VOORHEES, N.J. – There are some things in the NHL that are expected to happen on the ice with rookie players.
They will be challenged. They will be tested. And they will be hit – clean or otherwise.
Four games into Travis Konecny’s career, teams are taking target practice on the Flyers’ smallest player. The London, Ont. forward is listed at 5-foot-10 but 5-9 or less is closer to the truth.
On Thursday night, Josh Manson’s elbow made contact with the back of Konecny’s head during the opening minutes of a 3-2 Flyers loss to Anaheim. Manson served a minor for elbowing.
Konency admitted on Friday afternoon that he placed himself in a bad situation by “ducking” to avoid Mason’s check on the boards.
“That was my fault,” Konecny said. “I tried to duck under the hit and make room for myself. He came through and put a check on me and I got underneath him.”
Konecny doesn’t feel teams are targeting him. At the same time, he doesn’t deny he is taking some hard licks out there. He has four assists, tied for the rookie lead in the NHL.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Part of being a young guy, too. Being in the league, I am trying to make space for myself and hit guys.
“Obviously, some guys who have been in the league 10 years, don’t like guys doing that. So I expect it. Doesn’t bother me.”
His linemate, Jakub Voracek, said all of this has to be expected.
“I don’t think he is the only one in the league who is getting this kind of treatment,” Voracek said. “He is a good player. He is small and shifty. They try to get under his skin. ... That’s the way it always works.
“You are a new guy, a young guy, especially if you have a good start like he did. You’re gonna get that treatment. He’s a big fellow and he can handle it. ... Sometimes you can be small, but if you can handle things, better to handle it when you are 5-11 than 6-4 and being a p---y.”
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t feel Konecny is being targeted.
“I haven’t seen anything out of bounds,” he said.
With Radko Gudas serving a six-game suspension for a head shot during preseason, the Flyers don’t have a big, punishing player that opponents fear on the ice to balance things out on the scoresheet.
Would Gudas’ presence alleviate the questionable hits on Konecny?
“No, I haven’t seen any difference there,” Hakstol replied. “A night like last night, I mentioned after the game, that’s a big, heavy team we’re playing … you certainly miss a big, heavy body like Gudy on the back end that just naturally matches that physicality.”
The Flyers didn’t show any lineup changes during Friday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s game against Carolina.
One element they worked on and saw video was gap coverage between their forwards and defense. It burned them against the Ducks and even Chicago.
“That’s a fair assessment,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think we were very good in that area [against Anaheim] and had been extremely good in that area during the first, couple games of the year. It’s an area we have to do a little better job at.”
The challenge there is that Carolina has some speed and the Canes will attempt to exploit holes in the Flyers’ gap coverage, especially off transition.