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?

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

Wayne Gretzky defends Connor McDavid's outburst over Brandon Manning

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the primary target of opponents over his Hall of Fame career, Wayne Gretzky can certainly empathize with the frustration of Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McDavid and Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning jostled all evening long in a 6-5 Edmonton loss. McDavid denounced the tactics of his opponent after the game, claiming Manning intentionally injured him last season; McDavid missed 37 games with a broken collarbone.

"I guess we can put the whole 'if he did it' thing to rest because what he said out there kind of confirmed that," said McDavid, who taunted Manning after scoring the second goal in the Oilers' loss.

"I think anybody who knows me or who has played with or against me along the road here, knows that I am not that kind of player," Manning said, according to a statement released by the Flyers. "I am not out there intentionally trying to hurt people. I'm a guy who plays the game hard and I take pride in that."

Gretzky didn't mind seeing that fire in McDavid, saying competitiveness is part of what makes the great ones great. And he said the targeting comes with the territory of being a superstar. It was something he and Mario Lemieux dealt with, too.

"And Connor, he's going to get tested every night, but this is not new for him," Gretzky said Friday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "He's been tested since he was a kid and then playing junior hockey and now in the NHL and he's always responded and done his part."

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

Michael Raffl's power moves impressing Flyers, adding another element to top line

He did it last Sunday in Nashville.

And he did it again Thursday night against Edmonton.

Michael Raffl displayed power and speed to send the Flyers to their seventh straight victory and longest winning streak since 2011 Thursday with a 6-5 win over the Oilers.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," goalie Steve Mason said. "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl received a bank pass off the wall from Jakub Voracek, stutter stepped and then blew by Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom, protecting the puck along the way before flipping it over goalie Jonas Gustavsson for the game-winning marker with 1:29 left in the game.

It was his sixth goal of the season and his second game-winner in three games.

"Jakey has been hard on me for three years now," Raffl said, referring to Voracek's pass, "and it's actually the first time it worked out.

"He wants me to make that play all the time. He's been hard on me. I threw a little fake in there, got around their D-man and chipped it up high."

Voracek, who tied a career high with four points (one goal, three assists) said after the game his pass was not as perfect as it appeared on tape, as it didn't hit Raffl in stride.

"I think we should use it a little bit more to be honest," Voracek said, "because if their D wants to have a gap on that, you know you put it off the boards, it's tough to handle for the defenseman. [Raffl] had to slow down a little bit, so next time I've got to put it better."

Juggling his lines in an attempt to find chemistry, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol moved Raffl up from the third line to the top line with Voracek and captain Claude Giroux on Nov. 27. Coincidentally, that was the start of this seven-game winning streak.

On Thursday night, Raffl showcased the reasoning behind the move to the top line, a spot he's familiar with, having played with Giroux and Voracek in seasons' past.

"He's good from coming off either way as he enters the zone," Hakstol said. "He's got the ability to take it to the net. 

"Obviously at a critical time of the hockey game. But, that's Raffl when he's at his best. He's a power forward that can do those type of things offensively."

In his fourth season with the Flyers, the 28-year-old doesn't possess jaw-dropping skill. He's better suited for a third-line role, but drives play at 5-on-5 and is strong on the puck to move up into the top six. His style complements Giroux and Voracek's game well.

"[Raffl] complains a lot on the bench," Giroux quipped. "Nah, he was fired up there in the third. He is so strong on the puck. That's a big goal for us. He's been playing some great hockey right now for us. I think me and Jake are lucky to play with him right now."

"He does every little thing right," Voracek said. "He wins the battles. He wins so many puck battles in the corners and on the boards and gives me and G a lot of space to work with. He knows what to do to have success with us and he's been doing that."

Against the Oilers, Raffl was one of two European free agents the Flyers found to contribute to their win, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare slowing down Connor McDavid.

It's been an avenue the Flyers have found some success in recent years. Raffl was a Paul Holmgren signing, while general manager Ron Hextall plucked Bellemare from the SHL.

"Since we signed him, I think he surprised everyone," Voracek said of Raffl. "He's got a lot of talent. He's a strong guy on the puck. He's skating well. He's got a great shot.

"I think he's one of the good players."

The Flyers described Raffl as a sneaky talent, someone who may not demand the respect from defensemen but has the ability to surprise and make them pay for playing lax against him.

But it's really simpler than that, according to Raffl.

"Just puck possession," he said. "Just focus on being the first on forecheck, digging out pucks. It's not a fun job to do, but somebody has to do it.

"They're two great players with the puck, I try to dig it out and get it to them and get in an open area and they'll find me eventually."

And they found him Thursday night when it mattered most.