Hockey Came Back Yesterday, So How Long Will It Take for the Flyers to Be Short on Defensemen?

Hockey Came Back Yesterday, So How Long Will It Take for the Flyers to Be Short on Defensemen?

There are three certainties in life:

1) Death

2) Taxes

3) The Flyers will always be short on quality defensemen

Andrej Meszaros underwent surgery in early August to repair a torn right Achilles tendon. He injured himself while training in Slovakia and did so just weeks after getting over a back issue that allowed him to resume training.

The last time we heard anything about his status was in November, when he was skating with the team in player-organized workouts.

Well, according to Tim Panaccio, Meszaros might not be ready to go when the season gets underway (likely on Jan. 19):

“I don’t know,” Meszaros replied after a player scrimmage Monday. “It’s tough to say. I really didn’t have a full practice with everything. Or a scrimmage.
 
“The speed of the game … it’s a great tempo but it’s not – I have to try it. Once we start practicing, with the whole team and do scrimmages, then I can actually say whether I can. I can’t really tell right now.”

Erik Gustafsson, meanwhile, has a bone bruise in his foot, and Marc-Andre Bourdon is concussed.

So, who we working with?
Besides Meszaros, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman and Andreas Lilja are joined by newcomers Luke Schenn and Bruno Gervais. Then there's an assortment of guys with varying degrees of potential in Gustafsson, Bourdon, Brandon Manning and Danny Syvret — the first Flyer to ever officially score a goal outside.

Will they hold up?
Starting with Kimmo, Timonen's been the Flyers' best defenseman since he got here, other than Chris Pronger, who doesn't figure to ever see the ice again. But Timonen, 37, is getting older, and this condensed season is going to take its toll on everyone. The Flyers will obviously need to Timonen in the playoffs, meaning Peter Laviolette may want to take a page out of Gregg Popovich's book when it comes to managing his aging defenseman's minutes.

As for Grossmann, who signed a four-year extension with the Flyers early last April, he was a vital cog on a Flyers blue line that, prior to his arrival from Dallas, desperately needed size and grit. And over the latter part of the season, he was arguably their most important piece — when healthy. Grossmann battled knee injuries and was concussed following an Evgeni Malkin elbow to the head — there's a shocker — during last year's playoffs. Rather than undergo knee surgery, Grossmann opted for physical therapy in Sweden and is apparently OK.

The Flyers will need him to stay that way. They were a radically different team with and without his presence in the lineup and figure to be again this year.

And, of course, the three guys mentioned at the top are already injured.


Coby
While most will focus on Timonen and Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, much as he did last season, will need to quietly go about logging a bulk of the minutes on the back end. Coburn's play can be a little inconsistent at times, but his low moments are usually blown out proportion relative to his value. He averaged 22 minutes per night in the regular season last year and 27 minutes per game in the playoffs. Playing under a new contract, and with Timonen figuring to require maintenance time, Coburn and Grossmann are the likely candidates to lead the Flyers in TOI.

Brayden's brother
Luke Schenn brings additional depth, size and physicality, but Flyers and
Leafs traded two young guys with tons of potential for one another
because neither of the two has found a way in their early careers to
channel their talent into a consistent product on the ice.

A change of scenery will hopefully help, as the Flyers need someone other than Grossmann to clear the porch in front of Bryzgalov (just think back to some of Rangers games last year).

His contributions, if he can put his game together, could prove vital.

Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone
One other small note, internet commenters are obliged to hate him, but Matt Carle was severely undervalued in Philadelphia, his turnover issues were greatly exaggerated and, unless Erik Gustafsson is ready to take a big step forward, the Flyers will run into an all-too-familiar problem, albeit one they haven't had in a few years:

A distinct lack of puck-carrying defenseman who can skate the team out of its own zone.

--

The NHL doesn't even have an official agreement to resume play, so it's naturally time to start worrying about the Flyers' blue line.

It's good to be back.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).