Flyers beat Rangers, Wayne Simmonds beats on Brandon Mashinter (video)

Flyers beat Rangers, Wayne Simmonds beats on Brandon Mashinter (video)

No matter how bad the Flyers’ season is going, you’ll always take a scrappy win over the New York Rangers—even and especially when the Rangers aren’t very good either.

Orange & Black’s 2-1 victory over the Rags at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday was in many ways a throwback. The rivals brawled—a lot—and even though there was absolutely nothing on the line and both teams are bad at the moment, they played desperate like two teams with three wins between them should.

Make that four wins between them, and Philadelphia no longer has the fewest points in the NHL (sorry Buffalo). Matt Read and Braydon Coburn supplied the goals, while Steve Mason stopped 30 of 31 shots—is the 25-year-old, former-Calder-Trophy-winning goaltender the most underrated story in Philadelphia right now?

Huge win for the Flyers coming out of a week-long break, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to get people back on board. Fans always love to see some character and emotion though, and both of those features finally arrived in bulk when Wayne Simmonds went to town on Rangers forward Brandon Mashinter during the second period.

Mashinter essentially made the mistake of putting his hands on the wrong person, because that was about all it took to make Simmer pull the poor kid into his arena. After getting bullied for a few seconds, Mashinter finally decides to stand up for himself, the end result being one we bloggers know all too well (right Enrico?).

The fight is a classic in part because the officials don’t jump in too soon. Simmonds takes his time and even drops to a knee at one point, but he’s simply being a predator, patiently waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When he pounces, his victim has no chance.

Enjoy them while they last. Fighting won’t be a part of professional hockey forever.

Simmonds’ fight was definitely the highlight of the night, but the near-decapitation of Max Talbot less than two minutes later sucked a lot of that energy right out of the building. Journeyman winger Benoit Pouliot’s shove from behind sent Talbot staggering to the dressing room, and he might’ve been lucky to be moving at all after a face-first collision with the boards.

Amazingly, Talbot would actually return in the third period with his nose heavily bandaged. Maybe—and this might be a long shot—that kind of toughness is what the Flyers need right now. The Flyers talked about it a little bit after the game.

More than fights and tough guys, Philly needs wins right now, and they finally picked up one of those as well. Don’t completely discount what these extra-curricular activities can do for the attitude in the dressing room right now though. Beating the Rangers 2-1 may not be pretty, but efforts like these can occasionally turn a team's fortunes around.

>> Flyers come through in third to defeat Rangers [CSN]
>> BOX SCORE [NHL.com]

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."