Berube talks Del Zotto, adjusting Flyers' defense


Berube talks Del Zotto, adjusting Flyers' defense

Training camp for the Flyers won’t open until mid-September, but already coach Craig Berube has some major readjusting to do with his blue line.

Tuesday’s shocker -- Kimmo Timonen is out indefinitely with multiple blood clots -- left the Flyers without their top defenseman on a blue line already a tad old and too slow.

By nightfall, general manager Ron Hextall had signed Michael Del Zotto to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million.

That kind of contract screams prove yourself again, and we’ll talk long term.

Yet it also set into motion what Berube must do moving forward more than a month before training camp opens in adjusting his defensive pairs.

“He has lots of skill, speed,” Berube said of the 24-year-old Del Zotto. “He gets up in the play offensively. [He] worked the power play before in New York. He has a lot of skill.”

Berube’s first order of business now is figuring out where Del Zotto fits.

Timonen spent nearly all last season -- and most of his Flyers career -- paired with Braydon Coburn.

Berube tried Coburn with Andrew MacDonald at Pittsburgh late in the season and was intrigued by what he saw. That could be a pair to start the season.

“MacDonald and Coburn played together some games last year and I really liked what I saw there as a shutdown pair,” Berube said.

“[Mark] Streit and [Nick] Grossmann played together for quite some time. We’ll see. Maybe with Luke Schenn. Just going into camp you’ve got to look at some combinations and see what looks good.”

So for starters, Berube seems inclined to use Del Zotto with Schenn. He wants a stay-at-home defenseman with a mobile player on every pair. Nick Schultz is the sixth man going into camp.

“I always like a puck mover with a stay-at-home guy, but there are always games when we put two big guys together,” Berube said.

The loss of Timonen can’t be downplayed. His play on the ice, his leadership in the dressing room, his work on the power play, etc. Even at age 39 with declining skills, the Flyers will miss Timonen.

“Definitely, I know what we will miss without Kimmo,” Berube said. “We’re obviously concerned with Kimmo’s health. That is always first and foremost. We wish a good recovery and see him get back on the ice. His health is first.

“I can’t sit there and worry about Kimmo not being on the ice. Just get better. He’s been a great Flyer, but the most important thing is his health and not hockey.”

Del Zotto is not in Timonen’s caliber. He was a rising, young star when he came into the NHL in 2009 with the Rangers. Since then, Del Zotto’s stock has dropped dramatically.

He played parts of five seasons on Broadway with 26 goals and 95 assists for 121 points in 292 games. His breakout year was 2011-12 with 10 goals and 41 points in 77 games, while earning a plus-20 rating.

Much like with the signing of goalie Steve Mason back in April 2013, the Flyers see this as a fresh beginning for Del Zotto with a chance to earn a better contract in the future.

“Absolutely,” Berube agreed.

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4

Associated Press

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4


Two bizarre goals less than two minutes apart ruined a special night for the Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
Martin Hanzal scored a tie-breaking goal simultaneously while teammate Jakob Chychrun was being pounded in a fight with Brayden Schenn during a 2-2 game.
Then, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov tackled Brad Richardson, who fell into goalie Steve Mason for a shorthanded goal that counted after review for interference.
That’s one way of losing as hockey game, 5-4.
Notable goals
Brandon Manning, who has been outstanding on both sides of the puck, tried an ill-advised clearing pass up the high slot and it was picked off by pinching defenseman Oliver Edkman-Larsson for a quick turnaround shot to make it a 2-0 lead.
Goalie report
A huge save on Anthony Duclair in the first period by Mason after a turnover from Andrew MacDonald. Mason didn’t look great on the fifth goal. Rushes to the net were a problem in front of him.
Power play
The Flyers scored three against Buffalo. In this one, they had five scattered shots over their first three power plays. That's not going to get it done. But they did get it done on their fifth power play with Schenn diving with his stick extended hit the ice as he tipped Shayne Gostisbehere’s point shot home to tie the game, 2-2. The Flyers were 2 for 8 on the power play.
Power-play points
Claude Giroux leads with six overall.
Penalty kill
There was no Boyd Gordon in this one to take PK draws. That went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Roman Lyubimov had a nice shorthanded move for a possible scoring chance but couldn’t complete it.
Big hit
You've got to like Sean Couturier upending Duclair during the opening minutes of play along the left boards. Duclair later had a fine assist on Jamie McGinn’s goal that gave the 'Yotes a 1-0 lead.
Ryan White had a goal that made it 5-3 late in the game.
Third line
The new third line with Nick Cousins centering Schenn and Dale Weise scored in the second period. All three picked up a point with Cousins banging home the Schenn rebound to make it a 2-1 game.
Chychrun lost to Schenn, who had sent Michael Stone to the boards hard with a legal shoulder check. Stone still assisted on Hanzal's goal that began the madness that saw Arizona get two quickies.
Injured: Forwards Scott Laughton (knee) and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull), defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee). Healthy: forward Gordon and defenseman Nick Schultz.
Up next
The Flyers will practice Friday at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., and host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Flyers Skate Update: Travis Konecny's climb reaches 1st line

Flyers Skate Update: Travis Konecny's climb reaches 1st line

A month ago, Travis Konecny was entering training camp with no job in hand. 
The plausibility of being sent back to the junior level for another year of development against fellow teenagers was real.
Tonight, he’s a top-line player with NHL All-Stars Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Talk about a growth spurt.
When the Flyers host the Arizona Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN), the 19-year-old winger and Voracek will join the Flyers’ captain on the team’s No. 1 line for a brand-new look to the 2016-17 season.
“They know all the drills, things like that, they’re definitely experienced,” Konecny said Thursday after morning skate. “I’m sitting here a little unsure what to do sometimes. It kind of helps me pick things up and they show me what to do.”
Konecny hasn’t needed too much guidance out of the chute. Among NHL rookies, he’s tied for the lead in assists with five. Last time out, he netted his first career goal to help spur the Flyers’ comeback from three goals down Tuesday night to beat the Sabres, 4-3, in a shootout. Konecny’s marker came in the third period, when Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, with his team trailing 3-0, first debuted the youngster alongside Voracek and Giroux in search of a jolt.
He clearly liked what he watched.
“We needed a spark so that’s why we were trying something a little bit different, a little bit new,” Hakstol said. “I liked that group.”
From the start, Hakstol has shown he’ll be fluid and experimental with his lineups, game by game. When things work, they are likely tried again. Konecny has produced, along with Sean Couturier and Voracek, on the Flyers’ previous second line. The trio has combined for seven goals, 11 assists and 18 points.
Despite the jump, Konecny’s approach stays the same.
“The first thing I thought of this morning when I saw I was on the line was don’t overthink it, don’t change what you’re doing,” he said. “Obviously I was put there because of the way I’ve been playing with my speed and things like that — it’s not to fill a skill role or something like that, it’s just to play hard. I’m not going to change anything in my game, I’m just going to try and help them and create space for them to make their moves.”
Couturier will center Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds on the second line.
Brayden Schenn will stay on the third line.
“Brayden’s five-on-five game is continuing to get back to where we all want it to be,” Hakstol said. “Just keep building with his game.
“You look at it as moving a guy up or a guy down — just trying to find the right fit.
“It’s about finding good combinations and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Captain’s own critic
Giroux leads the NHL with eight assists but is far from pleased.
He’s goalless through seven games and is not fond of his minus-5 rating.
“When you’re on the ice, you obviously want to be a plus player,” Giroux said. “Right now, that’s obviously not the case and one of the main reasons I’m not happy with my play right now.”
Giroux has experienced goal droughts before. He started the 2013-14 campaign without a goal through 15 games, but finished with arguably the second-best season of his career (see story)
He remembers.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Giroux said. “I was actually wondering when you guys were going to bring it up.”
For Giroux, though, it goes beyond statistics.
“I think the way I played defensively, it could be better,” he said. “Offensively, be a little more creative. Just need to relax a little bit more out there. When guys are relaxed, they’re more creative and enjoy the game a little bit more. I need to go back to having fun.”
He’s looking forward to the fun with his old buddy Voracek.
“It’s a zoo out there with him,” Giroux said with a laugh. “Jake’s playing well right now, he’s holding onto the puck, he’s beating guys one-on-one. You play with a guy like that, usually it’s going to help your game.”
What about the newbie?
“Explosive player, he creates plays and he competes,” Giroux said of Konecny. “He’s hard on himself and I like watching him play, so playing with him, it’s pretty fun, too.”
Weise staying true
Flyers winger Dale Weise returns from a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer last week.
Weise, a hard-working, checking-oriented forward, will continue to play his game.
“I’ve been suspended before,” he said. “Hopefully this is my last one but you never know. This doesn’t really change the way I play. You’ve got to go out there and be physical and finish checks — that’s just part of the game.”
Leier returned to Phantoms
Forward Taylor Leier on Thursday was loaned back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after being recalled to the Flyers for one game in which he was a healthy scratch.
Projected lineup
F: Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds

Brayden Schenn-Nick Cousins-Dale Weise

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning
Mark Streit-Radko Gudas

G: Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Forwards Scott Laughton (knee) and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee). 
All three skated Thursday morning and are progressing without set timetables for returns.

Scratches: Forward Boyd Gordon and defenseman Nick Schultz