Voracek has moved on from time with Columbus


Voracek has moved on from time with Columbus

When Jakub Voracek  recalls his days in Columbus, he doesn’t think about Scott Arniels’s comments in the spring of 2011 about him being an “out of shape” player.

He’s moved on.

Indeed, Voracek recalls the good times he had with Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard - his buddies.

“We had a great group of guys in Columbus,” Voracek said. “But I think they made the playoffs just once in 10 years and they needed a scorer to play with Nash and traded me for Jeff Carter. It was for me, personally, a good decision.”

Voracek was shipped to the Flyers the afternoon before the 2011 NHL draft in Minnesota along with two draft picks who became Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins.

On Saturday, Voracek and goalie Steve Mason return to Columbus for the first time as Flyers. Mason was traded here straight-up for Michael Leighton last April. It’s a homecoming in Ohio.

“I’m not going to lie,” Voracek said. “As soon as the schedule came out, I wanted to see when we went to Columbus. I got traded 2½  years ago and haven’t played there since. It’s going to be exciting for me and Mase. Ask me tomorrow after the morning skate how I feel. Maybe it’s just deja vu. I had three great years there. We had a good group of guys there. When I got traded, I moved on. I’m the kind of guy that everything happens for a reason. I’m here with a bunch of great guys and really enjoying it now.”

Mason beat his former teammates in that wild 5-4 Flyers’ comeback Thursday night in Philly. He will likely not be in goal tomorrow in Columbus as it appears Ray Emery will get the nod.

“I was definitely aware of where they were [on the schedule],” Mason said. “As the season has gone on, it’s not something that I’ve really looked ahead to. But now that it’s come out, it’s an exciting time.”

Neither player said they feel a need to prove themselves to Columbus.

“No, I have nothing to prove to that organization,” Mason said. “They gave me this chance to come here and start from scratch ... have that fresh opportunity. There’s no hard feelings whatsoever.”

Carter would eventually end up in Los Angeles and win a Stanley Cup with Mike Richards and the Kings, putting that much more of an exclamation point on the Voracek deal.

“I don’t look at it that way at all,” Voracek said. “I look at it as I got traded for a very good players and there were expectations for me. I think I am filling out those expectations so far. It’s my third year here. It’s very hard to win the Stanley Cup in this league. The NHL is the best league in the world. You got 30 teams try to win the Cup every year. You have to work hard every day. Go game by game. I’m sure this room has quality players and character to win the Cup.”

Mason’s lone regret was not being able to say goodbye to teammates in Columbus. Even his roommate.

“I was traded after practice one day and the same day we were supposed to be taking off to St. Louis or Nashville,” Mason recalled. “I was back at my place, living in the same building as a couple of the other guys. The other guys in the building were traded also. They were the only ones I got a chance to say goodbye to. I roomed with R.J. Umberger for five years, never got a chance to say goodbye.”

Mason saw Umberger this week in Philly, had dinner with him, and caught up on things he was unable to say last spring.

Both Mason, who won a Calder Trophy in Columbus and thought things would come easily thereafter, and Voracek have advanced themselves as Flyers, professionally and personally.

Mason has found his game again and seems very relaxed despite some recent hiccups in net. Voracek has made great strides in changing his “pass the puck” mentality, focusing on a a shooting mentality that now makes him the elite threat the Flyers projected.

“When I was there, I was still a kid, 19 or 20,” Voracek said. “I wouldn’t say I was a bad boy off the ice, but I was a young kid playing in the NHL and I think I had some successful years there. Put it this way – it didn’t hurt me to get traded. It’s so different now. They changed the organization from the GM to the defensemen to the goalies to the forwards that it’s like four or five players that I played with are part of the team.

“I don’t feel any [animosity] towards the people there or management or team right now. It’s an NHL game, just try to help the team win.”

Loose pucks
Michael Raffl missed practice with a scheduled maintenance day off. Today was also the last day he could visit with his father who returned to Europe. ... Coach Craig Berube on Claude Giroux's game-winning goal: "Certain guys can do that. I'm not one of them." ... Hal Gill has been a healthy scratch 20 consecutive games. He walked into the dressing room singing Christmas songs. … Vinny Lecavalier skated and said he felt very good. He remains optimistic of returning to the lineup for the post-Christmas trip to Western Canada.

Flyers Skate Update: Travis Konecny's climb reaches 1st line

Flyers Skate Update: Travis Konecny's climb reaches 1st line

A month ago, Travis Konecny was entering training camp with no job in hand. 
The plausibility of being sent back to the junior level for another year of development against fellow teenagers was real.
Tonight, he’s a top-line player with NHL All-Stars Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.
Talk about a growth spurt.
When the Flyers host the Arizona Coyotes at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./CSN), the 19-year-old winger and Voracek will join the Flyers’ captain on the team’s No. 1 line for a brand-new look to the 2016-17 season.
“They know all the drills, things like that, they’re definitely experienced,” Konecny said Thursday after morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. “I’m sitting here a little unsure what to do sometimes. It kind of helps me pick things up and they show me what to do.”
Konecny hasn’t needed too much guidance out of the chute. Among NHL rookies, he’s tied for the lead in assists with five. Last time out, he netted his first career goal to help spur the Flyers’ comeback from three goals down Tuesday night to beat the Sabres, 4-3, in a shootout. Konecny’s marker came in the third period, when Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, with his team trailing 3-0, first debuted the youngster alongside Voracek and Giroux in search of a jolt.
He clearly liked what he watched.
“We needed a spark so that’s why we were trying something a little bit different, a little bit new,” Hakstol said. “I liked that group.”
From the start, Hakstol has shown he’ll be fluid and experimental with his lineups, game by game. When things work, they are likely tried again. Konecny has produced, along with Sean Couturier and Voracek, on the Flyers’ previous second line. The trio has combined for seven goals, 11 assists and 18 points.
Despite the jump, Konecny’s approach stays the same.
“The first thing I thought of this morning when I saw I was on the line was don’t overthink it, don’t change what you’re doing,” he said. “Obviously I was put there because of the way I’ve been playing with my speed and things like that — it’s not to fill a skill role or something like that, it’s just to play hard. I’m not going to change anything in my game, I’m just going to try and help them and create space for them to make their moves.”
Couturier will center Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds on the second line.
Brayden Schenn will stay on the third line.
“Brayden’s five-on-five game is continuing to get back to where we all want it to be,” Hakstol said. “Just keep building with his game.
“You look at it as moving a guy up or a guy down — just trying to find the right fit.
“It’s about finding good combinations and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Captain’s own critic
Giroux leads the NHL with eight assists but is far from pleased.
He’s goalless through seven games and is not fond of his minus-5 rating.
“When you’re on the ice, you obviously want to be a plus player,” Giroux said. “Right now, that’s obviously not the case and one of the main reasons I’m not happy with my play right now.”
Giroux has experienced goal droughts before. He started the 2013-14 campaign without a goal through 15 games, but finished with arguably the second-best season of his career (see story)
He remembers.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Giroux said. “I was actually wondering when you guys were going to bring it up.”
For Giroux, though, it goes beyond statistics.
“I think the way I played defensively, it could be better,” he said. “Offensively, be a little more creative. Just need to relax a little bit more out there. When guys are relaxed, they’re more creative and enjoy the game a little bit more. I need to go back to having fun.”
He’s looking forward to the fun with his old buddy Voracek.
“It’s a zoo out there with him,” Giroux said with a laugh. “Jake’s playing well right now, he’s holding onto the puck, he’s beating guys one-on-one. You play with a guy like that, usually it’s going to help your game.”
What about the newbie?
“Explosive player, he creates plays and he competes,” Giroux said of Konecny. “He’s hard on himself and I like watching him play, so playing with him, it’s pretty fun, too.”
Weise staying true
Dale Weise returns from a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer last week.
Weise, a hard-working, checking-oriented forward, will continue to play his game.
“I’ve been suspended before,” he said. “Hopefully this is my last one but you never know. This doesn’t really change the way I play. You’ve got to go out there and be physical and finish checks — that’s just part of the game.”
Leier returned to Phantoms
Forward Taylor Leier on Thursday was loaned back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after being recalled to the Flyers for one game in which he was a healthy scratch.
Projected lineup
F: Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

Matt Read-Sean Couturier-Wayne Simmonds

Brayden Schenn-Nick Cousins-Dale Weise

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Roman Lyubimov

D: Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere

Ivan Provorov-Brandon Manning
Mark Streit-Radko Gudas

G: Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Forwards Scott Laughton (knee) and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull), and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee). 
All three skated Thursday morning and are progressing without set timetables for returns.

Scratches: Forward Boyd Gordon and defenseman Nick Schultz

Flyers-Coyotes 5 things: Decent chance for first winning streak

Flyers-Coyotes 5 things: Decent chance for first winning streak

Updated: 12:07 p.m.

Flyers vs. Coyotes
7 p.m. on CSN
Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers (3-3-1) on Thursday night have an optimal opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they host the nosediving Coyotes (1-5-0) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s get you ready for the game with five things to know.

1. Nothin' but a G thang
For any of those worried about Claude Giroux, don’t be.

For one, Giroux may be the only player that would receive more flack for not having scored a goal yet than be applauded for leading the NHL in assists (eight).

Secondly, you may recall 2013-14 when the Flyers’ captain started the season goalless through 15 games, with just seven assists and a minus-11 rating. Giroux finished that season with a career-high-tying 28 goals and the league’s third-most points at 86.

More so than the puck being put in the net, the Flyers needed greater playmaking after last season. Giroux is providing that — as is Jakub Voracek — and, as a result, the goals are coming for the Flyers, at both even strength and on the power play. 

2. Stick with the switches?
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol made a few changes before the team’s 4-3, come-from-behind win over the Sabres on Tuesday.

Veteran defenseman Nick Schultz was healthy-scratched to make room for blueliner Radko Gudas, returning from a six-game suspension to the start the season. Gudas finished with seven shot attempts and three hits in 18:27.

“Overall, what you want to see is go out and play an efficient game,” Hakstol said. “For the most part, I thought [Gudas] went out and did that.”

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who has had bad moments, stayed in the lineup for his versatility.

“He is just a guy that is reliable, who moves the puck well,” Hakstol said, “and we feel he can play in any situation whether it is OT or regulation.”

A greater change came to the team’s top line. Flyers leading goal scorer Matt Read leapfrogged to the first line from the third as Brayden Schenn dropped to Read’s previous spot. Without a point in his first three games, Schenn recorded a goal and an assist as he finds his rhythm returning from a three-game ban.

“The timing and pace of his game [are starting] to get back to where it needs to be,” Hakstol said. 

3. Oh, 'Yotes
Once they beat the visiting Flyers, 4-3, in overtime in their season opener, the Coyotes hit the road for what has turned out to be a nightmarish six-game trip.

Since the victory over the orange and black, Arizona has lost five straight by a combined score of 23-13, a losing skid that started with the team’s No. 1 goalie Mike Smith being knocked out with a lower-body injury. As a result, the Coyotes are permitting an NHL-most 4.33 markers per game and own the league’s worst goal differential at minus-9.

Backup netminder Louis Domingue, who will start against the Flyers, has struggled mightily in place of Smith, going 0-4-0 in four games with a 5.03 goals-against average and .851 save percentage.

Through seven games, the Flyers have just one goal in the first period. They should jump on Arizona, which has yielded eight tallies in the opening stanza, tied for most in hockey.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Center Sean Couturier has been a bit quiet over his last four games with just one assist for one point after scoring three goals in his first three games. He’ll get going again playing alongside new linemates Wayne Simmonds and Read.

Coyotes: Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is coming off a two-goal output last time out to give him four goals on the season. He plays a ton (26:17 TOI, tied for fourth highest in the NHL) and is a career plus-7 against the Flyers with four goals and an assist.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 5-9-1 with a 2.96 GAA and .899 save percentage in 15 career games against the Coyotes.

• Arizona goalie Domingue has faced the Flyers just once, allowing four goals on 33 shots in a loss last season.

• Konecny has six points (one goal, five assists), tied for third among NHL rookies.

• The Flyers own the league’s fifth-best power play at 26.9 percent.

• The Flyers will welcome back 14 members of their Hall of Fame — along with family of six other members — for Flyers Heritage Night, featuring a pregame ceremony.