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 NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks, 1-0, in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).