Flyers-Kings thoughts: A look at the ties, possible lineup decisions

Flyers-Kings thoughts: A look at the ties, possible lineup decisions

Flyers (1-0-0) at Kings (0-0-0)
10 p.m. on NBCSP, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 9:30

The Flyers crashed one home opener already. They'll try to do it again Thursday night when they continue their season-opening four-game road trip with a matchup against the Los Angeles Kings at the STAPLES Center.

A Wayne Simmonds hat trick led the Flyers to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night, giving San Jose its first loss in a season opener since 2009-10 (see story).

Like last season, the Kings host the Flyers to open their home slate.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts on Game 2 of the season.

• The Flyers face an old friend here. John Stevens enters his first year as head coach of the Kings. The last time he served as a full-time NHL bench boss was with the Flyers for parts of four seasons from 2006-10 (see story). He went 120-109-34 over that span, leading the Flyers to two playoff appearances before being fired in December 2009, during the season in which Peter Laviolette took over and rallied the club to the Stanley Cup Final.

• The Flyers, of course, have plenty of other ties with the Kings. General manager Ron Hextall served Los Angeles as assistant GM the year it won the Stanley Cup in 2012. Dean Lombardi, now with the Flyers in a role not yet announced, was the GM of that club. Lombardi, who was a scout for the Flyers from 2003 to 2006, was fired by the Kings back in April.

And, of course, we all know how Jeff Carter relates to the Flyers. After leading the team with 36 goals in 2010-11, Carter was traded to the Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek, a 2011 first-round pick the Flyers used on Sean Couturier and a 2011 third-round selection on Nick Cousins. In February 2012, Carter was shipped to Los Angeles, where he's won two Stanley Cups. Last season, he put up his best numbers (32 goals, 66 points) since that 2010-11 campaign in Philadelphia.

Also, Kings assistant coach Don Nachbaur was on the Phantoms' staff under Stevens in the early 2000s. He played for the Flyers, as well, from 1985 to 1990.

• Now to the game. How fun is it to watch Simmonds? He is so proficient at playing in front of the net, and doing so requires serious skill. The hand-eye coordination on his deflection goal — the second marker of his hat-trick performance Wednesday — is a strength he's developed, becoming one of the NHL's best at parking in front of the goalie and doing damage.

No surprise he's off to a hot start again. If you recall, Simmonds began last season with four markers in five games. Tonight, he's in an area he knows well, facing his old team and playing where he won the 2017 NHL All-Star Game MVP.

• Playing the second game of a back-to-back set, the Flyers did not hold a morning skate, so line combinations, defensive pairings and the starting goalie are all uncertain. But one thing we've learned with head coach Dave Hakstol is that he likes to roll with what's working. Given the Flyers are coming off a positive and productive season opener, changes seem unlikely — so if you want defensemen Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald out of the lineup, don't expect it.

So, the probable scratches again: Jori Lehtera, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim.

An interesting decision comes in net. Brian Elliott received the nod Wednesday and wasn't lights out, but stood strong late and saved 32 of 35 shots faced for his first win in a Flyers jersey. However, Elliott was not great against the Kings last season, going 2-2-0 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. Neuvirth, on the other hand, was excellent against Los Angeles last season, winning the season opener while putting up a 1.47 GAA and .943 save percentage in two matchups.

• The Flyers' power play had great life Wednesday, needing just 1:09 man-advantage time to score three goals and eventually finish 3 for 5. Things won't be easy tonight as the Kings delivered an 84.5 penalty-kill percentage in 2016-17, fifth best in the league.

• There's a stud defenseman in this one and another up-and-coming on the other side. For Los Angeles, Drew Doughty, 27, is one of the best at his position, while Ivan Provorov is a burgeoning blueliner that is already eating up ice time for the Flyers at only 20 years old. Oh, and Shayne Gostisbehere isn't too shabby. He collected three assists in the season opener.

• The Flyers have won nine of their last 12 road games against the Kings. They have not won their first two games of a regular season since 2011-12. Meanwhile, Los Angeles hasn't won a season opener since 2013-14.

Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

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Best of NHL: Johnny Gaudreau extends point streak to 10 games

WASHINGTON -- Johnny Gaudreau had a goal and an assist to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games and the Calgary Flames beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Monday night.

Gaudreau scored and assisted on Sean Monahan's goal, one of two on the power play for Calgary, which has won four of its past five. Mikael Backlund and captain Mark Giordano also scored for the Flames, who got 29 saves from Mike Smith.

Gaudreau, nicknamed "Johnny Hockey," has eight goals and 11 assists during his point streak. Led by the Carneys Point, New Jersey, native, the Flames are 7-3-0 in that time.

Lars Eller scored the only goal for the Capitals, who took five minor penalties and lost for the third time in four games. Braden Holtby allowed four goals on 39 shots.

The Flames came in feeling good after a comeback victory in Philadelphia and a 1950s-themed train ride to Washington. But the Capitals took a 1-0 lead just 62 seconds in when Jakub Vrana found Eller for his fourth goal of the season.

Calgary controlled much of the play from that point on, tying it on Gaudreau's goal 4:49 in and taking a lead on Monahan's power-play goal 5:22 into the second. Monahan had a goal and an assist after a power-play hat trick Saturday against the Flyers.

Washington's parade to the penalty box gave the Flames momentum and then their third goal at 4:38 of the second when Backlund buried a loose puck. Giordano's goal to make it 4-1 was effectively a third power-play goal as it came 1 second after ex-Flames forward Alex Chiasson's penalty expired (see full recap).

Blue Jackets edge Sabres for 4th straight win
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sergei Bobrovsky made three of his 30 saves on a power play in the final two minutes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.

Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois, Artemi Panarin and Boone Jenner scored for the Blue Jackets. Markus Nutivaara had two assists.

Buffalo dropped its sixth straight game. Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart scored for the Sabres, and Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots.

Bobrovsky made his biggest save when he slid across the crease to kick away a Ryan O'Reilly one-timer with 1:49 remaining. Bobrovsky got a piece of Kyle Okposo's shot off the rebound and the puck trickled across the goal line while Okposo fell into the net. Officials determined on replay that the goal did not count.

The Blue Jackets scored first for the fifth straight game when Dubois collected a loose puck in the slot and lifted a wrist shot over Lehner four minutes into the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand set up Dubois' third goal of the season with a pass from behind the net.

Panarin scored his fifth on a high wrist shot from the right circle 5:47 into the third. Jenner added his third goal of the year on a play in front of the net midway through the period (see full recap).

Raanta, Coyotes end Maple Leafs' win streak
TORONTO -- Antti Raanta made 26 saves and the Arizona Coyotes ended the Toronto Maple Leafs' winning streak at six games with a 4-1 victory Monday night.

Brendan Perlini, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi and Tobias Rieder scored for the Coyotes (5-15-3), who have won three in a row for the first time this season.

Arizona rookie Clayton Keller had two assists to give him 20 points in 23 games.

James van Riemsdyk scored for the Maple Leafs (14-8-0).

Frederik Andersen had his shutout streak snapped at 1:41:28 when the Coyotes scored in the first period. Andersen, who made 28 saves, had blanked the opponent in back-to-back games.

Toronto star Auston Matthews, playing in his 100th career game, appeared to tie it 2-all with 3:50 to play but the goal was overturned after a replay review because of goalie interference by Zach Hyman (see full recap).

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

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Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds would make a pretty good salesman.

He speaks with conviction and knows how to convey a point.

On Monday, he was selling the 2017-18 Flyers.

None of it was fluff. In fact, the sales pitch was completely valid.

Many clamored for the Flyers to become younger, and they did. Nolan Patrick, 19, is just getting healthy again after missing nine straight games. The fourth line features two 23-year-olds (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier) that developed last season in the AHL. And half of the current defense is made up of rookies.

That's not to mention Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are only 20 years old, while Jordan Weal is in his first full NHL season.

After losing four straight games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and still only five points out of first place despite sitting in last in the Metropolitan Division.

Things could be worse. Really, they're not all that bad.

"The season's not even close to being over," Simmonds said after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "That's the way I'm thinking about it, guys. There's no need to be worried, we're a .500 hockey team right now, we've played 20 games, we have 62 games left, we've got a really young team and we're growing every single day. Yeah, we're going to have our struggles, but we're also going to have points in the season where we make huge strides. We've got to stick with it and we've got to keep going and going."

The Flyers were 9-8-3 after 20 games last season. Two games later, they were starting a 10-game winning streak. The run didn't accomplish much by season's end, but it's an example of how quickly trends can turn in the NHL.

Simmonds is experiencing his own negative trend of 12 straight games without a goal after scoring six in eight games to start the season.

"Sometimes you score 10 goals, then you don't score again for 20 games or something like that," Simmonds said. "Like I said, it's a long year, you keep going, you keep grinding, you guys want to jump to conclusions, that's your job. You guys have got to make decisions on a game-to-game basis, but for us, we just have to make sure we're coming to the rink and doing our job every single day and continuing to try and get better."

Throughout much of his drought, Simmonds has not looked himself, likely banged up from the style in which he plays and excels.

With time and patience, Simmonds is building himself up again physically.

"You think you can do some things and sometimes your body just tells you no," Simmonds said.

"I've been feeling better the last little bit. I feel like I've started to play better, things aren't coming offensively for me. I think as an individual, I've just got to keep working hard. The only way to break yourself out of a bad streak is to continue to work hard and hopefully things eventually go your way."

When does he know his game is coming to him?

"When I'm aggressive," Simmonds said. "When I'm battling in the corners, I'm hitting — I think earlier this year, I wasn't fully engaging in battles and stuff like that, and that's not me, that's not my game. I think the last little bit here, I've felt a lot better, I've been doing a lot more battling, a lot more hitting, a lot more physical things. It's nice and we've got to continue that. As a team, we've got to continue to do the same thing, to get to the front of the net and continue to put pucks in."

Aside from the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, scoring struggles have permeated the middle six and secondary options. Konecny and Weal, two players the Flyers expected jumps from in production, have combined for four goals and nine assists. Konecny is without a goal over his previous 10 games, while Weal has scored one in his last 12.

"It's been a lot of hard work and not much to show for it," Weal said. "No matter what line we've been on, it seems like we've been getting three or four chances every game to put something in and nothing right now seems to be going in. It's one of those things that happens during a season.

"When it breaks open, hopefully it'll break wide open.

"When we have all four lines scoring, we're a really dangerous team."

Both Konecny and Weal are frequently the last two players off the practice ice.

Monday was no different.

"I just need to make sure I'm battling and creating more offense," Konecny said. "I feel like the opportunities are there, I'm not worried about that."

Nor is Simmonds worried about the Flyers with 62 games to go, the next coming Tuesday night at home against the Canucks.

Similar to building up strength and good health, patience is important to a season, especially with the makeup of this Flyers team.

Simmonds believes you'll buy in … just give it some time.

"You can look at the standings, you can do whatever you want, but we've played 20 games," Simmonds said. "There's still a long time to go in the season. We've got work to do.

"I'm definitely feeling better. It's up to me to get going."

When he does, the Flyers hope the rest follow.