) games in a row for the second time this season, a sign the ship might be turning in the right direction.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol applauded his team's 61-minute effort afterward. Comparing it to Tuesday's win over Boston in which Steve Mason single-handedly stole two points from the Bruins, Hakstol said the Ottawa game was a "real, good, consistent effort" throughout the lineup, which the Flyers will have to mimic again Saturday in order to beat Chicago.

On Friday, Hakstol rewarded the Flyers with an optional practice. Brandon Manning, who has missed the last two games because of a possible concussion, returned to practice Friday and was cleared to play. If Manning returns Saturday, Andrew MacDonald seems like the likely candidate to come out.

Manning's return would be welcomed for the Flyers. The 26-year-old has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's been aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his play is not deserving of a healthy scratch. But with no morning skate and limited player availability Friday, Manning's status for the Blackhawks' game remains unknown.

2. Power hour
For the Flyers to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday, they will have to do so not only with a sound, defensive game but also on special teams.

If there is one area Chicago has struggled this season, it has been the penalty kill. At 70.1 percent, the Blackhawks have the league's worst PK unit, and have a middle-of-the-road power play despite all of their offensive firepower.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have the league's third-best power play at 23.6 percent, and their penalty-kill units have improved lately, getting up to 80 percent. The Flyers have two PP goals in their last 19 opportunities.

Still, Chicago's power play is dangerous despite its recent struggles. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19, and went 0 for 4 on Thursday against the Devils.

3. Corey's crease
The Blackhawks also enter Saturday hot, winning three of their last four games; however, they have gone to overtime in their last three games. Chicago has had issues with slow starts in games recently, and the Devils' game Thursday was another example of that.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but easily could have had a larger lead had it not been for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who's been excellent this season. Crawford faced 13 shots in the opening period Thursday and kept the 'Hawks in the game, as he has all season long. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL with 35 points, and Crawford is a major reason for that.

Crawford has a 2.27 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this season. He's pitched two shutouts and has faced 33 or more shots in his last four games. Scoring on Crawford has not been easy for opponents this season, but the Flyers do average 3.1 goals, third in the NHL.

UPDATE (11:20 a.m.): Crawford is sick and will not be available to start or back up today against the Flyers. Scott Darling will start for Chicago.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's stick with Giroux. The 28-year-old snapped a nine-game goal drought Tuesday with power-play goal, and then added two more Thursday — one at 5-on-5 and one in the 3-on-3 overtime. Giroux's play at even strength has been scrutinized, but his point production remains potent. Giroux has a four-game point streak — three goals, two assists — and has 22 points in 25 games this season. He also got engaged Thursday in Ottawa.

Blackhawks: So many players to watch, but let's highlight the ageless Marian Hossa. The 37-year-old continues to be an effective player even as he grows older. Now in his 18th NHL season, Hossa leads Chicago with 12 goals, including the game-winner in overtime against New Jersey Thursday. Hossa tallied his 500th career goal against the Flyers back on Oct. 18, and has 15 goals in 48 career games against the orange and black. He still has it.

5. This and that
• Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out for Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury, per CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. Toews hasn't played since Nov. 23.

• Mason, Saturday's projected starter, is 7-12-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .890 save percentage in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. After a disaster start to the season, Mason has a 2.22 GAA and .912 save percentage over his last nine games.

• Chicago has five players with seven or more goals, and five players with double-digit assists.

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

Flyers' trip to Ottawa brings back 'fond memories' for Travis Konecny

OTTAWA, Ontario — Exactly one year ago, Dec. 1, 2015, Travis Konecny was a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.

He had just learned that he had been invited to the Team Canada selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championship and he was at the Canadian Tire Centre spending time with future Flyers teammates during the morning skate as they prepared for a game that night against the Ottawa Senators.

Fast forward one year to today, Dec. 1, 2016, and Konecny is back at the CTC, this time to face the Senators alongside his current Flyers teammates as a key part of the team’s offense.

Quite a step forward in just one calendar year for a kid not named Crosby or McDavid.

“It’s crazy how fast it happened and I’m definitely humbled I was given the opportunity. They believed enough in me to make the jump this year and it definitely hits me every day that I get the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said Konecny, who has scored four times and added nine assists through the first 25 games of his NHL career. He has also added a team-leading 33 penalty minutes and that goes a long way in explaining the type of game he plays.

“I don’t know what happened. I’ve never been like that before," Konecny said before the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win Thursday (see game story). "When you’re playing in the NHL, some guys will run over you all game if they can so I think part of these penalties I’m taking is me just having to step up and I’m just setting an example of sticking up for my teammates."

It wasn’t until his second game in the league that he took his first penalty, but he was on the score sheet before that having collected two assists in his debut Oct. 14 in a 4-2 win over the Kings in Los Angeles.

His first goal came Oct. 25 in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The key for his success in making the jump from junior to the NHL is simple.

“Just keeping things simple," he said. "Learning in the NHL is about reading off mistakes. You can’t always make a play, you have to be smart and make sure you’re doing what’s right for the team and I think just keeping my game simple is what got me here." 

There is one main difference between the two levels, Konecny added.

“The speed, and I don’t necessarily mean just skating," he said. "Thinking wise and how fast plays happen. Guys like [Senators defenseman Erik] Karlsson, he’s thinking so fast and he knows his play two or three steps before the next guy does, so you just have to try and outthink guys and to me that’s been the biggest jump.”

Konecny is not foreign to the Senators’ home ice surface. He spent part of his time in junior playing there while the 67’s home arena was being renovated.

He had to leave several passes for friends and family for the game Tuesday night, his first as a pro in the city that was dazzled by his play in junior for 2½ seasons.

“It was a lot of fun and it brought back a lot of memories," Konecny said after going scoreless in 14:13 of ice time. "We didn’t play in front of as many fans as we did tonight but definitely a lot of games played here and a lot of fond memories.

“Even flying in [Wednesday] was something special and driving around the city looking at the roots where I was for three years.”