Flyers

Breaking down why Sam Morin is Flyers' odd man out on defense

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Breaking down why Sam Morin is Flyers' odd man out on defense

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Through the first three games of the season, 21 of the 23 players on the Flyers' roster have seen action in at least one game so far.
 
Sam Morin and Jori Lehtera spent the West Coast portion of this four-game road trip either watching from the press box or working out in the bowels of the arena.
 
While few people may be questioning the Lehtera decision, Morin is the 6-foot-6 elephant in the Flyers' dressing room right now with a stick that measures nearly that same size. 
 
Morin clearly believes he earned his roster spot and was confident in his overall performance during the preseason to warrant a spot on one of the three defense pairings. A week ago, when his bags were packed for San Jose, Morin spoke of achieving a dream by making the opening night roster, but that he needed to keep going.
 
However, the latter part of that grand plan isn’t going well at all.
 
If Morin doesn’t crack the Flyers' lineup Tuesday in Nashville, management will have to seriously consider reassigning the 22-year-old defenseman to Lehigh Valley so he can continue his development, because sitting idle isn’t beneficial for the player or the organization (see weekly observations).
 
“I don’t have the answer,” general manager Ron Hextall said Thursday. “If you want a definite answer, I don’t have it. We’re not going to carry eight defensemen. It could be tomorrow, a week from now or two weeks from now, but we’re not going to carry eight for long."
 
The decision to carry eight defensemen from the outset was the result of an upper-body injury to Shayne Gostisbehere and the uncertainty of his status, but now, that’s no longer an issue.
 
While Hextall has stated how pleased he’s been with the effort of all three rookie defensemen following the preseason, it’s not a matter of which rookie deserves to be in the lineup, but the manner in which Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol prefer to construct their pairings.
 
Ivan Provorov and Andrew MacDonald — Whether you like it or not, this pair isn’t going to change, at least, not anytime soon.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg — A stay-at-home defenseman combined with a mobile, offensive-minded defenseman. It’s a good blend and with Hagg’s comfort level playing the right side, that’s another key attribute to why he’s been a mainstay in the lineup. 
 
Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning/Travis Sanheim/Morin — Since Gudas is more of a physical force who doesn’t venture too far from the opponent’s blue line, Hakstol has shown a preference to pair him with Sanheim’s mobility and offensive upside.
 
Credit Sanheim, who has improved from his first game in Los Angeles to his second game in Anaheim. Moreover, Sanheim earned Hakstol’s trust, playing 4:53 in the third period of a tied game — the most ice time Sanheim has seen in his six periods of action.
 
“I thought he picked up where he left off in the third period in L.A.,” Hakstol said Saturday, “which was back to playing his game … moving his feet well. I thought he played a pretty confident game.”
 
Right now, it’s all about fit, and Sanheim appears to be the better choice playing alongside Gudas. I’d be surprised if Hakstol deviated from that against a very quick Predators team that prefers to get in hard and fast on their forecheck, and if he did, he very likely would revert back to Manning.
 
All of which has left Morin in an uncomfortable position, no matter how comfortable the press box seating is.

Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

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Doing what he does best, Oskar Lindblom catching fire

Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Flyers fans can't wait to see this at the NHL level.

Last weekend, Lindblom potted a goal in three straight games for the Phantoms, giving him 16 on the season through 54 contests. All three tallies came within close range as the Swedish winger's scoring IQ continues to grow during his first AHL season.

Since going scoreless in his first six games, the 2014 fifth-round pick hasn't gone more than four straight games without a point.

Lindblom surprised many with his vast development leading up to the 2017-18 season. While some were disappointed he didn't make the Flyers' roster out of training camp, a 20-goal campaign at Lehigh Valley will be a nice accomplishment along his path to Philly.

Travis Sanheim, D, 21, 6-4/199, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Just how much of a difference-maker is Sanheim? The Phantoms are 9-1-2 since the 2014 first-round pick joined them after he was sent down by the Flyers.

Over Lehigh Valley's 3-0-1 week, Sanheim extended his point streak to seven games with five more assists, putting him at 12 helpers in as many games.

Seeing plenty of minutes and responsibility, Sanheim has collected 13 points to go with a plus-11 rating.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 21, 5-11/187, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Aube-Kubel is another Phantom worth noting here.

The 2014 second-round pick put up five points (one goal, four assists) in four games last week, continuing his surge in Year 2 of his AHL development. He now has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last 12 games.

After a feeling-out process last season, Aube-Kubel is coming on strong in 2017-18, as he's a plus-20 and third on Lehigh Valley with 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists).

Quick hits
• Ho-hum for Morgan Frost, who had a six-point week through three games. At 94 points, Frost is six away from 100, while his plus-54 rating remains best in the OHL.

Here's a glimpse into his vision and skill:

• Goalie Carter Hart picked up a win and a shootout loss over the weekend. In total, he made 60 saves on 65 shots.

Maksim Sushko tallied two goals (including this one below) and two assists through three games last week. A 2017 fourth-round pick, the 19-year-old has 48 points in 47 games for Owen Sound.

• Wingers Isaac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, also 2017 draft picks, recorded three points each in a pair of games.

• Playing for the first time since Jan. 31, German Rubtsov returned from an undisclosed injury to notch an assist over three games last week. The Flyers' 2016 first-round pick has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 27 games for Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

• In Michigan's two-game sweep of top-ranked Notre Dame, Cooper Marody tacked on three more assists, giving 26 overall, which is tied for most in the Big Ten.

Here's his primary helper from Sunday's 1-0 win:

Anthony Salinitri pushed his point streak to seven games with an assist Friday and a goal Saturday. The 2016 sixth-round pick has 25 goals and 25 assists in 56 games.

• During the four-game week for the Phantoms, Mike Vecchione scored his 12th and 13th goals of the season, while adding an assist.

Philippe Myers had an assist Tuesday for his first point since Jan. 26, while Samuel Morin (undisclosed injury), who hasn't played since Jan. 20, remains out.

Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

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Hall's late OT goal helps Devils keep pace with Flyers

RALEIGH, N.C. — Taylor Hall scored on a rebound with 22 seconds left in overtime, giving the New Jersey Devils a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

The goal extended Hall's league-best streak of games with a point to 18.

New Jersey had won the first of the teams' four meetings this season on Thursday night to start the Hurricanes' three-game losing streak.

Keith Kinkaid stopped 40 shots for the Devils.

The Devils led 1-0 after a first period in which the Hurricanes outshot them 13-9.

Nico Hischier scored New Jersey's first goal on a power play midway through the first, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Kinkaid (see full recap).

Matthews scores in final minute to give Maple Leafs win over Red Wings
DETROIT — To Jeff Blashill, the outcome came down to one simple fact.

"They made one more play than us," the Detroit coach Blashill said.

To Toronto center Auston Matthews, it came down to persistence.

"We've got a lot of chances the last couple of games," Matthews said. "We had some pretty good chances tonight, the puck just wouldn't go in.

"It was nice to finally finish it off there with a half a minute left."

Matthews scored with 30.2 seconds left to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Sunday night.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner also scored for Toronto, and Curtis McElhinney made 27 saves (see full recap).

McDavid notches 3rd hat trick of season in Oilers' victory vs. Avalanche
DENVER — Late in the second period, with his team outplaying Colorado, Edmonton coach Todd McLellan couldn't believe his Oilers were trailing 2-1.

"Jay Woodcroft and I looked at each other and said, `How are we losing this game?'" McLellan said.

They didn't, thanks to another big game by Connor McDavid.

McDavid had his third hat trick of the season and fourth of his career, and the Oilers beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Sunday to snap a six-game losing streak.

McDavid now has 11 goals in the last nine games and two hat tricks. His first two goals tied the game, and his last one was into an empty net with 1:26 remaining (see full recap).

Sheahan scores twice in Penguins' win over Blue Jackets 
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Riley Sheahan scored two goals in the first period, rookie Tristan Jarry had 35 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 on Sunday night.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, and Brian Dumoulin and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for the Penguins. They have won five straight and 10 of their last 12. The win in front of a sellout crowd at Nationwide Arena moved them past Washington into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The 22-year-old Jarry played well standing in for starter Matt Murray, who got a rest as Pittsburgh played the second leg of a back-to-back and its third game in four days. It was Jarry's first NHL action in a month after going 3-0 in three starts for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL.

Artemi Panarin and Alexander Wennberg scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 18 shots for the Blue Jackets. They have lost two straight and seven of the last nine. In what is becoming the norm lately, Columbus outshot its opponent (37-23) but couldn't score enough to win. The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in shots per game but are lingering near the bottom of the division (see full recap)