Laviolette revamps Flyers' lines in hopes of improvement


Laviolette revamps Flyers' lines in hopes of improvement

NEWARK, N.J. -- Two games into the season, Scott Hartnell squarely put tonights game against the Devils in perspective after two Flyer losses to open the year.

We cant makes excuses anymore, Hartnell said. Were in a little bit of a hole right now to start the season and special teams have to step up tonight.

A Game 3 must-win? Division opponent? Absolutely. These games early. Two points are two points whether Game 3 or Game 40. I think we have to change our attitude like this is a game to get us in the playoffs.

We're looking for a little bit of a spark. It's not like we werent getting chances, but I think switching things up will get everyone a fresh start.

Coach Peter Laviolette completely revamped his lineup, changing all four lines.

I think when you find success, you tend to leave things alone, and when youre not getting the success you want, you change, Laviolette said.

Even offensively, 5-on-5, it needs to be a little better. Were at the early stages; we didnt have any exhibition games, so were trying to look at lines and combinations and see where were at.

Jakub Voracek will replace Brayden Schenn on the top line with Hartnell and centerman Claude Giroux.

Sean Couturier is between Ruslan Fedotenko and Matt Read. Rookie Scott Laughton centers Max Talbot and Eric Wellwood.

Schenn will center rookie call-up Tye McGinn, who he played with exclusively this season with the Phantoms, and Wayne Simmonds. McGinn is replacing the injured Zac Rinaldo (see story).

The big move is Voracek on the first line.

I think theyre two totally different players, Hartnell said. Brayden's a big body who can skate well, protects the puck well. Nothing against Brayden, but I think Jake's got a little bit more speed, especially down the wing.

I think that'll open up some free space for G to get some time with the puck to make plays.

Voracek predicted recently that whatever lines the Flyers began the season with would likely change.

Obviously, I'm going to play with one of the best players in the league, Voracek said. It's exciting. G holds the puck most of the time. He carries it through the neutral zone, so I just try to get some speed wide. We'll see how it's going to go.

The Devils ran the Flyers out of the second round of the playoffs in five games last spring. Dont think that hasnt been on the Flyers minds.

You always think about prior games in a building when you go into an away building, Hartnell said. They really took it to us.

They didn't give us anything in that series. I don't know if you call this game payback, or however you want to word it, but definitely that's gotta be a burr under our butts to play well.

The rookie
Its not often a call-up finds instant familiarity, but it works with McGinn because he played so many games with Schenn.

Weve played almost half a season together and I know what he likes to do out there and hopefully he knows what I like to do and we can contribute to each other out there, McGinn said. Its a bonus for me.

I was just hoping to get the call one day. I was ecstatic to get a call this early.
You never want to see an injury from anybody but to get the call, I was happy. I just tried to do what I can do.

I try to be a power forward. A big body out there going to the net. Bring a big presence out there. Hopefully, score a couple goals and do what I have to do to help the team win.

This will be his NHL debut. McGinn is the younger brother of former Flyer Jamie McGinn, now with Colorado.

Laviolette acknowledged familiarity helps both Schenn and McGinn in putting them on the same line.

I know he and Brayden played down in the minors together and they are comfortable with each other, he said.

I think when players get called up, you need to try to put them into positions where their role fits them. Hes a guy whos a big power forward; hes capable of offense and physical play, and we want to try to put him in a situation where we can utilize him.

Schenn said the adjustment to McGinn should be easy.

Hes a second year pro and hes going to get a chance to play in the NHL so Im excited for him and Im sure he will do well, Schenn said.

We played probably 28 games together. It took a while to get adjusted but after that, you get familiar with a guy and know what hes going to do on the ice and where he is going to be. For me and him playing down there, its going to help us.

Defensive change
Newly-acquired defenseman Kurtis Foster will not play tonight.

That mean Bruno Gervais will make his Flyer debut, playing alongside Andrej Meszaros.

Foster has some minor bruises and could play, if necessary, but the club felt his situation offered them a chance to play Gervais and see what he brings.

Gervais was a free-agent signing this past summer.

It's been a long wait, a couple extra months, so finally I'll get back in action and I'll be fun, Gervais said.

I want to get in the mix as fast I can. I have to be ready, and tonight I have an opportunity.

General manager Paul Holmgren called Gervais absence a maintenance day.

Loose pucks
Danny Briere skated but is not expected to play until this weekend against either Florida or Tampa Bay. ... Briere skated with healthy scratches Tommy Sestito and Jody Shelley at the morning skate.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at

Steve Mason, Flyers hope to channel emotion in opener

Steve Mason, Flyers hope to channel emotion in opener

Fiftieth anniversary home opener. Electricity in the stands. And a stirring tribute to the late Ed Snider, the founding father of the franchise.

All of that is on tap Thursday night for the Flyers as they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the Wells Fargo Center.

Steve Mason, who didn’t get the start in Los Angeles for the season opener, gets the nod in the even larger home curtain lift.

“It’s a special night for everybody who is involved with it,” the Flyers’ goalie said. “This organization is rich in history, largely because of Mr. Snider. 

“It will be nice to see him get the respect he most definitely deserves beforehand. It will be an honor to be part of it.”

Fans attending the game will have lighted bracelets hanging off their seats for the on-ice tribute to Snider. His family will be there, as well.

When the Flyers offered a bracelet tribute to Snider last April in their playoff home opener (Game 3) against Washington, fans threw the bracelets on the ice during a 6-1 blowout loss.

“It’s up to us to give them reasons to keep them on their wrists,” Mason said. “They’re cool introduction shows and you hope everyone is respectful.”

Some of the Flyers said they need to channel the emotion of the evening toward getting off to a better start in the game. The Flyers had poor starts in their recent three-game road trip out west.

“Most guys are pretty excited, it’s going to be a full house and there’s nothing like opening at home,” said Nick Cousins, who is back in the lineup (Roman Lyubimov is out). “I’m looking forward to it. There will be a lot of emotion in the building. 

“Mr. Snider was the heart and soul of the Flyers. Very passionate about the hockey team. Like I said, there’s going to be a lot of emotion in the building. Hopefully, we can get this win for him. The boys are looking forward to it.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he addressed his club briefly today about channeling their energy off the Snider ceremony into something positive without being consumed by it.

“We discussed it a little bit in a quick team meeting,” Hakstol said. “And really, there’s nothing more to be said. Take that emotion, take that energy and direct in the right way into our game. 

“Sometimes, that’s easier said than done, but our group is veteran enough in here that we will be able to do that.”

On Cousins
Hakstol said he didn’t want to leave Cousins sit “too long.” 

Cousins said the explanation for his benching in Chicago wasn’t punitive and that Hakstol explained to him he wanted to get Lyubimov his first taste of NHL play.

“I really like what Lubey did in his role the other night,” Hakstol said. “I thought he took a step forward. But tonight we got Cuz back in there and the things he brings to the table are important to us.”

Provorov bounce-back
Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov was minus-5 in the 7-4 loss at Chicago. He was responsible, in part, for three goals.

“It happens to the best of us,” Provorov said, sounding like a veteran. “The best players in the world make mistakes. If nobody made mistakes, the game would end 0-0. 

“The thing that separates the better players from average players is they limit those kind of nights. It happens to all of us. You learn from it and move on.” 

Flyers-Ducks 5 things: An extra-meaningful home opener

Flyers-Ducks 5 things: An extra-meaningful home opener

Flyers vs. Ducks
7 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6

The Wells Fargo Center will be filled with emotion Thursday night.

It marks the beginning of the Flyers’ home schedule for the organization’s first season without iconic founder Ed Snider, who died in April. The team is planning a special pregame tribute to commemorate the man who birthed the franchise in 1966.

Building blocks Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov will make their regular-season home debuts as 19-year-olds, another significant shift for the franchise.

And hockey returns to South Philadelphia.

The Flyers (1-1-1) welcome the Anaheim Ducks (0-3-1) for their 2016-17 home opener.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Schenn returns
With Brayden Schenn’s return from a three-game suspension, the Flyers now see a full arsenal at the head of their lineup, making for a top six head coach Dave Hakstol and the front office likely envisioned when the decision came to keep Konecny.

Schenn will rejoin Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on the Flyers’ first line, followed by the fast-starting second unit of Konecny, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, which has produced 10 points over the opening three games.

"Obviously Brayden coming back is going to be big for us," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday. "He's a physical presence, he scores goals, he's good on the power play. So I think Brayden [will make] a big impact, too, so it's nice to get your lines in how Hak foresees them.”

The 25-year-old forward, with a new four-year deal signed this offseason after a career year, is a huge component to the Flyers’ man advantage, on which he scored the team’s second-most goals (11) and tied for the second-most points (22).

Typically a player that heats up in January and February, Schenn is motivated beginning the season in position to replicate his 26-goal, 33-assist campaign in 2015-16.

"I think I continue to get more confident and get better every year,” Schenn said. “I think heading into this year, I start off with a great opportunity to play with great players throughout the start here and try to run with it. I feel confident, I feel good heading into Game 1 for me.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to try and beat my points from last year."

2. The rookie’s response
That would be Provorov, who endured his first game to forget as an NHLer in the Flyers’ 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks on Tuesday.

The blueliner committed a few mistakes, highlighted by a costly blunder, en route to a game-worst minus-5 rating.

Provorov has spoiled fans thus far with his precociousness. For once, he actually looked 19.

It’ll be interesting to see how he answers in a hyped-up environment such as the home opener. The Flyers are not worried, nor should they be.

"Even though there were a couple of mistakes and a couple of things that didn't go right, he just kept playing,” Hakstol said. “He kept trying to make a difference in the game. I think that shows his overall mentality and his care of the team. Those are things that kind of tell you where his maturity level is at."

3. Not-so mighty Ducks
Anaheim is off to a lousy start.

Winless through four contests, the Ducks are 29th among the NHL in both goals per game (1.75) and goal differential (minus-5).

Interestingly, Anaheim was handed a five-game road trip to start the season. The Ducks also started slow in 2015-16, going 1-7-2 over their first 10 games. However, they finished with an overall goal differential of plus-26 and a playoff berth.

They also went 21-15-5 on the road and boasted the league’s No. 1 power play and penalty kill.

The absences of forward Rickard Rakell (abdomen) and defenseman Hampus Lindholm (contract holdout) have not helped.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ll say Schenn — who’s “chomping at the bit,” according to Hakstol — makes a dent in his first game. Over his past four season debuts, Schenn has two goals and one assist.

Ducks: Skilled center Ryan Getzlaf is a tough matchup with his 6-foot-4 frame. He also owns five goals and 10 assists in 12 career games against the Flyers.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason will start in net for the Flyers after relief duty in Tuesday’s loss. He’s 5-9-2 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in 17 games lifetime against the Ducks.

• Anaheim goalie John Gibson is 0-2-1 with a 3.07 goals-against average to start the season. He’s faced the Flyers only once in his career, beating them, 4-2, on Dec. 27 of last season with 24 saves.

• Nick Cousins is back in the lineup for Roman Lyubimov. The forwards were swapped on Tuesday as Cousins was scratched and Lyubimov made his NHL debut.

Michael Raffl is out 10 to 14 days with an upper-body injury. Schenn essentially fills his spot in the lineup.

• The Flyers have lost three of their last four home openers.

• Konecny leads all NHL rookies in assists with four.