Flyers Notes: Rinaldo gets first goal of season

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Flyers Notes: Rinaldo gets first goal of season

One is the loneliest number.

So says Three Dog Night, if anyone knows who that group was.

Anyway, one was a lonely number for Zac Rinaldo this season. As in one lone assist in 43 games this season … until Thursday night.

Rinaldo finally mated his assist with a goal during the Flyers' 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Wells Fargo Center (see game recap).

“It feels great to get that monkey off my back,” Rinaldo said. “It’s about time, too.”

The goal came on a nice backhand rebound of his own shot.

“I walked over the blue line and shot it,” Rinaldo said. “I was praying to God that puck came back to me. It came back to me and I threw it on net and it went in for me.”

It hit a stick as it snuck inside the left post on goalie Peter Budaj. A wobbly puck, too

“It did, it did, a good bounce,” Rinaldo said. “I’m not going to complain about it.”

Rinaldo played just 4:53 in the game with four shots. He actually finished with the most shots on the Flyers in this game despite playing the fewest minutes.

Almost half those minutes -– 2:15 -- were played on the penalty kill, which doesn’t afford all that much offense.

Rinaldo has played in a number of different roles on top, middle and bottom lines and the PK lately.

“He’s played good hockey,” coach Craig Berube said. “We’re using him killing penalties at times. His physical skating I think really rubs off on our team. He can really skate. He’s been physical and not taking penalties, which is important.”

He got the club riled up by fighting Brandon Prust after the Flyers made it 3-0 in the second period. As he went to the penalty box, Rinaldo raised his arms high, imploring the fans to make noise and get into the game.

“We’re feeding off each other,” Rinaldo said. “I’m doing a good job getting the crowd into it. And I’m going to keep them into it and they got to keep me in the game, too.”

Several of his teammates spoke about how great it’s been during this 10-game home win streak to have fans cheering and not booing them like they were in October and November.

Asked about the impact of fans booing earlier and how it’s been turned around, Rinaldo was stunned.

“What’s that? he asked.

The booing.

“I thought you said the booze affected us,” Rinaldo replied, as laughter erupted. “No, no, no, the booing obviously sucked. If we’re not working hard, they’re going to tell us.

“Guys respect that. Some guys take it differently. But the fans are behind us. We worked for the fans to get back on our side and we have them on our side now and we’re not going to stop.”

White flag?
There was less than two minutes left to play. The Canadiens were deep in the Flyers’ zone and trailing by a pair of goals.

So why didn’t Canadiens coach Michel Therrien pull Budaj out of net?

The answer won’t please Habs fans.

“In the third period we got four shots on net,” said a clearly displeased Therrien. “And when you have momentum, when you’re creating a lot of chances, there’s a reason why you could take your goalie out, especially when you’re down by two goals.

“But when you have four shots on net and you’re down by two goals, there’s no reason.”

Nice at home
The Flyers have won 10 straight at home. That is their longest home winning streak since an 11-game streak from Oct. 27–Dec. 5, 2003. All 10 wins have been in regulation, and they haven’t done that since a 14-game regulation home winning streak from Feb. 10-April 4, 1985, when they actually won the last 14 home games of the regular season before making a run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Penalty kill
The Flyers were 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, giving them their sixth consecutive perfect game in that category. They are 19 for 19 in that stretch.

Back-to-backs
The Flyers have swept both games in four of their last five back-to-backs. They are 9-1 overall this season in that situation. They’ll play another back-to-back this weekend, facing Tampa Bay on Saturday before meeting the Rangers on Sunday in New York.

Sarah Baicker contributed to this report.

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”