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 returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

Flyers returning from World Cup enjoyed playoff-like atmosphere

VOORHEES, N.J. – It’s as if the season began right where it left off for the handful of Flyers players that participated in the World Cup of Hockey. 

Five months removed from their first round series with Washington, the group that played in the international tournament says it was nearly identical to the tempo they saw in the NHL playoffs.

“Our division was really tight so right from the get-go you couldn’t afford to lose a game,” said Sean Couturier, who suited up for North America. “It definitely felt like playoffs, and it definitely didn’t feel like September.”

Couturier was joined by his World Cup teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, along with Team Czech Republic’s Jake Voracek and Michael Neuvirth, in their return to Voorhees for their first practice with the Flyers on Monday. Team Canada’s Claude Giroux and the Team Europe duo of Mark Streit and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be competing in the finals this week.

While it may have been an early exit for the first wave of Flyers who reported back, the experience of playing in a tournament with that high of intensity has left them more confident than they’ve ever felt at this time of the year, particularly for Gostisbehere. 

The Calder Trophy runner-up underwent offseason hip surgery following his 46-point season. Having missed a season two years ago because of a torn ACL, Gostisbehere is thankful for how much the World Cup prepared him for his second year. He says he feels better now than he ever has in his career after picking up four assists in the tournament.

“You don’t play in those games in September normally so it was pretty cool to do,” Gostisbehere said. “I think the tournament was a good stepping stone for me and to branch off my injury and give yourself the confidence that you’re feeling good for the year.”

Like Couturier and Gostisbehere, Voracek said the World Cup gameplay mirrored that of the NHL postseason. 

“When I look at the season for the Flyers, it was the best thing that could have happened for me,” Voracek said. “The World Cup was high level… I’m six games in before training camp even starts.”

After what he calls a “good offseason” of training, Voracek saw this opportunity as almost a saving grace – a chance to regain form before embarking on his sixth season in Philadelphia. The winger had one goal and one assist in three games that “felt like I was playing in the playoffs.”

Had this tournament occurred in 2015, the mindset coming back may have been different. Dave Hakstol was coaching his first professional season and as evidenced by their record to start the year and the comments made throughout, things took a little longer than expected when it came to picking up the new coach’s system.

That process is behind the Flyers, and it makes missing the first weekend of camp and possibly the first week of preseason games an easier obstacle to overcome.

“It’s always better when you know the system and what Hak wants in you,” Voracek said. “It’s obviously going to get better and better.”

The best-of-three World Cup finals will begin on Tuesday with the third game (if needed) commencing on Saturday. If the teams go the full distance, the remaining three Flyers involved would likely not play their first preseason game until Oct. 6 if not Oct. 8, the final exhibition game. 

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

Pressure is on Flyers' fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde to fend off competition

VOORHEES, N.J. — Even before Flyers training camp opened, Ron Hextall talked about a plenitude of internal competition for jobs.
 
It’s all over the ice, too.
 
Who starts in goal: Steve Mason or Michal Neuvirth, who came on strong at the end of last season? 
 
Does Ivan Provorov win a spot on the roster? And if he does, who gets sent packing?
 
Between Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, who gets the lion's share of ice time? 
 
Can Travis Konecny or Roman Lyubimov force a veteran forward off the team?
 
Then there’s free-agent signee Boyd Gordon, a PK specialist who was second only to Claude Giroux in the league last season on winning defensive zone draws. More competition.
 
Well, one of the key battles in training camp for both roster space and minutes concerns how veteran fourth-liner Chris VandeVelde handles the competition from Lyubimov — the 24-year-old Russian who plays a heavy game and can handle special teams — and others.
 
VandeVelde saw a bit of an offensive drop-off last season with 14 points. Though just a point fewer than the year before, the bigger dip was going from nine goals to two.
 
With no real goal-scoring additions in the offseason, Hextall is expecting bigger outputs from returning players.
 
In VandeVelde’s case, two goals is something Lyubimov could easily match or exceed.
 
“You have to go out there and give it your all,” VandeVelde said. “Hopefully, work hard and kinda make an impression. There’s a lot of guys fighting for a fair amount of spots. It’s going to be interesting.
 
“I think I’ve felt pressure every year. Obviously, you want to make an impression and get noticed out there. Reassure [them] I can still do the job and add a few things to my offensive game.”
 
And his self-evaluation?
 
“I think I was solid,” he replied. “As a fourth line, we were very good at times. Individually, I can add a little more and chip in a little more.”
 
VandeVelde is not scheduled to play in either of Monday’s split-squad games in New Jersey or Brooklyn.
 
At stake here isn’t just his job on the fourth line but the penalty kill, as well. VandeVelde’s 2:17 shorthanded ice time per game was second only to linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (2:35) among the forwards.
 
The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Lyubimov has played on the penalty kill in the KHL, and Gordon is a PK specialist. What was VandeVelde’s edge is now something up for grabs, especially given both Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol have vowed there will be improvement on the PK, which ranked 14th last season after being among the bottom 10 much of the year.
 
Hakstol has said he intends to tweak the PK with some structural changes. That sounds like personnel changes and Gordon could be a guy on the fourth unit and will certainly be in the mix on the penalty kill.
 
How to make the kill better remains at large.
 
“We have to start a little more aggressively,” VandeVelde said. “Kinda like we finished last couple games there against Washington (in the playoffs). We kinda got burnt there 6-1 (in Game 3). We switched styles a little too late.”
 
The Flyers gave up five power play goals in Game 3 to the Caps.
 
VandeVelde admits his penalty kill experience gives him a bit of an edge going into camp.
 
“If I can bring that extra edge and solidify a role, that is huge,” he said.
 
VandeVelde returned to his home in Moorhead, Minn., over the summer to focus on his skating, hoping to get a more explosive start on the ice that he could utilize better during the penalty kill.
 
One thing seems certain: VandeVelde says there’s a greater comfort level for returning players as to what to expect from Hakstol. Also, whereas last year’s camp was one of implementing systems, this year’s camp is one of expanding on them.
 
“Everyone knows what to expect,” VandeVelde said. “So do all three coaches. They are going to tweak some things, whether it's penalty kill or power play or other systems. We’ll learn that. That is what preseason is for. All the players know what to expect and are ready to go.”
 
VandeVelde said he’s already been informed what the team expects from him this season. The competition could push him in that direction.
 
“I know what they want,” he said. “Obviously, I can do more offensively and want to chip in a little more as a fourth line and as an individual. Maybe just work on that.”