Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers-Maple Leafs: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Maple Leafs: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (33-24-6) will try to stay hot when they clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs (33-23-8) on Saturday night.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Follow the leaders
If you’re trying to figure out why the Flyers have won three in a row and seven of their last eight, look no further than the team’s top two offensive threats.

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek didn’t get off to a great start this season, but the Flyers’ leading-scoring tandem from a season ago has carried the team as of late.

Giroux has nine goals and nine assists over his last 11 games and is now over a point-per-game pace this season. The Flyers’ captain leads the team in goals (23), assists (41) and points (64), and has been a dominant presence in the offensive zone, consistently winning puck battles and creating quality chances.

Voracek seems to be finding his scoring touch after a bit of a dry spell. After registering just one goal during a 12-game stretch, the 24-year-old has found the back of the net three times in his last two contests. What’s even more encouraging is Voracek is shooting the puck more. He tends to a have a pass-first mindset at times, which isn’t always a bad thing, but the Flyers need him to fire away. Voracek is a natural goal scorer. The only way to prove that is to get shots on net.

If the Flyers want to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, they’ll need Giroux and Voracek to continue to lead the way. They are 17-2-1 when Giroux scores and 10-2-2 when Voracek gets in the goal column.

2. Out for revenge
In the only previous meeting between these two clubs this season, the Maple Leafs walked out of Wells Fargo Center with a 3-1 win over the Flyers on Oct. 2.

Dave Bolland scored twice for the Leafs that night and Phil Kessel also beat Steve Mason, who made 22 saves in a losing effort. Brayden Schenn potted the Flyers’ lone marker on Jonathan Bernier, who turned aside 31 of 32 shots fired his way.

The Flyers will be searching for revenge north of the border. Toronto has taken three of its last four contests against the Flyers overall, but has lost six of seven to the orange and black on home ice.

The Leafs have also struggled on the man advantage as of late. They snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday, but failed to score a power-play goal for the seventh consecutive game.

That doesn’t mean the Flyers should take the Leafs lightly. Toronto is one of the NHL’s best teams on the PP, scoring on 21.0 percent of its chances. It’s also worth mentioning the Flyers allowed three goals while shorthanded in Wednesday’s 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals.

3. Catching up
Since the Flyers are playing the Leafs, the James van Riemsdyk-Luke Schenn trade is bound to come up at some point.

So how’s JVR doing up north? The Middletown, N.J. native has already hit career highs in goals (26) and assists (26) this season, and trails only Kessel for the team lead in points.

It’s hard to compare stats between forwards and defensemen, especially in this case. Everyone knows JVR has the ability to light the lamp, and Schenn is a physical, shutdown blueliner who will block shots and pile up hits.

Schenn has taken his lumps this season, but has rebounded as of late. He was paired with new Flyer Andrew MacDonald on Wednesday and had a strong game.

But nearly two seasons since the trade, it’s clear the Leafs have gotten more from van Riemsdyk than the Flyers have from Schenn. Let's leave it at that.

4. Injuries
Backup goalie Ray Emery remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. He hasn’t been able to play or practice since exiting the Flyers’ loss to the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 27. Emery did not travel with the team to Toronto, so Cal Heeter will continue to serve as Mason’s backup.

For Toronto, Bolland (ankle) is on injured reserve and remains out indefinitely. It’s been a difficult season for the first-year Maple Leaf. He’s been productive -- six goals and four assists -- but injuries have limited the centerman to just 15 games.

Enforcer Colton Orr, who has not played since Feb. 4 against the Florida Panthers, is questionable for Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury.

5. This and that
• The Flyers are 19-0-2 this season when scoring four or more goals.

• Kessel is averaging 1.09 points per game this season, which would be the highest by a Toronto player since Mats Sundin in 2005-06 (1.11).

• The Flyers have scored a power-play goal in 11 of their last 13 games.

• JVR has collected 44 goals and 84 points in 110 games since joining the Leafs.

• The Flyers are among the NHL’s best penalty-killing teams on the road at 15.5 percent.

Chris Pryor talks Nolan Patrick, Brian Elliott, young defense and more

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AP Images

Chris Pryor talks Nolan Patrick, Brian Elliott, young defense and more

Is it October yet?

Well, it's almost September, which means Flyers training camp is not far off in the distance. Last season, rookie camp opened Sept. 19, while big camp started Sept. 23. 

Dates for 2017-18 should be coming soon. While we wait in anticipation, Flyers assistant general manager and director of player personnel Chris Pryor joined the SiriusXM NHL Network on Wednesday night to discuss a variety of topics.

Here's what he had to say:

On winning No. 2 pick in lottery, drafting Nolan Patrick
"We thought it was a tremendous day in the organization's standpoint. We were very fortunate, very lucky, as we all know, to land that spot that we did. The kid as a player — we think highly of the kid. Obviously last year he had to battle through some injuries, but overall, he's a really good hockey player and we were happy to welcome him to the Philadelphia Flyers."

On addition of Brian Elliott, expectations for the goalie
"I think Brian just needs to be Brian. He's a quality goaltender, he's proved that year in and year out. He's just got to come in and do what he's done his whole career, and that's be a good, solid goaltender. We think he's capable of doing that. There's no reason why he's not going to bring that same quality and experience to us, and we're happy to have him."

On last season's 10-game winning streak, inconsistency
"You're going to have those 10-game streaks, a lot of things go your way, some bounces happen to go your way, just as if you go on a 10-game losing streak, there's a lot of things that don't go your way. We'd like to even that out. We think we've got a good hockey club, we had some ups and downs last year. We hope to rectify some of those [downs], some of our guys maybe didn't have the season they wanted. Coming in this year, everybody's expectations are to get back to form and make a push for the playoffs."

Why so much success on power play, not at even strength?
"The NHL is a pretty tough league. You can't take a night off, and I'm not saying any of our guys did. Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due to the opposition. Just one of those years. I think you're going to have some years where guys are going to maybe not play to their capabilities, or what they deem are their capabilities. We had a couple rough spots there and I think we rectified that. I think guys are really focused and determined to get back on track to where they were maybe a couple years ago, and I think you're going to see that this year."

On young defense, how many prospects make the jump?
"I think it's going to depend on the kid, first and foremost. Opportunities are going to present itself, guys are going to come to camp and fight for jobs, but we're excited with the young D that we have not only on the club now, but the few kids that we had in the American League last year that deem themselves ready to push for a spot, and it's going to be an exciting training camp to see how this plays out."

On Valtteri Filppula, his impact moving forward
"First and foremost, he's a quality, quality veteran player. He comes from a really good organization, he knows how to win, he knows what it takes to prepare yourself game in and game out. He plays the game the right way, which is 200 feet. His attention to detail, he's good for our younger players to look at and watch how he plays the game, and he's a good hockey player. He's a really good fit for us and we're happy to have him."

End to End: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

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USA Today Images

End to End: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Jaromir Jagr is still available … Flyers?

Boruk
It’s extremely rare for Philadelphia to have this endearing loyalty to any athlete following a one-year love affair, but from Day 1, Jagr connected with hockey fans on South Broad. He had the hair, the smile, the occasional salute, his tireless dedication to his craft, but there was more to it than that.

Understand one of the biggest reasons Jagr is so revered in Philadelphia was his decision to spurn the Penguins at the last minute to sign with the Flyers. He rejected old friend and former teammate Mario Lemieux so he could join their most heated rival. You just can’t buy that level of respect and admiration!

Playing on a line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell for much of that 2011-12 season, Jagr turned in a respectable 54-point season. That trio clicked for the first three months of the season, but Jagr started to fade after December as he re-acclimated his body and conditioning to the NHL’s 82-game schedule, which came four years after his last season in the NHL with the Rangers. He also struggled to contribute in the playoffs with one goal in the Flyers' 11 postseason games.

Since that season, Jagr has bounced around the league, playing for four different teams since 2012 — the Stars, Bruins, Devils and Panthers. His act would play perfectly on the Vegas strip, and Jagr has proven he can still contribute into his mid-40s. He’s recorded 30 assists in each of the past four seasons — a total that only 35 other players have achieved.

At the very least, Jagr deserves to outlast the NHL career of Chris Chelios, who played seven games for the Atlanta Thrashers at the age of 48.

If this Flyers team needs Jaromir Jagr to reach the playoffs again, then it's in some serious trouble. After further thought, why not bring Jagr in on a training camp invite, if anything, to make training camp fun again? He could fill our smartphones and tape recorders with quotes for half a season. He could mentor the prospects and put a smile on Little Mario (his nickname for Giroux). In fact, I could probably sway Jagr to return with little more than a gift card to Costco. He took $2 million for one year to join the Devils and then proceeded to score 24 goals and 67 points in 2014. If Ron Hextall was so inclined, he could sign Jagr at a 50 percent discount. One million dollars for one season would get it done.

Dougherty 
Flyers GM Hextall vehemently downplayed the idea of signing Jagr, or any other veteran free agent that would block the youth movement, on July 2. “Not the direction we're going in,” he said then. But as we enter the dog days of the NHL summer, Jagr remains without an NHL contract.

I don’t believe signing Jagr would fit into the Flyers’ plans. It doesn’t align with how Hextall runs his operations, and Hextall is on the record saying Jagr isn’t where he’s headed. But. How Jagr still doesn’t have a contract baffles me. He’s still productive and would improve any team that signs him. He would be an instant upgrade to the Flyers. There’s no doubt.
 
Perhaps the biggest roadblock as to why Jagr remains unsigned is the role he wants and the role NHL teams believe he’s capable of handling as he turns 46 in February. Last season, Jagr scored 16 goals and 46 points for the Florida Panthers, who have moved on from the future Hall of Famer. Those 46 points would have ranked sixth on the Flyers, and his 16 goals would have ranked fourth on the team — ahead of team captain Giroux’s 14.

Jagr remains in phenomenal shape. His workout regimen is one of legend. But as he approaches 50 years old, there’s no denying he wears down as the season goes on. That’s been the story the last few seasons in Florida, where he’s been ever so productive but has worn down. Perhaps Jagr realizes this, perhaps NHL teams realize this too.

Perhaps we’re making too much of the fact that Jagr remains unsigned. Could he decide to head back to the KHL, where he could be guaranteed a large role? I think that is very much a realistic possibility at this point in time. But I also believe teams could prefer waiting to sign Jagr, rather than bringing him in for the start of the season. I could see teams waiting out as long as possible before offering Jagr a contract enticing enough for him to sign.

And perhaps Jagr is OK with this too. It is astonishing to see him unsigned — I still think he belongs in the NHL and that he can still play, and play at a high level too. In the end, I do think we’ll see Jagr in the NHL again this season — when and where is the question.

I don’t think it will be the Flyers. But the obvious answer is: Yes, Hextall and the Flyers should consider Jagr. Every NHL team should. Because at 45 years old, Jaromir Jagr is still a very productive player and he will make an impact anywhere he goes.

Hall
Albeit an interesting thought and a bit more intriguing now with Jagr still out there, my answer is the same as when we discussed a possible Hartnell reunion.

No.

Jagr can still play — maybe he could help the Flyers in a few areas, both tangibly and intangibly.

But this season should be about taking a step forward by injecting more youth into the equation. The Flyers finally have some opportunity for prospects to make the jump and start their NHL development. And the kids are expected to make an impact, too. 

Last season, we saw the positives of having youngsters in Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny. This season, it's time for many more. Hextall even acknowledged that just four days after the 2016-17 regular season ended.

"Our young players, they've done enough," he said. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."

If the Flyers wanted to sign Jagr, it would obviously be for one season. Still, that's one season of blockading a forward prospect from being here or playing meaningful minutes — someone like Mike Vecchione or Scott Laughton (yes, he's still a prospect and worth watching). Or, it could even change a lot for the likes of Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick.

As fun as it would be to see Jagr back in Philadelphia, the answer here is an easy no.

Paone
With all due respect to Jagr (and he's an absolute legend who's due a lot of it), that ship has sailed here in Philadelphia.

Let's weigh this out here: What could a soon-to-be 46-year-old Jagr bring to this group of Flyers?

Sure, he could bring that invaluable leadership and example to the Flyers that was so important during the 2011-12 season. Remember the effect he had that year alongside Giroux, who ran wild across the league with a career-high 93 points? A handful goals and points here and there from Jagr would always be helpful, too.

But no way does that stuff outweigh eating up a roster space for a young player who's ready for a taste of the NHL level and using any precious cap space on the oldest player in the league rather than keeping more of the already slim flexibility the Flyers have.

Hextall's vision is all about the youth and development from within. That's the focus of the club from top to bottom right now. Needless to say, Jagr doesn't come anywhere close to fitting that vision or focus. I doubt Jagr has ever even popped up on Hextall's radar this summer. Want proof? During a conference call earlier in the summer, Hextall was asked about Jagr and emphatically slammed the door shut on that idea in not so many words, as Tom mentioned above.

The fact of the matter here is the Flyers just don't have a spot on the roster or a role for him — Jagr never has been and never will be a fourth-line player. Why even consider him if there's no roster spot, no role, he doesn't fit the vision the team has molded for itself and if cap space is at a premium? Why even waste the energy or breath?

Do I feel Jagr will get picked up before the season starts? Yeah, I do, by a team closer to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender that's looking for some veteran punch. And he'll make an impact because that's just what a legend like him does.

That team just isn't the Flyers.

Sorry to burst your bubble.