Philadelphia Flyers

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Wild 1

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Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Wild 1

BOX SCORE

The Flyers had two Christmas wishes heading into Monday: Being back in third place of the Metropolitan Division, and more importantly, back in a playoff spot.

They got those gifts with a highly-energized 4-1 win over the Wild and a Blackhawks win over the Devils Monday night.

The victory was also the Flyers' ninth straight at home, the team's longest such streak since October of 2005.

The best thing about this game was the Flyers kept pressing the attack to the very end instead of sitting back and coasting or going into lockdown mode.

The Flyers' top line of Claude Giroux centering Michael Raffl and Jakub Voracek continued to pile up points.

They have been very hot lately and two of them are on point streaks (see "Streaking" portion of Instant Replay).

Through two periods, they had a goal and four points as the Flyers led 3-1.

In the six games since head coach Craig Berube reformed the No. 1 line, it has 28 points -- 10 goals, 18 assists.

Giroux leads the group with 12 points (five goals), followed by Voracek (four goals). Raffl has five points (one goal).

Injuries
The Wild’s Zach Parise -- 15 goals, 27 points -- was a late scratch with a foot injury. Flyers goalie Steve Mason took some contact early in the second period and was down on the ice and slow to get up. He spent a good minute stretching out but seemed fine after.

Penalties
The Flyers continue to take too many of them and got burned in the first period killing them. Wayne Simmonds even picked up a roughing call at 20 minutes, giving the Flyers three penalties that period. The Flyers finished with five penalties in the game. That is one thing that will irk Berube going into the break, no doubt about it.

Milestone
Scott Hartnell’s assist on Luke Schenn’s goal in the first 1:52 of the game was the left wing’s 500th career NHL point.

First shot
This was a rarity for the Flyers -- they scored on their first shot of the game. Schenn’s goal was the result of him pinching to get the Hartnell rebound in the right slot.

Special teams
The Flyers' power play came into the game just 2 for 22 (nine percent) over its previous five games. They got off quickly in this one with Simmonds’ power-play goal at 10:51 that made it 2-0. Perfect tic-tac-toe passing from Giroux across ice to Voracek, back to Simmonds at the left post. Overall, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the power play while the Wild were 1 for 5.

Penalty kill
The Flyers had to kill off 1:40 of the Wild’s two-man advantage in the first period and gave up a five-on-three goal to Mikael Granlund after Ryan Suter had hit the crossbar and Jason Pominville had a shot over an empty net.

The Flyers have given up five such goals this season. That made it 2-1.

Different goalie
The Flyers caught a break with Wild goalie Josh Harding out ill. They faced Nick Backstrom, who came into play with a 3.19 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

Big hit
Zac Rinaldo on Granlund in the second period that had Backstrom screaming at the officials.

Big saves
Mason’s shorthanded stop on Pominville early in the second with the Flyers holding a 2-1 lead and his point-blank stop in the third period on Mikko Koivu coming down the slot with the score 3-1, which was even more outstanding.

Faceoffs
The Wild did a number on the Flyers in the first period, winning 67 percent of the draws. Sean Couturier was 1 for 6.

Streaking
Giroux and Voracek each have career-high point streaks. Giroux’s is seven games, Voracek’s is eight games.

Scratches
Steve Downie (upper-body injury) and Erik Gustafsson (left knee sprain); defenseman Hal Gill and forward Jay Rosehill were healthy scratches.

Road trip
The Flyers leave Friday afternoon for a six-game road swing. Although they will be back at the Skate Zone for practice on Jan. 6, they will play one more road game Jan. 7 at New Jersey.

Home again
The next Flyers home game is Jan. 8 against Montreal.

Loose pucks
Minnesota came into the game with a 1-6-1 record in its last eight road games, a stat that heavily favored the Flyers. … The Flyers will not practice again at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., until Friday morning before leaving after for Edmonton.

Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

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Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

Flyers vs. Islanders
7 p.m. on TCN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

We'll have to wait another day to see if the Flyers truly plan on experimenting with Claude Giroux on the wing … if we ever see it at all in a game situation.

Giroux is not playing in tonight's split-squad game against the Islanders either in Allentown or Brooklyn. Tonight's rosters are heavy of players competing for spots.

Here are a few reasons to watch tonight:

• We'll get a look at the majority of the Flyers' defense tonight in Allentown as Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are suiting up.

Gostisbehere is a lock, and Manning is as close to a lock as you can get. He could still lose his NHL job, but it appears unlikely at this point.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Hagg and Morin came into training camp as the favorites, and they appear to have taken a stranglehold on their competition.

Many thought Sanheim would push for a job, along with Phil Myers, but neither Sanheim nor Myers have done enough in camp to make the team. Things can change, but they're behind.

What I'll be watching: Gostisbehere and Hagg will be paired together. This could be a pairing when the Flyers open their season in San Jose on Oct. 4.

• Nolan Patrick has yet to find the scoresheet in last week's rookie game and last Sunday, but the 19-year-old — his birthday was Tuesday — hasn't looked out of place.

Patrick's spot on the Flyers has yet to be secured. As in they haven't said he's on the team yet. But he's had a steady camp and looked too good to play with kids his age in the rookie game and didn't look misplaced in his first preseason game.

Tonight gives us another look at the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. For many, it will be their first glimpse at Patrick. I'd bet on him getting on the scoresheet tonight.

On Sunday, the Islanders sent out a largely veteran lineup filled with most of their star players. Patrick passed that test. Tonight in Allentown, it's a little less star-studded Isles team. Patrick will be playing with Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Michal Neuvirth will be in net tonight with Leland Irving backing him up, and with the Flyers banking a lot on Neuvirth this season, it'll be worth watching.

Neuvirth has never stayed healthy throughout his career. When he has, he's largely been a solid goalie. Last season was a different story. Neuvirth had the worst save percentage among qualified goalies, and he simply wasn't good.

The Flyers moved on from Steve Mason and signed Brian Elliott this summer. It's going to be a tandem with Neuvirth and Elliott, who isn't playing tonight in either Allentown or Brooklyn. How it works is a big question mark.

What you want to see from Neuvirth tonight is a steady performance. It's his first action of the year, so there will probably be rust. But you don't want to see too much rust, and you want to see him get steadier as the game goes on.

We don't know how much he'll play tonight, whether they'll split the game with Irving. But Neuvirth is definitely a player to watch tonight.

• Here are the rosters for tonight's split-squad game:

Comcast Spectacor adds Philadelphia to Overwatch League

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Comcast Spectacor adds Philadelphia to Overwatch League

Comcast Spectacor is bringing an Overwatch League team to Philadelphia.

Making the move into the esports space from its sports management roots, Flyers owner, Comcast Spectacor, has bought into Blizzard Entertainment’s upcoming Overwatch League. 

“Comcast Spectacor is thrilled to play a central role in the Overwatch League’s inaugural season and energize the growing esports community in Philadelphia and beyond,” Dave Scott, president and CEO of Comcast Spectacor, said.  

Joining the budding esports league for a reported $20 million, the team will represent Philadelphia when the inaugural campaign begins a full season on Jan. 10, 2018. Comcast Spectacor and Philadelphia joins Team Envy and their investor, Hersh Interactive Group in Dallas and OpTic Gaming in Houston as the final three teams to join the 12 team league.

The investment is Comcast Spectacor’s first dive into esports, joining Robert Kraft (Boston), Jeff Wilpon (New York), Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Group (Los Angeles), Neil Leibman (Houston), Andy Miller (San Francisco) and more, as Overwatch League owners. Other locations featured in the league will include London, England, Seoul, South Korea and Shanghai, China.

“An esports franchise is a great addition to our portfolio of sports and entertainment assets," Scott said. "We believe that Overwatch League is uniquely positioned to succeed.” 

The investment into esports rivals the Sixers’ ownership group, which acquired esports teams, Team Dignitas and Team Apex, in 2016. Nearly identical to the Overwatch League setup, the Sixers bought into the NBA-run NBA 2K League, which is set to begin in its inaugural season in spring of 2018.

Similar to any of the five major U.S. sports leagues, Overwatch League will be powered by owners that will recruit, build and fund a roster of players to compete in a scheduled season. And like any expansion franchise, Comcast Spectacor will create a new team, including roster and brand.

What makes Overwatch League different from most esports competitions is its geo-based foundation. Most esports leagues and tournaments feature club teams, like Sixers-owned Team Dignitas, which are labeled more by country than city or state. With Overwatch League, Philadelphia will be represented by the Comcast Spectacor franchise and will face off against other cities.

But while Philadelphia will act as home to the team, the inaugural season will take place solely in Los Angeles at the newly minted Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, the converted Burbank Studios that formerly played host to the Tonight Show. Eventually, the players are expected to live and practice in their host city.

Overwatch is a popular multi-platform Blizzard Entertainment first-person shooter that surpassed the 30 million player milestone earlier this year. Matches pit six human players against six human players with an objective to attack and defend.