Laughton does little to stand out in Flyers' loss

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Laughton does little to stand out in Flyers' loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. -- He’s been between Scott Hartnell and Matt Read.
 
Between Tye McGinn and Read.
 
Between Jay Rosehill and Adam Hall.
 
Thursday night at Prudential Center against the Devils, Flyer prospect Scott Laughton played between Michael Raffl and Read.
 
Coach Peter Laviolette used a skeleton lineup minus eight players who will be on the final roster, including Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
 
The Devils won against the Flyers' “B” group (missing eight regulars), 4-1. That said, scoring has been a huge concern in preseason -- 11 goals in six games -- as we head into the real games next week.
 
It’s down to the nitty-gritty now as to whether Laughton can somehow squeeze onto the roster. And, if so, can he play up and down the lineup, because there really is no permanent spot for him.
 
“It’s definitely in the back of your mind. You are always thinking about it and it’s in the back of your mind, what’s going to be the end result,” Laughton said of trying to make the roster. “I try to stay positive.”
 
Last season, the Oakville (Canada) native lasted five games then was sent back to his junior club in Oshawa. Unless something shakes out or the club is willing to carry 14 forwards, Laughton seems headed back again.
 
Laviolette moved Laughton to a better line in this game with skill players. Raffl himself is looking to make the club at left wing, and to this point, has a spot on the final roster.
 
“I played pretty big minutes my first two preseason games and wasn’t too happy with them,” Laughton said. “I wasn’t moving my feet in London, Ont., especially. The game in Toronto, my second and third period were better. I moved my feet, I was more physical.
 
“I’m in game mode now. I’ve got my legs under me. This will be a big challenge for me and I hope I respond under pressure.”

He didn't.
 
Laughton played 15:42, had no official shots, two missed shots and one hit. He needed to have some kind of impact on the game and he didn’t, even though he played on the second power play and on the penalty kill.

After the game, Laviolette -- without referring to any player specifically -- said he was very disappointed in players, who are supposed to be fighting for job, failing to make a difference.

“Guys you were looking to respond needed to respond better," he said. "That’s what I don’t get. We’re in a training camp, an evaluation period and a process for guys to put their cards on the table and I was disappointed in that tonight.”

“You hit the post early and get confidence early,” Laughton said, referring to the first period. “New Jersey is a hard team to play against. Their defense, they shut you down. It’s a tough game.
 
“I need more. We lose 4-1 and I was second line centerman, at least tonight. You got to show more at this type of level here. It’s tough.
 
“I’m trying to make the team and this is my shot. You can practice as much as you want ... At the end of the day, it comes down to games. It’s not much coming into this building and losing like that.” 

Laviolette wanted to evaluate Laughton throughout camp with different players before the hockey staff makes its final cuts.
 
“It’s important to see him in different roles, different lines,” Laviolette said. “This situation, it would have a different look than other nights.”
 
There’s a school of thought that says sending Laughton back is not going to advance his game “if” he is dominating other junior players in the OHL.
 
The flip side of that is that it does him even less good sitting around as a healthy scratch or playing shallow minutes in a fourth-line role. Then again, Sean Couturier did that two years ago, and he was 18 when he made the Flyers' roster, though he played 14 minutes a game.
 
Laviolette doesn’t agree that Laughton can’t benefit from going back to Oshawa if that’s the final decision.
 
“I’m sure there are guys who have gone back and matured physically,” Laviolette said. “They’ve gained confidence and have had a positive year. So I’m not sure I buy that … I don’t think his season would be busted.
 
“I think there is room for improvement in both scenarios. Again, don’t read into my comments, one way or another.
 
“I think there is a case to be made for sending a kid back … developing physically, mentally and maturing and to excel on the ice and be an elite player in that league.
 
“I think there is [another] case to be made to move it [forward] and practice at this level and play at this level and work your way into a role like Sean Couturier did. There is a case to be made both ways.”
 
Laughton made the decision process “tough” on the Flyers last year and he’s done the same thing in this camp, as well. Alas, there remains too many centers.
 
Laughton said it was “huge” playing those five games and getting his lips wet to the NHL last winter after the lockout ended.
 
One nagging question is this: Does Laughton have to play center? The Flyers' hockey staff says “yes” because he is a natural centerman.
 
If this weren’t the case in which the Flyers could move Laughton around like they do with Max Talbot, then the decision to keep him is much easier.
 
“It’s a tough question,” Laughton admitted. “I played center all my life. That’s my main position. But a bunch of guys have moved positions in their career.
 
“I’m open to anything. Open to do whatever I can to make this hockey team and whatever that position is, I’m willing to do.”

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers (33-31-8) at Wild (44-22-6)
8 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7:30

A four-game road trip takes a daunting turn Thursday night when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Hazardous road
You thought things were already ugly?

It looks like it could get much, much worse.

The Flyers now visit three of the NHL's top five clubs, starting with the Wild, followed by the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.

Those three are a combined 137-58-21 overall and 79-24-5 at home.

And it's safe to say the Flyers don't have any momentum heading into this gauntlet. They're coming off a 3-2 loss to the Jets, a non-contender decimated by injuries, and are 4-15-3 on the road since Dec. 19 with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We need to have a better effort," Steve Mason said postgame Tuesday. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it."

2. Hole gets deeper
With a win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs moved past the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, making Boston the current leader for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 82 points.

The Flyers, with 74 points, trail the Bruins, Islanders (80), Lightning (77) and Hurricanes (75), who have a game in hand, as well. Oh, and the Panthers are just one point behind the Flyers.

Ten regular-season games remain and Dave Hakstol's group needs a miracle.

In search of some type of spark, the Flyers will strut out a different look against the Wild.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Matt Read said Wednesday. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

3. A look at the Wild
Minnesota, which went 30-6-3 from the start of December to the end of February, has cooled off a bit but is still one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

The Wild are 3-8-0 in March. For the season, however, they rank among the league's top 10 in goals per game (3.22 -- second), goals against per game (2.47 -- tied for sixth), power-play percentage (21.3 -- ninth) and penalty-kill percentage (83.8 -- seventh).

Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have 20 or more goals, while netminder Devan Dubnyk has been a top-five goalie at 37-18-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Jakub Voracek has no goals and an assist in his last six games for a minus-5 rating. When he's not providing offense, the Flyers predictably struggle. The good thing: Voracek owns 16 points in 18 career games against Minnesota.

Wild: Ryan Suter has been a stud for the Wild. The defenseman leads the NHL as a plus-34 and is third with 27:07 of ice time per game. The 32-year-old is Minnesota's backbone and the Wild are 21-6-1 in games that he has at least one point.

5. This and that
• Mason will make his 11th start in the last 12 games. He is 7-6-1 lifetime against Minnesota with a 2.59 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

• Dubnyk is 2-4-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Brandon Manning is back in the lineup for Michael Del Zotto (see Skate Update). Manning missed the last fives games with a shoulder injury.

• Former Flyer Ryan White is out for the Wild with an illness.

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Facing a critical road game in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Flyers will welcome back a key defenseman to their lineup.

Brandon Manning, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, will return and pair with Radko Gudas on the blue line.

“We’re playing a heavy team tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re a heavy team down low. So, we’ll need that pair to play that way. They’ve got to be an abrasive pair and they have to be on the heavy side defensively.”

Michael Del Zotto will be the odd man out as the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen again. Manning, with three goals and seven assists in 57 games this season, said he’s not worried about conditioning or the injury.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. Did some contact a few days ago and not even thinking about it.”

Toronto’s win in Columbus on Tuesday night allowed the Maple Leafs to surpass Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins now hold the No. 8 spot in the playoff race with 82 points with nine games remaining. The Flyers are eight points back, with three teams in between, and 10 games left in the season.

Their play on the road is one big reason why the Flyers are out of a playoff spot. They are 12-20-4 on the road this season, tied for the second-fewest road wins among Eastern Conference teams. They’re winless in their last six road games (0-5-1) as they play the second game of a four-game trip.

“I don’t think there’s panic,” Manning said. “I think the focus is on each and every night, not really looking too far down the road. Obviously, the last couple weeks, we’ve probably given up points we don’t want to give up and put ourselves in a pretty tough spot. But we got a good group of guys in here, and guys that have played pro hockey long enough that know what it’s like.”

With Del Zotto's being scratched for Manning, Nick Schultz will play what could be his final game in the Xcel Energy Center, where he spent 10 seasons with the Wild. Schultz, a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, ranks second in franchise history with 743 games played.

Hakstol said Schultz’s history wasn’t a factor in keeping the defenseman in the lineup.

“He’s filled his role well the last few games,” Hakstol said. “He’s been good in that role with Ghost. So, he’s staying in for that reason.”

Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 11th time in 12 games. He has a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his last 10 games.

Lineup
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmons
Schenn-Couturier-Weise
Konecny-Bellemare-VandeVelde

D: Provorov-MacDonald
Schultz-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas

G: Mason