Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

ducks-flyers-matchup2014.jpg

Flyers-Ducks: 5 things you need to know

Flyers vs. Ducks
7 p.m., CSN

The Flyers (0-2-1) will try for their first win of the season when they host the Anaheim Ducks (2-1-0) at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday evening.

The schedule is only going to get more difficult for the Flyers. After concluding their three-game homestand against the Ducks, the orange and black embark on a three-game road trip to Dallas, Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Here are five things to get you ready for Flyers-Ducks:

1. Bad luck for Lecavalier
Vinny Lecavalier was right where he needed to be during the Flyers’ first power play attempt in Saturday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. The veteran forward put himself in a good position to redirect a shot while screening Canadiens netminder Carey Price.

Unfortunately for Lecavalier, Mark Streit’s rocket from the point struck him in the left foot and will cost him some playing time. The Flyers announced Monday that Lecavalier will miss two weeks with what the team is calling a lower-body injury.

Lecavalier has suffered a handful of injuries since joining the Flyers. Last season, he missed three games in October with a lower-body injury, one game in November because of a facial injury and nine games in December with an ailing back. The 34-year-old was off to a strong start this season, posting a goal and two assists in the Flyers' first three games.

2. Movin' on up
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has done a superb job centering the Flyers’ fourth line. He’s a responsible two-way player and has proven to be one of the hardest working skaters on the ice night in and night out.

With Lecavalier sidelined, Bellemare now has an opportunity to play with more offensively-minded wingers in Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. The 29-year-old Frenchman instantly brings a new dynamic to the line. He’s much faster than Lecavalier and is a ferocious forechecker, which could lead to more scoring chances for his new linemates.

It was an interesting decision for Flyers coach Craig Berube to leave Schenn on the wing. Berube wants Schenn, who has jockeyed back and forth between center and wing the past few seasons, to adjust to life as a winger. Bellemare also appears to be a better option in the faceoff circle as he’s won over 61 percent of his draws this season.

Don’t be surprised if Bellemare picks up his first point as a Flyer against the Ducks. He could benefit from playing with the red-hot Simmonds, who has been playing some inspired hockey early on. The pair could also spark Schenn, who has picked up just one assist so far this season.

Blair Jones will make his regular season debut, barring a call-up. He turned heads during training camp, registering four assists and a plus-3 rating in four preseason games, but has been a healthy scratch the past three games. He’ll likely center Zac Rinaldo and Jason Akeson.

3. Quack attack
The Ducks boast a potent offense. They’ve collected 12 goals in three games and don’t show any signs of slowing down.

Anaheim relies heavily on superstars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The dynamic duo combined for 74 goals and 95 assists last season alone. To take some of the attention off their top line, the Ducks went out and acquired former Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler this past summer.

The move has paid off already. Kesler has collected two goals and three assists in his first three games in a Ducks uniform. To nobody’s surprise, Getzlaf and Perry also have five points apiece this season.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: How about the entire defense? It could be a long night for the defensive corps if they hang back and allow Anaheim to set up shop. The Flyers simply cannot afford to give the Ducks time and space with the puck. If they do, they’ll get embarrassed. The Flyers have been without Braydon Coburn, who is now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, and Nicklas Grossmann’s (stomach flu) status is questionable. Shutting down the Ducks will be no easy task. But if the Flyers can survive the night, it could serve as a major confidence booster for their suspect blueline.

Ducks: Since we already covered Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler, let’s go with rookie netminder John Gibson. Frederik Andersen has started the past two games for Anaheim, including Monday afternoon’s 5-1 drubbing of the Buffalo Sabres, so expect Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau to give Gibson the nod vs. the Flyers. Gibson has an impressive frame and developed a strong mental toughness at a young age. The 21-year-old should also be eager to get back between the pipes. He allowed six goals on 39 shots in a 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Anaheim’s season opener.

5. This and that
• The Flyers dropped both meetings against the Ducks in 2013-14. Matt Read had two goals and an assist in the season series.

• Anaheim outshot the Sabres 44-12 in Monday’s dominant victory in Buffalo. Rookie William Karlsson scored twice.

• Steve Mason is 0-3-0 with a 4.93 goals against average in his last four starts against the Ducks.

• The Ducks, who will conclude a four-game road trip, have won five of their past six games against the Flyers.

• The Flyers haven’t dropped their first four games since the 2008-09 season.

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

Forcing the Flyers' hand? Travis Sanheim's chances at roster spot grow in preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Is starting the season with three rookie defensemen asking too much?

Travis Sanheim might be making it possible.

“We got another good night of information," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday after a 3-2 overtime preseason loss to the Rangers (see observations). "Those two young guys (Sanheim and Robert Hagg) played pretty well — Sanheim had a real impact on the hockey game tonight. We’re going to let these guys make those decisions.”

If the brain trust of Hakstol and Ron Hextall was expecting two of their three rookie defensemen to separate themselves during the preseason test run, well that hasn’t quite happened, as the 21-year-old Sanheim has displayed an offensive element that would give the Flyers a much-needed weapon from the blue line. Sanheim’s NHL-caliber slap shot, coupled with his mobility and ability to read plays in the offensive zone have set him apart from fellow rookies Hagg and Sam Morin.

“I’m slowly starting to build my game, get a lot more confidence and get comfortable playing with the guys around me,” Sanheim said. "I’m getting more comfortable with the team, systems, and players around me. It’s been good so far. Obviously, we wanted a different outcome tonight, but I like where my game’s at.” 

If it wasn’t for Sanheim, the Flyers would have been shut out in each of their last two games, as he’s provided their only offense in overtime losses to the Bruins and Rangers. A week ago, it appeared all signs were pointing to Lehigh Valley and another year of AHL seasoning, but that’s when Hakstol noticed a change in Sanheim.

“I learned more about him five to six days ago,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t have a great night (preseason opener against Islanders). Sometimes you learn as much about a player and where he’s at coming off a night like that. It didn’t shake him. He came back and had a great practice the next day and he carried that into the next game. To me, that showed maturity on his part.”

Sanheim has continued to rise up the charts coming off a strong performance against the Islanders in Allentown, Pennsylvania, last Wednesday, and he’s rolled that over into the past two games, playing mostly with NHL regulars. What’s even more impressive is that Sanheim is having a tremendous offensive outburst despite seeing very little time on the team’s power play, as he logged just 36 seconds with the man advantage, a unit that came up empty once again and is now 0 for 14 over its last two games.

Still, captain Claude Giroux can’t see any reason why three rookie defensemen can’t make this team out of camp.

“You’ve seen them play. They can play,” Giroux said. “We have a lot of young D that are ready to play in the NHL, and they’re competing right now for a spot. For us, it’s fun to see because every day they’re doing stuff and it’s pretty amazing. It’s a long season — whoever’s hot, whoever’s playing good will have the opportunity to play.”

With Morin receiving his first night off from preseason action, Hakstol had Sanheim paired with Radko Gudas, while Hagg was working with Flyers top defenseman Ivan Provorov. Outside of a slow start and an unfortunate bounce on the Rangers' second goal, Hagg continued his steady play.

“I thought he didn’t have the cleanest start to a hockey game, but to his credit, he worked his way into the game,” Hakstol said. “The goal against — there’s a couple of things that happened before that that led to that play, but he had a hard-working night.”

You can be my wingman
Giroux’s much-anticipated left wing audition could be described as a good first night and worthy of a callback, whether that comes Tuesday night against the Rangers or Thursday against the Bruins.

Unofficially, the top line of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek saw 15 shifts together at even strength, and then chemistry appeared to grow as the game progressed.

“It was good," Giroux said. "As the game went on, I started to feel more comfortable. We had a lot of chances, just some mistakes that you don’t see during the season, like a 2-on-0 with Jake, usually our chemistry is better than that. As the game went on, our chemistry got better and we were able to find each other a little bit more."

Giroux and Voracek had a prime scoring opportunity in the opening period, but Giroux’s shot from the right side went just wide of the net. Combined, the Flyers' top line finished the night with a minus-2 rating and six shots while winning 67 percent of its faceoffs.

“Maybe there was a tendency to make one more pass instead of putting it on net and stopping at the net and looking for one of those greasy goals,” Hakstol said. “But overall, there’s some good things there. There were enough positives to see if it can grow.”

Nolan's night
The No. 2 pick continues to settle into his role as the Flyers' No. 2 center. Once again, Nolan Patrick centered a line that included Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds. Patrick’s defense has been a steady component of his game since camp began, and now the rookie is sprinkling in some offense. Patrick contributed the primary assist on Sanheim’s first goal, which came during 4-on-4 play in the first period.

“Those are the kind of things he can do,” Hakstol said. “That’s hockey sense. That’s knowing what’s around him and being a step ahead. He’s building. As the speed of the games go up, there’s always more to learn. I think over the last week, he’s done a little more offensively. Each and every night he’s impacted the game offensively in our last three games, and that’s been a real positive.”

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

Flyers-Rangers preseason observations: Travis Sanheim's push to make team heats up

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Dave Hakstol conducted some garden variety experimentation Monday night against the Rangers, by moving Claude Giroux to left wing for the first time in his Flyers career.

"It's definitely a change but you know I'm just trying to be in good position and make the right play," Giroux said. "Slowly, I'm feeling more comfortable."
 
The line combination of Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek failed to generate a point, but it was the play of rookie Travis Sanheim that took center stage off Broadway.

Sanheim notched a pair of goals, but the Flyers fell, 3-2, in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Ryan McDonagh scored the game-winner for New York in the 3-on-3 OT.

"It's really high right now," Sanheim said of his confidence. "Obviously, I don't want it to get too high. I just have to try and keep an even-keel here and finish up strong."

Sanheim has now scored the Flyers' last three goals of the preseason.

• For the fourth time in five preseason games, the Flyers went to overtime. The Rangers finished the job Monday, as the captain McDonagh collected his own rebound and pushed the puck past Michal Neuvirth for the game-winner with 1:09 remaining in OT.

• New York scored on its first shot on net, when Rick Nash deflected McDonagh's shot from the point to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 3:16 into the game.

• Sanheim tallied his first just 2:23 after the Rangers' first goal. The defenseman ripped a rocket past Henrik Lundqvist from the top of the left circle. It was his team-leading second of the preseason with assists from Jordan Weal and Nolan Patrick, who picked up his second assist in four preseason games.

• Sanheim added his second goal in the final moments of the second period, when he pinched behind the Rangers' defense and corralled Radko Gudas' shot from the point and backhanded it past Lundqvist with four seconds remaining in the period.

"I'm just trying to play my game,” Sanheim said. “All along I play that offensive side. I'm just trying to keep it simple defensively and trying to make smart plays and make good reads to get in the play and it's been working so far."

Sanheim has continued to make significant strides and show improvement throughout the preseason, and his offensive upside has to give Hakstol some serious consideration to how he wants his defense to look when the regular season begins (see story). There have been few lapses defensively since the preseason opener against the New York Islanders.

• The Rangers tied the game at 2-2 when Neuvirth knocked away Mika Zibanejad’s wrist shot with his blocker, but the rebound hit Robert Hagg, deflected off Neuvirth and just over the line for a goal.

• The Flyers' power play continues to work out the kinks. The team worked on the PP structure for the first time over the weekend. That unit is now 0 for 14 over the last two games. The Flyers finished Monday’s game 0 for 5.

• Scott Laughton continues to be a valuable asset on the Flyers' penalty kill. Laughton broke up several passes on the Rangers' early power play of the second period.  
  
• Gudas fell to the ice late in the first period and then appeared to be holding his hand in obvious pain. Gudas didn’t miss any time and made a pronounced statement in the third period when he unloaded an open-ice hit on Rangers center Filip Chytil. Mats Zuccarello rushed to Chytil’s defense, which resulted in a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a Flyers power play.

• The two teams will continue their preseason home-and-home series Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center as Brian Elliott is expected to play the entire game in net. Elliott turned aside all 18 shots in two periods of action last Thursday in Boston.

Lines, pairing and scratches:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Sam Morin, Taylor Leier, Mike Vecchione, Dale Weise, Oskar Lindblom