Flyers Notes: Hal Gill to get more looks

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Flyers Notes: Hal Gill to get more looks

Two games won’t be the deciding factor on whether Hal Gill sticks around or not on his tryout deal.

Gill played in Sunday’s 4-3 exhibition loss in London, Ont., to Toronto, and in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Sources say Gill will make the trip to Lake Placid early Thursday where the Flyers will continue their camp through the weekend.

The 38-year-old Gill is fighting thick odds with nine defensemen already here on one-way contracts.

While the 6-foot-7 defenseman is in amazing shape, he looked a little slow in both games in coverage areas.

“In a normal situation, when you have a contract, you worry about progressing and getting better in every game,” Gill said. “In this situation, I wanted to speed up the process. But it was good. It was nice to get out there and be competitive and play. I felt good. Like preseason, you’re learning a new system and timing needs to get there.”

The Flyers are taking between 26-28 players to Lake Placid.

“I can show that I am healthy and ready to go and I have that desire,” Gill said. “I want to be part of the team. I don’t have to show people what I can do. I’ve been doing the same thing a long time.”

He had a defensive overplay with Mark Alt in the loss to the Rangers that allowed for Benoit Pouliot’s easy, point-blank rebound in the third period for the winning goal.

Absent of a major injury or trade, it remains hard to see this 15-year veteran making the roster, but coach Peter Laviolette said Gill will get more looks.

“Hal did a good job,” Laviolette said. “His job is to keep the puck and keep people away from our net and he’s done a pretty good job of that. His best asset is defending.

“Think back to Hal in his career and when he is most noticeable, it’s him taking care of the front of the net. Him being physical on top-end players. We’ll get a better look and better read on Hal as the camp moves on.”

Laviolette did admit his skating might not grab your attention, but that was never his primary asset anyway.

“His strengths are different,” Laviolette said. “He’s big, he defends, he ties up bodies, he clears the net ... plays that type of game.”

How it happened
Derick Brassard scored on a shot in the slot that hit the back of the new, shallower net so quick it popped out before the red light went on. ... Max Talbot tied it later in the period and the same thing happened -- the puck flew out of the net even though it was a soft shot. ... Flyers goalie Steve Mason played the entire game. ... Ray Emery gave up a tying goal in the final 21.7 seconds of regulation on Monday against the Caps. Mason gave up one to ex-Flyer Darroll Powe in the second period to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. ... Sean Couturier, who had two assists against Washington, made it 2-2 in the third period with his first goal.

Inside the lines
Scott Hartnell played on Vinny Lecavalier’s line with Wayne Simmonds.

“We had one practice together on Day 2 and I was kind of excited to play with Vinny," Hartnell said. "I played against him for so many years, watching him score goals. I think the coaches were happy with how we played. We’re all big bodies. We move the puck well, cycle and protect the puck.”

Laviolette wanted to see the chemistry between Lecavalier and Simmonds. It appears the left side is up for grabs.

“That second day [in camp] with Hartnell, they absolutely destroyed it on the three-on-three competition,” Laviolette said. 

New nets
There’s going to be a lot of replays this season on goals with these new nets being so tight and so much shallower. Pucks hit so hard, the ricochet goes right up the slot. This begs the question: Did the NHL not experiment with these nets to see firsthand there is a legit problem with pucks staying inside them?

Best of NHL: Wild beat Blackhawks to grab 1st place in Western Conference

Best of NHL: Wild beat Blackhawks to grab 1st place in Western Conference

CHICAGO -- Jason Pominville scored in the third period, Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves and the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Sunday night to grab sole possession of the top spot in the Western Conference.

Nino Niederreiter and Chris Stewart also scored as Minnesota earned its fourth straight win and improved to 17-1-1 since Dec. 4. The Wild also beat the Blackhawks for the eighth straight time.

Minnesota (28-9-5) jumped in front for good when Marco Scandella shot the puck behind the net and it caromed right to Pominville standing all alone on the right side of the crease. He knocked it into the open net for his sixth of the season at 5:08.

Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter was sent off for tripping with 22.4 seconds left, but Chicago was unable to get a good look with a 6-on-4 advantage.

Patrick Kane scored twice for the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford made 29 stops (see full recap).

Hall nets OT winner as Devils top Canucks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Taylor Hall scored 1:28 into overtime to lift the New Jersey Devils to a 2=1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

Skating on a 2-on-1 with Damon Severson, Hall chose to hold the puck and beat Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom through the legs.

Kyle Quincey scored the tying goal with 3:03 left in the second period and Cory Schneider stopped 21 shots to help the Devils win their second straight after losing four in a row.

Loui Eriksson scored for the Canucks and Markstrom finished with 20 saves for the Canucks, losers of four straight after winning six in a row coming out of the holiday break (see full recap).

Flyers Weekly Observations: Everything coming apart at the seams

Flyers Weekly Observations: Everything coming apart at the seams

That week was… not pretty.

Not by a long shot.

The Flyers’ busy week saw them play five games in an eight-day stretch and come out on the winning side of things just once. Overall, the Flyers went 1-3-1 last week with a 2-1 overtime loss in Columbus, a disheartening 4-1 defeat in Buffalo, a wild 5-4 shootout win over visiting Vancouver, an ugly 6-3 loss in Boston and an even uglier 5-0 loss in Washington.

There’s a lot to digest in this week’s Flyers Weekly Observations, and, needless to say, not much of it is good.

Where to even begin?

• Let’s start with Shayne Gostisbehere’s benching on Saturday afternoon in Boston, the second healthy scratch of the season for last season’s runner up to the Calder Trophy. Let’s face it, the 23-year-old defenseman has not played great this season. He’s struggled mightily defensively and he’s had a miserable time hitting the net in the offensive zone, among other warts in his game. He’s obviously not alone. After all, this 3-8-3 skid is rooted in shoddy defensive play in all zones. But he has not played well. We all know offense is Gostisbehere’s strength, but he’s got just four goals and 15 assists in 46 games. And he’s sporting a minus-17 after Sunday's loss. Dave Hakstol is obviously not happy with his young defenseman’s game and figured the best course of action would be to let Gostisbehere sit down, observe and clear his head. And I get that thought process. Sometimes that’s a good thing. But I’m of the belief it’s best to let a young player play through his struggles. Gostisbehere’s going to have to get used to doing that because this will not be the only time in his career he will struggle. It happens to every player, even the best ones. And it’s even tougher to defend Ghost’s benching with as poorly as Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Manning played in the previous game against Vancouver.

• Speaking of which, those stick penalties Del Zotto and Manning took over and over again in the first period against the Canucks were just careless and put the Flyers into a hole that could have been a lot deeper if not for the play of the penalty kill and Steve Mason. That’s the stuff that can just kill a team, and that’s the stuff that’s also very avoidable.

• One play really stuck out to me during Saturday’s loss to the Bruins in Beantown. The Flyers were down 5-3 early in the third period and attacking in the Bruins' zone when Jake Voracek hit Sean Couturier with a slick cross-ice pass. Couturier had net to shoot at and a chance to cut it to a one-goal game, but instead skated to the side of the net and backhanded the puck into the crowded slot and turned it over. When you’re down two in the third period, you need to shoot there. Even if Tuukka Rask stops it, you never know if there’s going to be a rebound. It was an example of how Couturier needs to be more aggressive offensively on a consistent basis. Especially after he was aggressive against Vancouver with a goal and a post hit after a beautiful offensive rush.

• What was that effort in Buffalo on Tuesday night? Credit the improving Sabres for playing well and earning the win, but the Flyers were just lifeless out there on the ice.

• Let’s chat some about those goalie interference calls that didn’t go the Flyers’ way in Columbus last weekend. Michael Raffl was squeezed into Sergei Bobrovsky and barely made contact with the Jackets’ goalie on the first one. Raffl is entitled to that space just as much as anyone else on the ice. It’s a hockey play, plain and simple. No idea how that one was overturned. Contact was made with Mason’s skate on the second one, but I believe that call was eventually correct as the goal stood. The problem is this: They were two similar plays with limited contact made with the goaltender. The league can’t have one count there and one not. The league is creating itself a very unnecessary grey area with those calls.

• On the NBC national telecast of Sunday’s debacle in Washington, analyst Brian Boucher said something to the effect of the Flyers were in the process of quitting the game after the Caps’ fourth goal, which was scored early in the third period. And it was hard to disagree him with what we all saw. Things can become fragile over these kinds of skids and it just seems recently when one thing goes wrong with for the Flyers, everything comes apart at the seams.

• Brayden Schenn’s stat line so far this season is uneven, literally. He’s got 14 goals on the season, but a league-leading 11 have come on the power play. So that’s 79 percent of Schenn’s goal-scoring coming on the man advantage. That’s obviously great for when the Flyers are on the power play, but with how they’re averaging 1.79 goals per game over this recent 3-8-3 stretch, that could really use it at even strength. That goes for everybody.

• I’m not sure how I feel about the bye week. On one hand, it comes at the right time as the Flyers can rest, recharge and get their heads straight after this awful stretch. On the other hand, it’s no secret this team could REALLY use the practice time right now just to get back to the basics and for the players just to get their footing back underneath themselves. They’ll next be able to practice Friday afternoon.

Coming up this week: Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./TCN), Sunday at New York Islanders (6 p.m./CSN)