WASHINGTON -- Preseason hockey ended for the Flyers on Friday night with an exhibition game against the Capitals that only serves as a tune-up for next week’s regular-season start.
The bigger news was the Flyers' roster.
Austrian winger Michael Raffl, who appeared to have a spot all but locked up at left wing, was sent to the Phantoms along with defenseman Oliver Lauridsen.
By process of elimination, that left Chris VandeVelde as the sole survivor at left wing with Tye McGinn going back to the Phantoms early Friday morning following Thursday’s loss in New Jersey.
The Flyers still have 14 forwards in camp, including 19-year-old Scott Laughton, who the organization feels has to play center, whereas VandeVelde has played both center and wing.
The 25-year-old Raffl was trying to make the jump from Europe to North America without a year on the smaller ice at the AHL level. He nearly succeeded.
“He played four of our games and I thought he did something good in each of those games, but we want to get him more experience on the smaller ice down there where he can play more minutes,” general manager Paul Holmgren said of Raffl. “Kind of learn the North American game.”
VandeVelde has a minor-league deal. He will likely be offered a two-way contract, Holmgren said. The Flyers have 48 pro contracts and a couple of “slide” contracts, as well. Fifty is the limit.
The wild card, once again, is Laughton.
“Yes, a lot depends on what happens with Scott,” Holmgren said. “He has the little 'J' [junior eligibility] beside his name unless he plays X-number of games. We kept our options open with Chris. He’s played pretty good for us.
“The difference there is Chris is a North American player and has played three years pro and NHL games. For purposes of sending Michael down, it’s important to get him playing more minutes down there.”
Laughton can stick around for nine NHL games before going back to junior or the clock starts ticking on his NHL contract.
Ideally, the Flyers would prefer to place Laughton with the Phantoms, but they can’t because of age restrictions.
“We want to be extra careful,” Holmgren said. “It’s good that he is still here. I thought he was one of our better guys [Thursday] night and it was hard to find a guy who played good.”
Laughton and VandeVelde both played Friday night in the Flyers' preseason finale against the Caps.
Holmgren said he is having difficulty deciding on whether to keep 13 or 14 forwards.
As part of this decision, there remains the question on defense -- carry seven or eight?
Holmgren admitted he’d like to sign Hal Gill, who is on a tryout. Both men are slated to meet Saturday morning. Holmgren said he is considering asking Gill to sign a minor-league deal.
The 38-year-old Gill would be a better option as a seventh defenseman rather than asking a younger player, who needs playing time, to sit in the press box as an extra. The Flyers don’t like doing that.
“He doesn’t get beat,” Holmgren said of Gill. “You could argue that he is slow, but he’s been the same player for probably the last 10 years. Maybe the game has gotten a little faster.
“Having him at camp has been a real pleasure. He is full of life. For an older guy who played as many games as he has, he provides enthusiasm. He’s a good pro. I love having him around.”
Complicating this is the fact that the Flyers have seven regulars on defense right now with Andrej Meszaros and Erik Gustafsson vying for the final spot among the top six.
Holmgren said he would not put Gustafsson through waivers for the purposes of sending him to the Phantoms for fear of losing him.
NHL rosters have to be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday. Holmgren said he would like to make some roster decisions by late Friday.
Holmgren: Gagne not in Flyers' plans
Free agent forward Simon Gagne said late Friday that he had not heard from the Flyers. Holmgren said, at this point, Gagne no longer figures in any plans for the Flyers, regardless of what happens with their current roster.
You see it in their faces. Feel it in their voices.
And you wonder how it affects them night after night.
The Flyers played another pretty solid loss, as they say, Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals at Wells Fargo Center.
A lot closer than 4-1 makes it appear (see Instant Replay). It was a lot like that solid loss last week in Calgary, too.
“Maybe a little bit similar,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Our effort was good start to finish. There’s always a couple mistakes you make you want to clean up and do better. I thought tonight we had more opportunities than we did in the Calgary game.”
They had more goals, too. Except two got taken away.
One for goalie interference. The other hit the crossbar and even after a long celebration and delay, was ruled no good.
That’s been the Flyers’ no-luck this season. It’s all gone wrong for them as their wild-card aspirations slip further away.
“It’s very frustrating,” team captain Claude Giroux said. “Same story. We need to find a way here. We say the same thing after each game. I like the way we’re playing.
“We played a good hockey game, not good enough. We have a challenge in front of us. In the past, we’ve been a team that doesn’t back down. We have to keep our heads high and battling.”
The Flyers had the right approach, coming out fast and aggressive on the Caps. In fact, Jakub Voracek scored 23 seconds into the game during a net scrum.
Thing was, Caps coach Barry Trotz correctly saw goalie interference as Dale Weise actually pushed Braden Holtby aside. It was an easy coach’s challenge to overturn the goal and that’s what happened.
Weise was beside himself after the game.
“What I was trying to do was brace myself so I didn’t bowl him over and it comes back the other way,” Weise said.
“I don’t know what else to do there. I’m trying to poke the puck with one hand and brace myself so I don’t hit him.”
Naturally, six minutes later, Brandon Manning turned a puck over along the boards with T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin and it resulted in Nick Backstrom getting a great setup in the high slot for a 1-0 Caps’ lead.
“Even after that, we came back and played well and had good chances,” Weise said. “It’s the same story every night. We don’t capitalize on it and give up a few chances and they score on their opportunities.”
That’s when frustration seeped in on the Flyers and the penalties began to mount. Sean Couturier tried to get away with an elbow. Didn’t work.
The Caps dazzled the Flyers with brilliant puck movement, culminating with Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal to make it 2-0 at 16:28. He had two goals in the game.
While that could have ruined them, the Flyers came out hard in the second as Ivan Provorov appeared to score in the opening minute. However, replay confirmed his shot hit the crossbar. Two near-goals for the Flyers.
“I shot it and saw that [the puck] went up and I didn’t hear a sound,” Provorov said. “I thought it went in.”
No matter. Manning atoned for his first-period miscue by saving a puck from leaving the zone and then firing on net where Brayden Schenn scored a rare five-on-five goal by batting the puck out of the air to cut the Flyers’ deficit in half.
Of Schenn’s 19 goals, 14 have come on the power play.
Giroux’s line with Schenn and Wayne Simmonds consisted of the Flyers’ only players on the right side of the plus-minus category. And to show how deceiving that can be, Voracek worked his tail off, too, but was minus-3.
That’s how it goes these days for this group.
“It’s been a lot of games where it’s been one- or two-goal hockey games and it’s tough to do,” Schenn said. “We’re generating shots, but I don’t know if we’re generating enough chances.
“At the end of the day, you feel you play hard and a pretty good hockey game and end up scoring one goal again. Whether it’s 3-1, 4-1, you score one goal, you won’t win many hockey games.”
The Flyers are 3-6-1 since coming out of the All-Star break. Of those seven total losses, including overtime, they have scored more than one goal just once.
“We’ve got to rise above it, each and every one of us,” Hakstol said. “Get back at it. And that is what this group has continually done. We have to do that one more time here.”
Fresh off their poor Western Canada road trip, the Flyers faced the top team in the NHL for a Wednesday Night Rivalry tilt at the Wells Fargo Center.
The last time the Washington Capitals met the Flyers in mid-January, the Caps humiliated them, 5-0, in D.C.
No rout this time, but the Caps still defeated the Flyers, 4-1, as more precious points slipped away in the search for a wild card.
Evgeny Kuznetsov had two goals for the Caps. His second was a crusher, coming in the final 2:01 of the second period to give Washington a 3-1 lead.
The Flyers are 3-6-1 since coming out of the All-Star break and 9-15-4 since their 10-game win streak.
Barry Trotz challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal 23 seconds into the game for goaltender interference. It was an easy goal to overturn, too, as Dale Weise clearly pushed Braden Holtby aside before Voracek scored.
With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov thought he scored in the opening minute of the second period. The game stopped and the Flyers celebrated while the officials huddled. Replays showed the puck hit the crossbar.
Nicklas Backstrom’s first-period goal was his fifth goal and 15th point in his last 10 games.
Kuznetsov’s power-play goal went in and out of the net so quickly that no one was really certain it was a goal. That is why Sean Couturier remained in the box a good 30 seconds after it was scored.
Michal Neuvirth was making his fifth straight start in goal.
Holtby had an excellent stop on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s backhander at the right post with 6:18 left in the first period.
The Flyers were 0 for 2. They mixed up their first unit and changed the personnel back to its former self, even putting Shayne Gostisbehere back on the point and Voracek back at the half wall. Their second power play had several passes just a hair off for a clean shot.
The Caps had the Flyers chasing their passes all over the ice on their power play. They were 1 for 2 in the game.
The Caps lost defenseman Matt Niskanen in the second period with a lower-body injury.
There were several scrums on one board play in the second period but no fights.
Forwards Jordan Weal (concussion) and Travis Konecny (left ankle and knee), defensemen Nick Schultz (healthy) and Michael Del Zotto (healthy).
The Flyers practice on Thursday 11 a.m. at Skate Zone. They leave later that day for Pittsburgh and will practice Friday at 5 p.m. at Heinz Field for the Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins on Saturday.