Hartnell, Lecavalier suffer injuries in Flyers' loss


Hartnell, Lecavalier suffer injuries in Flyers' loss


Updated: 11:45 p.m.

As if things could not possibly get any worse for the Flyers -- who are struggling for goals, wins and consistency throughout a game -- they lost two key forwards on Friday night.

Scott Hartnell, who might have been the best conditioned forward on the team, and Vinny Lecavalier, who was among the very few players with some points, both were injured during a 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center.

Hartnell (upper body) and Lecavalier (lower body) will each miss at least a week and undergo MRIs on Saturday, general manager Paul Holmgren said. At least one player will be recalled from the Phantoms.

“They’re huge for our team,” Flyer captain Claude Giroux said.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have just six goals through five games.

“We’re not desperate enough around the net for me,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “We don’t have enough traffic at the net to get second and third opportunities. We need to get some greasy goals.”

Giroux, who remains without a point this season, needed time to compose himself before meeting the media late.

“It’s time for guys to step up, myself also,” he said. “I know we have our chances, but at the end of the day, we’ve just got to put the puck in the net. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

“It’s definitely frustrating -- the chances are there. We're going to the net, we're creating our own chances and when things like that happen, you gain confidence and build from there.”

The absences of Hartnell and Lecavalier didn’t help matters, but you can pin the loss entirely -- yet again -- on the Flyers killing themselves with penalties. We’ll get to that shortly.

Hartnell was injured with 6:55 left in the first period and did not return. He skated to the bench hunched over in pain. Lecavalier went down in the second period.

“We don’t know their status right now, but it’s obviously two great offensive guys, two big parts of our team, so it’s tough to try to do a comeback without these two guys,” Max Talbot said.

Berube talked about better discipline from his players. He might want to start with Zac Rinaldo.

Rinaldo’s setup of the lone goal was completely negated by four penalties, including a needless crosscheck to the back of Paul Bissonnette in the third period that saw the Coyotes' winger flatten goalie Steve Mason in the net.

Mason, who has been the club’s best goalie so far, had to be attended to by trainer Jim McCrossin, yet remained in the game.

“It happened a couple times in Carolina, as well," Mason said of the penalties. "Our guys are battling, but we can’t be taking penalties like that.”

It’s happened three times in the regular season.

Rinaldo had a daily double in this one with bad penalties. After the Flyers had tied the game late in the second period, 1-1, he took a needless high-sticking call and Phoenix burned the Flyers with a power-play goal to take the lead.

“It’s a dumb penalty,” Berube said. “It's a fine line with [Rinaldo]. You can't cross it, and he did.”

The Coyotes defeated Detroit on Thursday night in Motown, so the Flyers caught them in the second half of a back-to-back situation.

Despite a strong opening period in which the Flyers had the better scoring chances on goalie Thomas Greiss, outplayed and outshot Phoenix, they still trailed 1-0 when it was over.

And it was a fortunate goal, too, by the Coyotes as Derek Morris' shot from the right point got lost in a scrum at the net long enough for Rob Klinkhammer to slip it under Mason at 2:41.

“It hit Luke [Schenn] in front there and I’m not sure if it dropped down between my legs or something like that, but I didn’t see it,” Mason said.

At that point, the Flyers already had a couple of scoring chances from Lecavalier’s line. They would also get a penalty shot opportunity from Adam Hall after he was hauled down shorthanded by defenseman Michael Stone.

Alas, Hall, who is anything but Giroux with the puck, tried to get too fancy on his penalty shot attempt and flubbed the puck under Greiss, though it nearly trickled into the net.

Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn created another chance off the rush, but Greiss was again up to the task later in the period. Through two periods, they had four shots combined.

The most important aspect was two terrific penalty kills involving Giroux. When a player is struggling to score, sometimes his defense inspires him to raise his offensive game, and the Flyers certainly hope that is the case with Giroux.

The Flyers continued to be stymied by Greiss in the second period and went 0 for 4 in the game on the power(less) play.

What hurts here is the chances were there, like an easy rebound for Wayne Simmonds in the crease that he should have buried but fired it wide.

“I thought we had enough opportunities to score,” Holmgren said. “We’re just fighting it right now. We are obviously having a difficult time and you know we had some good opportunities as Wayne Simmonds had that open net on the power play -- I think it was a power play. Good enough opportunities to win the game.”

Nonetheless, the Flyers tied it with their third ugly goal in two games. This time, Rinaldo, who had a fight in the first period, got a puck in the high slot and simply wheeled around and fired.

Rinaldo’s scud missile was nowhere near the net, but it was on target to hit Talbot’s skate and redirect laterally across the crease on Greiss, tying the game at 1-1.

Of course, Rinaldo ruined things immediately with his high-sticking penalty in the final 26 seconds of the period.

On Phoenix’s ensuing power play, Oliver Ekman-Larsson made a spectacular move right around Talbot atop the right circle, then ripped a shot off the top of Mason’s right glove hand into the net.

Instead of being tied going into the third, the Coyotes led 2-1. Given the Flyers' scoring woes, it was enough.

“It’s a tight game,” Talbot said. “Phoenix plays really tight hockey and they came in and played well. They played solid defensively, and we worked hard, we did some good things, but it’s a process and we have to keep building.”

Flyers recall Taylor Leier from Lehigh Valley; Michael Raffl placed on IR

Flyers recall Taylor Leier from Lehigh Valley; Michael Raffl placed on IR

Updated: 4:35 p.m.

The Flyers on Tuesday made an unexpected roster move, recalling forward Taylor Leier from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The 22-year-old will be available for Tuesday night's game against the visiting Buffalo Sabres (see game notes).

But why the call-up?

There were no reports of injuries following Monday's 3-1 loss to the Canadiens. But the answer was revealed later Tuesday afternoon.

The team anounced it has placed Michael Raffl, who hasn't played in a week's time since leaving the 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago with an upper-body injury, on injured reserve. That frees up a roster spot and makes room for Leier.

Raffl, who's in the first-year of a three-year contract signed last season, has a goal in three games played this season.

A player on IR has to stay there for at least 14 days. But the Flyers could make the move retroactive to as far back as last Tuesday's game in Chicago. So the ball is in Hextall's court there as to how far back he wants to put Raffl and his $2.35 million cap hit on IR.

The Flyers are still going to need to free up cap space soon with the returns of Michael Del Zotto and Scott Laughton not far off in the future.

This will not be Leier's first stint with the Flyers. Along with Shayne Gostisbehere, he was called up last November and made his debut in a Nov. 14 win in Carolina. He played six games in the NHL before he was sent back down to Lehigh Valley for the rest of season. Leier did not record a point with the Flyers last season and averaged 7:43 of ice time a night.

In three games with the Phantoms this season, the 2012 fourth-round draft pick of the Flyers has three assists. Leier scored 20 goals for the Phantoms last season, including a team-high 10 power-play goals.

Leier will wear No. 58 for the Flyers. It remains to be seen if he will crack Tuesday's lineup.

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Forget about Monday's final result

Flyers-Sabres 5 things: Forget about Monday's final result

Flyers vs. Sabres
7:30 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live starts at 6:30

After a hard-luck 3-1 loss in Montreal to the Canadiens on Monday, the Flyers (2-3-1) return home Tuesday to the Wells Fargo Center to face the Buffalo Sabres (1-2-1) for the first time this season.

The Sabres are struggling early on this year, so Tuesday night could be a prime opportunity for the Flyers to get back on the winning side of things.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

1. It’s a new day
Despite the result, the fact of the matter is the Flyers played a very good road game on Monday in Montreal against the Habs. Shots on goal were just about even (Montreal held a 33-32 advantage) and the Flyers had excellent opportunities to tie late in the game, but a fully healthy Carey Price had other ideas. Steve Mason was great with 31 saves, many of the difficult variety, and he had no chance on Brendan Gallagher’s winning deflection late in the third. It was a seesaw battle and the Habs wound up on top when the final buzzer sounded. It goes that way sometimes.

But Tuesday is a new day, and the Flyers have a chance strike right back against the Sabres. Forget Monday’s final result. If the Flyers play the way they did Monday, they’re going to win plenty of games.

“Overall we played a pretty good game,” head coach Dave Hakstol said after Monday’s loss. “Certainly we can do better, obviously not coming out with the points. We’ve got to turn the page real quick and get ready to go for a home game tomorrow night some 19 to 20 hours from now.”

Even though Monday night’s result is still fresh, sometimes it’s good to get right back out there and try and keep the momentum of strong play going.

And the Flyers will get some reinforcements on the blue line Tuesday as Radko Gudas will return from his six-game suspension and be in the lineup. No word yet on who will sit.

2. Can’t stop Jake
Move aside Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds. Jake Voracek is the new hottest Flyer.

With his slick deflection on Monday, Voracek now has three goals in his last two games and is riding a four-game point streak. As matter of fact, he has a point in all but one of the Flyers’ six games this season. He’s posted three goals and five assists for eight points so far, which is tied for fourth in the NHL in the early going.

Perhaps most encouraging about Voracek’s play early is the fact that he’s shooting the puck frequently. A natural passer, the 27-year-old forward has 21 shots on goal so far this year, which ties him for 10th most in the league. He has a nice shot when he wants to use it and he’s certainly using it this year.

Considering Voracek’s struggles last season, it has to feel good for him to get off to this kind of solid start. And it has to be reassuring for Hakstol and the Flyers. The second line with Voracek, Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny is playing well as a unit, too.

3. What’s up with Buffalo?
Things got off on the wrong foot, almost literally, for the Sabres the day before the regular season started when stud sophomore and franchise pivot Jack Eichel went down during practice with a high ankle sprain. He’s likely out for about another month or so.

And things haven’t gotten much better as the Sabres have scored just 11 goals in four games this season. Those 11 goals are tied for second least in the entire league and six of them came in one game in Edmonton. It’s tough to judge the Sabres based on the small sample size of games they’ve played so far, but it’s not a good sign when more than half of a team’s goals come in one game.

Starting goalie Robin Lehner is out of Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed illness. Backup Anders Nilsson will make his first start of the regular season. Nilsson has played in three games against the Flyers in his career and owns a 2-0-0 record against them with a 2.26 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on
Flyers: Brayden Schenn has had the Sabres’ number with six goals against them in 14 career games. That said, Schenn is still trying to find his footing this season as he’s pointless in three games since returning from his three-game suspension that opened his season. Tuesday could be a perfect time for the Flyers’ 24-year-old forward to have the breakout game he’s been looking for.

Sabres: Buffalo’s offense begins and ends with Ryan O’Reilly. He leads the Sabres with three goals this season and is tied for the team lead in points with five. He’s got nine points (six goals and three assists) in 10 career meetings with the Flyers.

5. This and that
• The Flyers went 1-1-1 last season against the Sabres. The Sabres did win in Philadelphia in overtime last October.

• The Sabres enter Philadelphia on the end of a four-game road trip that saw them tour Western Canada. But the Sabres have had four days off while the Flyers played Monday night in Montreal and had to travel home.

• The Flyers haven’t lost to the Sabres at home in regulation in the regular season since March 5, 2011.

• The Flyers have been lethal in the second period this season, scoring 13 of their 20 goals.

• He hasn't found the back of the net yet this year, but Claude Giroux comes into Tuesday’s matchup on a five-game point streak with six assists over that stretch.