Avoid the Links: Flyers should mix up line combos to find offensive spark

Avoid the Links: Flyers should mix up line combos to find offensive spark

Having scored just 10 goals in through five games and finding themselves down 3-2 to the New York Rangers in the teams’ first-round playoff series, it’s no secret that the Philadelphia Flyers need an offensive spark if they are to keep their season alive with a win in Game 6 tonight at Wells Fargo Center.

Despite that fact, you may have heard that Flyers head coach Craig Berube stuck with the same lines that he’s used over the past few games at this morning's practice and that those lines will likely be intact to start Game 6.

But don’t expect those lines to stay intact all night. In fact, expect them to change often, especially if the Flyers fall behind early again or come out flat.

As things stand, the Flyers’ lines look like this: Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn-Vinny Lecavalier-Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Jason Akeson and Michael Raffl-Adam Hall-Zac Rinaldo.

If the Flyers come out with another lackluster start tonight, the first move Berube should make is to tinker with the first line by bumping Hartnell down. That trio clearly has just not worked in this series as well as it did in the regular season and they need another dynamic threat alongside Giroux to really get his game going.

In this series, the trio has just two goals and both are by Voracek, the only Flyer forward who has shown any real fire or bite in his game. They also only have five assists. Compare that to the Rangers’ top line of Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Marty St. Louis that has four goals and 10 assists and you can see which team’s top line has had the advantage.

Berube has moved Schenn to Hartnell’s spot at times in this series but the spark still hadn’t been there with that move.

Who should take that spot then?

Lecavalier should be the first choice.

Say what you want about him, but Lecavalier still is an offensive threat that can open up space for Giroux and Voracek to go to work in the Rangers’ zone. He may not be as comfortable on the wing, but it’s do or die and it’s a lot easier to be comfortable playing with guys like Giroux and Voracek.

If Lecavalier doesn’t work out there, Raffl should be the second choice.

He has the offensive skill to make it work. Remember when Berube moved him to that spot earlier in the season? That was right around the time Giroux started his torrid point streak that inserted him into the MVP conversation. Let’s just say that wasn’t a coincidence.

Hartnell, who really hasn’t been effective at all in the series with just two assists, should be bumped down to the second-line or fourth-line wing.

The third line of Read-Couturier-Akeson shouldn’t be broken up. Just like the rest of the team, they haven’t set the world on fire offensively but you can’t devalue their defensive capabilities against the Rangers’ top offensive players.

One move Berube has already made that he can’t go back on is inserting Erik Gustafsson in for Hal Gill on the defensive side of the ledger.

The Rangers have proven to be the much faster team thus far in the series. Gill, the proverbial Game 5 scapegoat after he missed the net on a scoring chance and then fumbled the puck leading to a Rangers’ breakaway goal seconds later, didn’t do anything to help counter that speed.

Speed has never been the 39-year-old defenseman’s strong suit and certainly isn’t these days. Enter Gustafsson.

The 25-year-old Swede played 31 regular-season games and tallied two goals and eight assists in those 31 games.

But his insertion into the lineup isn’t about his offensive game. It’s about using his speed to match the speed of the Rangers’ forwards as much as possible. That aspect has been an immense struggle so far for the Flyers in this series and a big part of why they find their backs against the wall tonight.

Above all else, the Flyers need to come out strong at the start tonight with some grit and fire to their game, no matter the line combinations.

If they don’t and they allow the Rangers to grab the early momentum yet again, it could be a long night and summer, for that matter.

Mike McQueary calls his ban from Penn State facilities 'wrong'

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Mike McQueary calls his ban from Penn State facilities 'wrong'

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The former Penn State assistant football coach suing Penn State told jurors Friday he was angered when told he could not return to team facilities after being put on leave the week Jerry Sandusky was charged with child molestation.

Mike McQueary testified in the fifth day of trial in his lawsuit, where he's seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

School officials have testified that safety concerns prompted them to put McQueary on paid administrative leave in November 2011, and he never returned to the football program.

"They tell me, the guy who turned in a pedophile," to stay away from team facilities, he testified. "And they let him go around there for years after they knew about it not once but twice. That gets me. That does not make sense to me. It's wrong."

McQueary says he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001 and reported it to then-head coach Joe Paterno and two administrators. Another complaint was investigated in 1998 but produced no charges until authorities took a new look at the case starting in 2009.

His testimony helped convict Sandusky of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012, but he has not been able to find a job.

McQueary told jurors he got a sense his status with the program was in trouble in the days after Sandusky was charged with molestation and two high-ranking school officials were charged with perjury and failing to properly report suspected child abuse.

The only university official who offered him words of encouragement during that period was Paterno, he said. He recounted an exchange they had on the practice field shortly before the school's trustees fired Paterno.

He said the aging coach told McQueary he had not done anything wrong and warned him not to trust "Old Main" — the administration building.

"He specifically said, 'Make sure you have a lawyer. You're all right. You didn't do anything wrong.' He was very, the word I want to use is, unselfish, about all of it," McQueary said.

He also recounted seeing Sandusky with the boy in the shower in 2001, slamming his locker door shut and seeing that they had separated.

McQueary did not say anything, physically intervene or call police, but he did contact Paterno the next day.

"I think one of the concerns perhaps in the very first minute is, Who's going to believe me? Who is going to believe when I tell them that Jerry Sandusky was doing this?" McQueary testified. "I didn't know if my dad would believe me. I didn't know if anyone would believe me. And to his credit, Coach Paterno did believe me."

Coach mum on Giants' awareness of Josh Brown's abuse record

Coach mum on Giants' awareness of Josh Brown's abuse record

LONDON -- The New York Giants have yet to decide whether Josh Brown will stay on the team after admitting he abused his former wife, coach Ben McAdoo said Friday in a press conference that raised more questions about the franchise's knowledge of the kicker's off-field behavior.

McAdoo faced repeated questioning about Brown following the Giants' first practice in London for a game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

Brown did not travel to London and the team has yet to say if he will be suspended or cut following the release of county police records in which the player said he physically abused his wife, Molly, over a protracted period. She told police in the documents released by the King County Sheriff's Office in Washington state that the abuse and other threatening behavior stretched from 2009, when she was pregnant with their daughter, to the Pro Bowl in January 2016.

At the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Brown's wife said she called NFL security to move her and her three children to another hotel to avoid harassment from her estranged husband. She said he had pounded on their hotel door seeking to get in. The allegation is included in the final report filed last month by the local investigating detective, Robin Ostrum.

Brown's former wife did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.

A law firm representing the kicker declined comment.

When asked whether the Giants knew about Brown's behavior at the Pro Bowl, McAdoo repeatedly said the Giants were still gathering information on the 9-month-old event. Finally, he said: "I'm not going to answer that."

When a reporter asked McAdoo about his comments in August suggesting he would show no tolerance for players abusive of their family members, McAdoo said his comments then were more nuanced.

"When did I say zero tolerance?" he said, adding: "I do not support domestic violence, if that's what you're asking. I do not condone it."

McAdoo described Brown as a "man of faith" who was trying to improve his behavior and the Giants organization was supporting him in this. But when asked to explain how the Giants provided this or monitored his off-field behavior, McAdoo said he couldn't detail any specific acts of support.

The NFL's official policy is to suspend players guilty of domestic abuse for six games on their first offense. Brown was suspended for one game, the Giants' season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in punishment for his May 2015 arrest at his family home in Woodinville, Washington, on suspicion of assaulting his wife by grabbing one of her wrists as she tried to reach for a phone, leaving an abrasion and bruising. No charges were filed but the detective, Ostrum, gathered detailed statements from Molly Brown who also provided her husband's written admissions of abuse in diary and email entries.

The NFL said its investigators asked to see these records but were denied.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested in a BBC interview Friday that Brown could face further punishment now that league officials can see the full King County evidence file detailing Molly Brown's allegations of more than 20 episodes of abuse fueled by alcohol and other threatening behavior to herself, her two sons from a previous relationship and the couple's daughter.

"We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that's been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren't able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have," Goodell said in a transcript of the London interview provided by the BBC.

"We take this issue incredibly seriously. ... When it happens we're not going to tolerate it. So we have some new information here, we'll evaluate that in the context of our policy and we'll take it from there," Goodell said.

The Giants in April re-signed Brown to a two-year contract valued at $4 million. When facing his one-game suspension, Brown in August said he was divorced from his wife, although police documents released Wednesday suggested that civil proceedings remain incomplete.

The Giants have signed kicker Robbie Gould, an 11-year veteran of the Chicago Bears who was cut in September for salary cap reasons. The 34-year-old is expected to practice with the team Saturday.

"I've seen him (Gould) make a lot of kicks against me in the past. He's been successful, and we're hoping that continues," McAdoo said.