Laughton still battling for crowded center spot


Laughton still battling for crowded center spot

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- When the most recent waive of cuts arrived, Scott Laughton was nervous.

All along, the 19-year-old center has been on the short list of young players expected to have a real shot at making the Flyers’ roster out of camp. But he wasn’t pleased at all with how he played in his first two preseason games last week.

When he learned cuts would be coming, Laughton was concerned his name would be among the more than two dozen players to leave the team before this weekend’s trip to Lake Placid.

“I think it’s always in the back of your mind,” he said. “I think you’re always thinking about it. Definitely in London I didn’t play the way I wanted to, and kind of got better in Toronto, but still not to where it needs to be.

“But I’m excited for the opportunity here and just want to get in some games and show what I can do.”

Coach Peter Laviolette didn’t have quite the same read on Laughton’s play against the Maple Leafs, saying the young center played “well” but agreeing that he does need to progress a bit more before he’s truly NHL ready.

“I think that there’s still another gear that he can find in his game,” Laviolette said. “When he came in last year, he was flying. He had played in lots of games when our team was just getting off the mark from a lockout. So it’s a bit of a different scenario for him -- he comes in on equal ground with everybody else.”

At Friday’s practice, Laughton skated on a line with Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill. He is still far from a lock to make the team -- and, in fact, would likely have to unseat Adam Hall in order to claim a spot at center. He won’t earn ice time over, say, Claude Giroux or Vinny Lecavalier or Sean Couturier.

He has three more chances during preseason to show his stuff, though, and his goal is to prove to the Flyers that he can pick up where he left off with the team last year, when he played five games at the beginning of the season and fit in seamlessly. This year, he can play nine games before the Flyers must decide whether to keep him around or send him back to the OHL.

Through it all, he said, he won’t be thinking about how or where he fits into the roster, or what’s being said about him. Instead, he’s choosing to remain concentrated only on what he can control.

“I focus on me,” Laughton said, “doing what I can every day. I think if I can play the way I can, I think I’ll be here for the year.”

It’s no secret that the Flyers have somewhat of a logjam at center. The only obvious vacancy on the team is at left wing, for which Laughton’s name was circulated earlier this summer. It’s not outrageous, the thinking went, for a center to move over to the wing. Laughton said he was “open to the challenge.”

Instead, however, the battle for the opening at wing appears to be down to two new faces: Michael Raffl and Chris VandeVelde. The Flyers are giving Laughton every opportunity to succeed at the position he's played his entire life.

“Right now we’re leaving him at center,” Laviolette said. “We want to see how he does at that position instead of putting him somewhere where he’s not comfortable and then sticking him in one of these exhibition games coming up. [General manager] Paul [Holmgren] and I have not talked about that. It may have kicked around a table real quick, but there hasn’t been discussion as to make that move at this point.

“He’s a centerman, that’s where we picked him and drafted him. He’s at a camp right now with an opportunity to make the Flyers. We want to put him in the best position we can to show what he can do.”

Laviolette said he’s looking forward to seeing how Laughton plays in next week's exhibition games against the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals, when the lineups will be mostly full of NHL players and not a heavier mix of veterans and minor-leaguers.

Until then, he agrees with Laughton's plans for the week ahead: staying focused.

“I think the best thing for him is to do what he’s doing," Laviolette said. "Keep his eye on the target and keep his nose down and work hard, and try to pick up what we’re saying, which he does.”

Dale Weise faces possible suspension for hit on Ducks' Holzer

Dale Weise faces possible suspension for hit on Ducks' Holzer

VOORHEES, N.J. – The long arm of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will likely reach down once more to serve the Flyers a suspension.

Dale Weise is facing a suspension on Friday for a high shoulder to the head of Ducks' defenseman Korbinian Holzer just prior to a Flyer power play in the second period of Thursday's 3-2 loss.

The phone hearing was expected Friday afternoon.

Weise didn’t get a penalty on the play and Holzer remained in the game, even assisting on Ryan Garbutt’s game-winning goal midway into the third period.

A tight-lipped Weise had a terse "no comment" on the play. Coach Dave Hakstol didn’t take sides, either.

“I don’t have a comment on it and I’m not going to comment this year on them,” Hakstol said. “I’m not surprised. 

“I didn’t expect there'd be something last night, put it that way. I looked at it this morning and now we’ll wait for the process to go ahead.”

On the other hand, Josh Manson’s elbow to the back of the head of rookie Travis Konecny in the opening minutes of the game did not draw a suspension. Manson served a minor for elbowing.

“I have not compared the two and won’t compare the two,” Hakstol said. “I will wait for the process to play out and go from there. That’s the choice I have to make as a coach.”

Konecny said he put himself in a bad situation on the Manson hit.

“That was my fault,” he 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.”

Any difference between that and the Weise hit?

“From my point of view, it looked like he hit his body,” Konecny said. “There was no intent to hit him in the head. I could say the same thing about the hit on me. He didn’t intend to hit me in the head. In my opinion, they are both good hits.”

Wayne Simmonds was upset that one hit was being investigated while the other wasn’t.

“It’s bull,” he said. “There is no difference. The guy has his head down. [Weise] hits him square through the body. I honestly think it’s a clean check. Obviously, whatever happens, happens, but we can’t take those hits out of the game. 

“The guy who is getting hit has to be aware, keep his head up. But at the same time, I don’t think Weiser was going for head contact at all. He drove 100 percent through the body and just so happened their guy had his head down carrying the puck. You don’t want him to check? What do you want him to do?”

Through four games, the 5-foot-9 – he’s listed taller – Konecny is being targeted by teams. The fact he has four assists – tied for first place among rookies – has served notice around the NHL that he is a player to watch on the ice.

From the Flyers' perspective, you can see why they miss defenseman Radko Gudas. They have no big body bruiser out there to make other clubs think twice.

Gudas has served four games from a six-game suspension handed down at the end of preseason for a hit to Bruins rookie Austin Czarnik.

Flyers' lackluster power play sets team back in home opener

Flyers' lackluster power play sets team back in home opener

Most times, a team gets five power plays in a game, it’s lights out.

The Flyers had five power plays in the second period of Thursday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim and were being outshot!

By the time matters were settled, they had scored one, lonely power play goal in seven chances. That almost defies the odds for not being more successful. It’s also a contributing factor in the defeat.

Right now for Dave Hakstol’s club it remains either feast or famine on power play. 

The Flyers either get the puck into the zone cleanly with a setup, puck and player movement and shots or they flub entry passes, turn it over at the blue line, or whiff within the zone and it results in an easy clear.

There’s no real consistency to their power play, which is 3-for-17 through four games. A few more goals and they would have won in Phoenix (0-for-4) and against the Ducks.

“We kept turning the puck over in the neutral zone,” said Wayne Simmonds, who had the only power play marker the Flyers scored in this game.

Simmonds' goal was classic tic-tac-toe passing and movement. There simply wasn’t enough of that in this game, or in others so far, either.

Far too often, the Flyers made it too easy on Anaheim’s penalty kill units with inefficiency.

“Those guys that are out there, they did a hell of a job tonight,” Corey Perry said of the Ducks’ PK units. “They blocked shots, they cleared pucks, they did everything they were asked to do.

“When you’re killing penalties, that’s what you have to do. You have to sacrifice that body and [goalie John] Gibson came up with some big saves for us.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol didn’t see it the same way.

“I thought we had pretty good power plays, our first power play,” he said. “I thought we had a good power play during the second, scored a good goal. Had opportunities to stretch to 3-1. It’s disappointing we couldn’t.

“We had one poor power play at the end of the first, where we weren’t able to get set up at all. Our power play was okay, the bigger thing for me is the goal we gave up a few seconds after the last power play in the second period. Those are the type of goals that as a team we can’t give up.”

Hakstol was referring to Perry’s tying goal that made it 2-2 and gave the Ducks momentum carryover into the final period.

Matt Read doesn’t play on the power play but he sees some things from the bench.

“It’s about getting that bounce or making that one extra play or simple play of getting the puck to the net,” Read said. “They’re doing a good job out there and it’s going to come. It’s still early. 

"Hopefully, you watch video and see what you can do better every time. It would be nice to get an insurance goal there, but it didn’t happen. We got to play better the rest of the game.”

More Read
His goal in the second period on a splendid, end-to-end rush, gives him four goals on the season. He’s on pace for a mere 82.

Read has a three-goal scoring streak. This was his fourth career goal streak of three games or more. His career-high there is five games, going back to the fall of 2011 when he scored six goals between Nov. 13-21.

“He has always been a hard working guy,” Hakstol said. “He’s a guy that is doing things with a lot of confidence. For me, it started with Reader back in late August. 

“He was in here working early, getting ready, getting prepared and he has carried that through everything he has done so far this year.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds is also on a three-game goal scoring streak, which is the 12th such streak of his career. His career-high is five games from March 26-April 3, 2012, during which he scored six goals … Attendance was 19,982. That’s the Flyers’ largest home crowd since January 20, 2015 when they had the same attendance figure in a 3-2 overtime victory against Pittsburgh.