Pressure Is on Flyers Sophomores Read, Schenn, and Couturier

Pressure Is on Flyers Sophomores Read, Schenn, and Couturier

One of the major storylines for the Flyers entering this
season was that one or multiple of the club’s second-year players could enjoy a
breakout year. So far, Matt Read, Brayden Schenn, and Sean Couturier have had
relatively quiet campaigns, at least as far as the scoreboard is concerned.

In Read’s case, that might seem like a bit of a stretch considering
he leads the team in points with seven, but only because he started picking up
his scoring over the weekend, earning three of his four assists in their past
two tilts. The three goals on his stat sheet all came in the same night however
– a hat trick against the beat-up, last-place Florida Panthers.

After leading Flyers rookies and finishing fourth in the
clubhouse with 24 tallies a season ago, it’s relatively disappointing to see Read
shut out in eight of nine games up to this point. He’s had some opportunities
and is playing generally sound hockey, so maybe it’s only a matter of time
until Read beats down the door. He’s still only knocking on it for now.

Schenn is another who padded his totals with a goal and a
helper over the weekend, giving the fifth-overall pick of the ’09 draft a
whopping four points on the season. Considering he began the season on the top
line alongside Claude Giroux, there was some expectation he could have a fast

The notion that Schenn might find some early success was
propped up in part by the fact that he continues to lead the Adirondack Phantoms
in scoring this season – he’s been gone for almost a month already. Schenn
stood among the AHL leaders during his time in the minors as well, with exactly
one point per game off of 13 goals and 20 assists.

Schenn is doing some damage with his hitting at least, where
he’s second on the Flyers behind brother Luke with 24. Philadelphia still ranks
near the bottom in goals per game though – locked in a four-way tie for 22nd
with a 2.33 average – so a little scoring touch is what they could really use
right now.

Schenn’s running partner at Adirondack, Couturier, has been
the worst off of the bunch statistically speaking. Cooter posted 10 goals and
18 helpers in 31 games in the AHL, and is coming off an impressive rookie year
in the NHL with 13 and 14, but he’s been sporadic thus far in ’13 with four
points off of two and two.

The 20 year old may technically be on a scoring pace that
would exceed the one he set last season, which sounds like improvement, but he’s
also a -4 this year and has been invisible at times. Couturier hasn’t been
hitting or blocking many shots, either, and it’s not like Philly’s 24th ranked
penalty killing unit has been dominant when he’s on the ice or anything.

We think Couturier will figure it out, and he’s already looking
better over the last two games, and good things will probably happen for Read and
Schenn the way they’ve skated. At the moment however, there is a ton riding on
one or all three of these guys to step up and fill some big holes.

The Flyers let a lot of scoring ability walk in the offseason
when Jaromir Jagr joined the Dallas Stars through free agency, and with Scott
Hartnell’s lengthy absence from the lineup due to a foot injury, there is
suddenly a lot of pressure on these young players to perform. If this squad is
going to find a solution to their scoring woes over the next month, one of these kids
might need to get hot.

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No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."