Flyers

Flyers-Ducks thoughts: Topping off a fulfilling homestand?

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AP Images/NBCSP

Flyers-Ducks thoughts: Topping off a fulfilling homestand?

Flyers (5-3-0) vs. Ducks (3-3-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers have a chance to punctuate their five-game homestand when they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts before Game 9 of the season.

• This is tied for the longest home stretch of the Flyers' season, and it just so happened to come in October. The Flyers have another five-game homestand from Dec. 12-20. Despite the first one being so early, the Flyers are making it meaningful. They've built confidence and even somewhat of a new identity for the 2017-18 season. The Flyers have shown they're faster, more mobile and much scarier from top to bottom, while they've also displayed the ability to win in a variety of styles.

Look at what the Flyers have accomplished on the homestay before the finale. They're 3-1-0 and with a combined score of 10-3 in two of the victories over teams led by Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid. In the four games total, the Flyers have outscored the opposition, 15-5, while the penalty kill is 13 for 14. They've also outshot teams, 127-112, and have won more faceoffs, 124-101.

It may be a small sample size, but it's a good one.

• With Andrew MacDonald out four to six weeks because of a lower-body injury, the Flyers will maneuver their defensemen a bit (see story). An exciting new pairing will be second-year blueliner Ivan Provorov with rookie Robert Hagg. We know the special makeup of Provorov, but Hagg has quietly been a rock for the Flyers. He leads the team with 22 hits, is first among Flyers defensemen as a plus-5 and has committed just four giveaways.

The 22-year-old rookie does all the little things and played some with Provorov during the preseason, so the two have a nice understanding of how to complement each other. Hagg's ice time could see an uptick from the 18:19 he's logged through eight games.

The third pairing of Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim will also be worth watching given both players have yet to play in a regular-season game together.

• Brian Elliott in net seems likely for the Flyers. He saw the Ducks a little over two weeks ago, making 21 saves on 23 shots for a 3-2 overtime win. He's also coming off his best performance of the season in which he stopped 23 of 24 shots in a tight, 2-1 win over the Oilers.

However, his career numbers aren't great against the Ducks, posting a 2-7-3 mark in 13 lifetime matchups to go with a 3.10 goals-against average and .886 save percentage.

• The Ducks will look different from the Oct. 7 meeting with the Flyers. Ryan Getzlaf missed the game because of a lower-body injury, but he'll be in the lineup Tuesday. The big 6-foot-4, 223-pound center has never been easy on the Flyers, with 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 14 career games against the orange and black.

Also, defenseman Hampus Lindholm will make his season debut. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder is only 23 years old and has been a real positive for Anaheim through his first four NHL seasons.

The last time the Flyers took consecutive matchups over the Ducks was when they won on Feb. 2, 2008, and Jan. 2, 2009.

• Jakub Voracek and Shayne Gostisbehere are tied for third in the NHL with 10 assists apiece. They have one goal between them, but they've been stalwarts in making things happen for the Flyers.

• Through eight games, the Flyers currently have six players with six points or more. Through seven games, the Ducks have just one as Andrew Cogliano is their leading scorer with six points (two goals, four assists).

• Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:

Update: Weal (upper body) and Read (healthy) were the final players off the ice at morning skate, signaling they are the likely scratches.

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jori Lehtera-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Shayne Gostisbehere-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Travis Sanheim

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Matt Read and Dale Weise, and defenseman Andrew MacDonald (injured).

Travis Sanheim's defense quickly progressing on the fly

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AP Images

Travis Sanheim's defense quickly progressing on the fly

The Flyers had a complete off day Friday and you couldn’t blame Travis Sanheim if he wanted to lounge around all day and just scroll through the TV channels.

For the first time since Philadelphia became his permanent residence, Sanheim now has a connection to the outside world. His television is finally hooked up to hundreds of channels. When asked if there’s one show or program he’s looking forward to watching Sanheim replied, “Just hockey games. I just love to watch hockey, even if we’re not playing.”

Until now, that’s been Sanheim’s only option.

With the help of video coach Adam Patterson, the Flyers have wired each player’s home so they can review each game, and more importantly, shuttle through shift-by-shift so players like Sanheim can perform some self-assessment when they’re not at the rink. 

Travis will probably go back and evaluate the second-period play during Thursday night’s game against the Jets when he lost control of the puck at the blueline, couldn’t recover and was caught up ice, which led to Winnipeg scoring a 2-on-1 goal, cutting the Flyers lead to 2-1.   

“I think I have a good ability to turn the page when I do make mistakes, whether its big or small and not letting it affect and creep into my game,” Sanheim said. “Right now, I’m just focusing on the little areas of my game defensively and trying to make smart reads and not try to give up too much defensively.”

There has been a significant progression in Sanheim’s game just over the past few weeks coming off some early season growing pains starting in his NHL debut in Los Angeles. There have been some coverage and positional breakdowns, but like any rookie, he’s beginning to clean up those areas of his game. 

After the 4-game road trip to begin the season, Sanheim was pulled for a few games in favor of Brandon Manning, but he was reinserted in the game against the Predators and hasn’t been a healthy scratch since. 

“Sanny just keeps becoming more and more consistent and more and more comfortable,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “Travis is a player that really had to earn his way onto this team. Everybody does, but coming into camp he just put one day after another of good performances and he’s continued that as we’ve gone on into the regular season here. He’s an exciting young player.”

“I’m starting to settle in a little more, Sanheim said. “I’m happy with how my play has been growing as a player over the last couple of weeks. I think just my confidence. Being able to make plays with the puck, seeing the ice.” 

The numbers also suggest the defensive aspect of his game is coming together. After a rocky month of October that saw him finish with a minus-6 rating, Sanheim has bounced back in November and is currently a plus-2. While positionally he’s still learning the game at the NHL level, he has shown tremendous control with the puck on his stick. 

At 5-on-5 play, Sanheim has been credited with just four giveaways in nearly 226 minutes of ice time, or a ratio of one giveaway every 56:29 of ice time, which is by far, the best on the team. Comparatively, Shayne Gostisbehere has struggled in this area recently and has 14 giveaways this season in almost 262 minutes, an average of one giveaway every 18:47. 

While we’re still waiting to see the dynamic element of Sanheim’s offensive game that he displayed during the preseason, he’s picking his spots and finding those seams when he can take advantage of the defense. As Travis found out, the recent home-and-home series against the Wild was not one of those opportunities when he was held without a shot in both games. 

“You learn how little space you have out there,” Sanheim said. “Just the other night against Minnesota, how good they are defensively. You don’t get a lot of space. When you get your chances, you got to try and make the most of them.

“Obviously, I’m not allowed to do the offensive stuff that I could in junior and skating the puck up. I think it’s something I learned last year was making a good first pass and having an ability to read the play and jump up and find seams in areas that create space and offense as well.”

Thursday, more than 50 family and friends made the three-hour drive from Elkhorn, Manitoba, to Winnipeg to watch Travis play for the first time.

They may not notice it right away, but the kid from the tiny town on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border is already making great strides in a short amount of time in his first full NHL season. 

Radko Gudas facing suspension, offered in-person hearing for slash

Radko Gudas facing suspension, offered in-person hearing for slash

Here we go again.

Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas has been offered an in-person hearing by the NHL for his dangerous slash to the back of the head on Winnipeg's Mathieu Perreault in Thursday's loss. That date and time of the hearing is TBD.

Gudas was handed a game misconducted — the sixth of his career — and was tossed for his unnecessary slash. Was it dirty? Judge for yourself in the video above.

The NHL certainly seems to think it was intentional, however. An in-person hearing means Gudas is staring down a suspension — and a lengthy one, too — should the NHL discipline him. In-person hearings warrant a suspension of at least six games, as opposed to a suspension of five games or fewer that would be discussed in a phone call.

While the slash was certainly grounds for a suspension, Gudas' reputation is also working against him. The D-man is a repeat offender and was last for six games in Oct. 2016 for a late hit. 

In his absence, the Flyers figure to get Andrew MacDonald back from a lower-body injury within the next week or so. MacDonald injured his leg while blocking a shot Oct. 21 vs. Edmonton. The Flyers are 3-5-3 in his absence. Mark Alt, who is currently serving as the team's seventh defenseman, also figures to step in should MacDonald not be ready for Saturday's game vs. Calgary.