Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Depth creates frivolous numbers

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Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Depth creates frivolous numbers

VOORHEES, N.J. — First, second, third or fourth.

Does it really matter with the lines?

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol doesn't care much for the numbered distinction between his forwards when he makes the lineup ahead of a game.

But what it can do is highlight a team's depth, good or bad.

For the Flyers right now, two exciting first-round picks no older than 20 are being featured on the third line, an example of how far the Flyers have come from recent years past.

So maybe the statuses don't matter, but they can be telling. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick making up the third unit with Dale Weise marks a positive development for the Flyers even before their home opener against the Capitals has arrived Saturday night (see Flyers-Capitals thoughts).

"I don't label them," Hakstol said after the morning skate. "You guys always label them. I guess I look at the role and how guys are playing on any given night and what they contribute to our hockey team. Everybody's got to go out and do their job on any one given night.

"Nolan and T.K. have been together with Weiser now for a short period of time. They've shown good chemistry, they've created good opportunities offensively, and they've been able to limit chances against. That's been a good line. I don't number them. I just look at whether they're a good line or not."

Two seasons ago, Konecny and Patrick were each eclipsing 100 points at the junior level. That's some serious talent being sprinkled deeper into the Flyers' forwards group.

Similar to Hakstol, Konecny doesn't care about the labels. He said the same opportunities come no matter where you play.

"Our team is pretty deep this year," Konecny said. "I wouldn't consider any line any … like even our so-called fourth has been our best line. I really don't look at it any different than I did last year, I played top six last year. I'm playing with two forwards who could be top six, too, so it's good hockey. We're having fun.

"I wouldn't even call it a lower role. We have Patty and Weiser on the center and the wing on my line. It's a guy with great vision and Weiser has probably one of the heaviest shots on our team. If we can get on the puck a little bit more, I think that's going to create a little bit more for us."

Konecny and Patrick on a third line can also create favorable matchups against teams not as balanced, making for more chances, resulting in more confidence.

"It's awesome, it's good, we get a lot of opportunities, he creates a lot of offense," Konecny said of playing with Patrick. "He's good at getting the puck out, too, which helps with transitioning from defense to offense, so it's been good so far."

Just don't label them.

Holy 'Ovie'
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is doing, well, what he does best — score goals.

At 32 years old but in superb shape, he looks as lethal as ever.

"Everybody knows he's one of the most dynamic scorers in the game," Hakstol said. "He's going at a hell of a pace right now, so we've got to do the best that we can. There are some things we can talk about to try to limit and we're going to do that."

All orange
The Flyers will be giving out T-shirts for the home opener.

The atmosphere should be electric. How the Flyers' rookies handle the early energy rush will be important.

"They know what's in store, but again, they have to go through the experience of it," Hakstol said. "They've got good older guys, older veterans around them that will help them with that. If there are some jitters and adrenaline the first couple shifts, that's to be expected. I'm confident those guys will settle in and play the way they play."

Missing Holtby
The Capitals are splitting up their goaltending duties this weekend. Braden Holtby, the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner, played Friday night, so the Flyers will see backup Philipp Grubauer tonight.

That may not be a huge break.

The 25-year-old Grubauer is 2-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in four career games against the Flyers.

Lineup stuff
According to a report by Flyers.NHL.com contributor Bill Meltzer, rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim will be a healthy scratch tonight as Brandon Manning inserts the lineup.

Morning skate was optional so it is uncertain how the Flyers' lineup shakes out. Sanheim took part and was one of the final players off the ice, which is notable considering extra work is usually taken by the healthy scratches.

Based on the morning goalie work, Brian Elliott will start in net.

With all that said, here's our best-educated projection for tonight's lineup:

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

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg                   
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas        

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim.

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.