Philadelphia Flyers

After embarrassment, Flyers welcome back Caps

apscotthartnell.jpg

After embarrassment, Flyers welcome back Caps

This is what you might call a “home-and-home” week for the Flyers.

They played the Capitals in Washington on Sunday -- losing 5-4 in a shootout -- and they host the Caps tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.

They next host Columbus on Thursday night, then travel to Ohio to face the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

“This is a huge week for us -- it’s as plain as day,” Scott Hartnell said. “These are division games. We let a team ahead of us get a couple points on us. It hurt [Sunday] night.

“I’m not going to lie. Everyone remembers the last game. We got embarrassed by these guys [Capitals] in our building [losing 7-0]. We have to be ready to play.

“You look at the next two games, we have Columbus, a team we haven’t played in a couple of years. Those are four points, as well. Christmas is coming up. We’ve got a big break and can’t take any shifts off for any games.”

Flyers coach Craig Berube has already talked to his team about a couple of things he would like to see Tuesday that he didn’t see on Sunday.

One of them is winning faceoffs. The Caps ate the Flyers for a matinee lunch, winning 58 percent of the draws Sunday.

You start with the puck, you start with a chance to go on offense. Otherwise, you’re chasing.

“The only area I would like to see different is a couple faceoffs and we talked about it before the game,” Berube said. “Not losing draws cleanly when [Alex] Ovechkin is out there. Our centermen did a good job on that, but we didn’t help out enough.”

In other words, the wingers have to be sharp off the draw to get the puck. The Caps try to get the draw immediately back to Ovechkin for one-timers in the offensive zone.

“Especially when Ovechkin is out there,” Berube said. “He lines up where they try to win the draw right to him. We’ve talked about not losing these draws clean. For the most part, we did that.

“Our wingers have to help out more and get in there. I’d like to see us win a few more faceoffs in the third period and start with the puck. Again, just makes some plays. Don’t just get it out. Make plays, get down on their end and kill time.”

And don’t blow a three-goal lead in the third period, too.

Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

flyers-islanders-patrick-pulock.jpg

Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

Flyers vs. Islanders
7 p.m. on TCN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

We'll have to wait another day to see if the Flyers truly plan on experimenting with Claude Giroux on the wing … if we ever see it at all in a game situation.

Giroux is not playing in tonight's split-squad game against the Islanders either in Allentown or Brooklyn. Tonight's rosters are heavy of players competing for spots.

Here are a few reasons to watch tonight:

• We'll get a look at the majority of the Flyers' defense tonight in Allentown as Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are suiting up.

Gostisbehere is a lock, and Manning is as close to a lock as you can get. He could still lose his NHL job, but it appears unlikely at this point.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Hagg and Morin came into training camp as the favorites, and they appear to have taken a stranglehold on their competition.

Many thought Sanheim would push for a job, along with Phil Myers, but neither Sanheim nor Myers have done enough in camp to make the team. Things can change, but they're behind.

What I'll be watching: Gostisbehere and Hagg will be paired together. This could be a pairing when the Flyers open their season in San Jose on Oct. 4.

• Nolan Patrick has yet to find the scoresheet in last week's rookie game and last Sunday, but the 19-year-old — his birthday was Tuesday — hasn't looked out of place.

Patrick's spot on the Flyers has yet to be secured. As in they haven't said he's on the team yet. But he's had a steady camp and looked too good to play with kids his age in the rookie game and didn't look misplaced in his first preseason game.

Tonight gives us another look at the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. For many, it will be their first glimpse at Patrick. I'd bet on him getting on the scoresheet tonight.

On Sunday, the Islanders sent out a largely veteran lineup filled with most of their star players. Patrick passed that test. Tonight in Allentown, it's a little less star-studded Isles team. Patrick will be playing with Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Michal Neuvirth will be in net tonight with Leland Irving backing him up, and with the Flyers banking a lot on Neuvirth this season, it'll be worth watching.

Neuvirth has never stayed healthy throughout his career. When he has, he's largely been a solid goalie. Last season was a different story. Neuvirth had the worst save percentage among qualified goalies, and he simply wasn't good.

The Flyers moved on from Steve Mason and signed Brian Elliott this summer. It's going to be a tandem with Neuvirth and Elliott, who isn't playing tonight in either Allentown or Brooklyn. How it works is a big question mark.

What you want to see from Neuvirth tonight is a steady performance. It's his first action of the year, so there will probably be rust. But you don't want to see too much rust, and you want to see him get steadier as the game goes on.

We don't know how much he'll play tonight, whether they'll split the game with Irving. But Neuvirth is definitely a player to watch tonight.

• Here are the rosters for tonight's split-squad game:

Comcast Spectacor adds Philadelphia to Overwatch League

usa-overwatch-league-esports.jpg
USA Today Images

Comcast Spectacor adds Philadelphia to Overwatch League

Comcast Spectacor is bringing an Overwatch League team to Philadelphia.

Making the move into the esports space from its sports management roots, Flyers owner, Comcast Spectacor, has bought into Blizzard Entertainment’s upcoming Overwatch League. 

“Comcast Spectacor is thrilled to play a central role in the Overwatch League’s inaugural season and energize the growing esports community in Philadelphia and beyond,” Dave Scott, president and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, said.  

Joining the budding esports league for a reported $20 million, the team will represent Philadelphia when the inaugural campaign begins a full season on Jan. 10, 2018. Comcast Spectacor and Philadelphia joins Team Envy and their investor, Hersh Interactive Group in Dallas and OpTic Gaming in Houston as the final three teams to join the 12 team league.

The investment is Comcast Spectacor’s first dive into esports, joining Robert Kraft (Boston), Jeff Wilpon (New York), Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Group (Los Angeles), Neil Leibman (Houston), Andy Miller (San Francisco) and more, as Overwatch League owners. Other locations featured in the league will include London, England, Seoul, South Korea and Shanghai, China.

“An esports franchise is a great addition to our portfolio of sports and entertainment assets," Scott said. "We believe that Overwatch League is uniquely positioned to succeed.” 

The investment into esports rivals the Sixers’ ownership group, which acquired esports teams, Team Dignitas and Team Apex, in 2016. Nearly identical to the Overwatch League setup, the Sixers bought into the NBA-run NBA 2K League, which is set to begin in its inaugural season in spring of 2018.

Similar to any of the five major U.S. sports leagues, Overwatch League will be powered by owners that will recruit, build and fund a roster of players to compete in a scheduled season. And like any expansion franchise, Comcast Spectacor will create a new team, including roster and brand.

What makes Overwatch League different from most esports competitions is its geo-based foundation. Most esports leagues and tournaments feature club teams, like Sixers-owned Team Dignitas, which are labeled more by country than city or state. With Overwatch League, Philadelphia will be represented by the Comcast Spectacor franchise and will face off against other cities.

But while Philadelphia will act as home to the team, the inaugural season will take place solely in Los Angeles at the newly minted Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, the converted Burbank Studios that formerly played host to the Tonight Show. Eventually, the players are expected to live and practice in their host city.

Overwatch is a popular multi-platform Blizzard Entertainment first-person shooter that surpassed the 30 million player milestone earlier this year. Matches pit six human players against six human players with an objective to attack and defend.