Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Dick Vermeil pays a visit

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Dick Vermeil pays a visit

VOORHEES, N.J. — With a rare four days between games, the Flyers packed a lot into an hour-long practice on Tuesday morning.

They also had a special guest cap it off.

Dick Vermeil, an NFL head coach for 15 seasons, including seven with the Eagles (1976-82) and a Super Bowl ring with the Rams (1999), visited the Flyers thanks to an invitation from captain Claude Giroux. Vermeil, who turned 81 years old last week and looks like he could still coach, spoke to the team following practice.

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

Vermeil met with the Flyers after media availability, so it's unknown what wisdom he imparted on the group and staff. But a little motivational pick-me-up from such a figure must have served as a nice boost during an extended break from game action.

Vermeil, all smiles and never one to hide his emotions, left with a team-signed Giroux jersey.

As for practice, the Flyers worked on many areas, featuring 1-on-1 drills, 2-on-1, 5-on-none and special teams.

"It all depends on what the schedule is," head coach Dave Hakstol said. "You try to manage the schedule. The practice days are really valuable, no question, and we've made a real point to make sure we get as many practice days as we possibly can. If we're going to take something out of the mix, it's going to be the morning skate. So we've done that when possible to this point. Now we have a pretty busy stretch from here on until Christmas."

The Flyers practice again Wednesday before welcoming the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia). The team is enjoying the mini break but also sees the value in staying fresh with practice.

"I think the guys feel better when we skate," forward Travis Konecny said. "It's going to be good for us to rest, as far as that goes, but at the same time, when we skate, we feel better."

A 'Gudy' sighting
Defenseman Radko Gudas, who has missed the Flyers' past two games because of an upper-body injury, fully took part in practice and did not seem limited.

But that doesn't mean he has been cleared for Thursday's game. Gudas said he still must meet with team doctors before a decision is made regarding his return to the lineup.

"There's nothing really I can say at this point right now," Gudas said. "Trying to get back into it.

"I hate watching hockey, especially when my team is playing. That's the toughest for me every time, I want to go out and jump in there. Anything I can do to make it faster, I'm trying to do as much as I can."

The Flyers' defense has been snakebitten with injuries to Gudas, Andrew MacDonald (injured reserve, lower body) and Shayne Gostisbehere (missed three games, upper body). Gudas has been out since last Wednesday, when he took an inadvertent hit from Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad.

No worries here
Early in practice, Konecny was seen hobbling and hunched over in pain as drills continued. He slowly but surely rejoined the action and finished practice, even sharing a laugh with assistant coach Ian Laperriere as he got back in line.

"Puck off the foot," Konecny said afterward. "I'm fine."

Still no Patrick
Rookie center Nolan Patrick did not partake in practice but skated beforehand. Patrick has not played since Oct. 24 and is on injured reserve with an upper-body ailment.

Lines, pairings and goalies
Here were the Flyers' groupings in practice, with the goalies in no particular order.

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl-Matt Read

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Penguins have the Flyers on the canvas in a headlock.

The faces of the guys who wear orange and black are turning purple, and unless they put up a courageous fight as they did in Game 2, they will tap out of this best-of-seven series after just five games (see story).

General manager Ron Hextall spoke to the media for the first time since the series started and believes the Flyers have displayed a lack of mental fortitude through the first four games.

“A lot of it is mentality,” Hextall said. “We need to be stronger if a bump goes the other way. We need to be stronger and bounce back and create energy going back our way. The playoffs are a series of momentum (swings) — within a period and within a game. We need to do a better job of bringing the momentum back our way."

So where exactly does that start? The return of Sean Couturier would help considerably.

After sitting out Game 4’s 5-0 loss, the Selke Trophy finalist hasn’t ruled out playing in Game 5 after skating Wednesday and Thursday on his own. Hextall said Couturier would travel to Pittsburgh and nothing more than that.

“I’m feeling better every day, and we’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Couturier said. “It’s really on me to see how I feel every day and hopefully, it keeps getting better. It’s really up to my body to see how it keeps progressing.”

Dave Hakstol switched up his lines once again Thursday, most notably installing Valtteri Filppula onto the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and breaking up the top defense pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Robert Hagg is also expected to make his series debut, playing alongside Andrew MacDonald as fellow rookie Travis Sanheim will serve as the healthy scratch.

“About time,” Hagg said. “I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. Hopefully, I can bring something to the team, some energy. I think it’s perfect and I can’t wait to go in and show what I can bring to the team.”

“He brings a different element than a couple of guys in the lineup if we’re so inclined to make that change,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t generated very much over the last five periods, but at the same time, we’ve given up quite a bit in some of the harder areas.”

Toward the end of Thursday’s 45-minute practice, Giroux gathered his teammates around and delivered a speech he hopes can galvanize the Flyers for Game 5 and bring the series back to Philadelphia for Game 6.

“I think it’s believing in ourselves," Giroux said. "All year we’ve done that, and we’ve talked about it before. You lose 10 in a row and find a way to make the playoffs. Tomorrow’s a big game for us, and if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging.”

Quick hits
• Speaking on the collision with Radko Gudas, Couturier said, "We've done this drill all year. It was bad timing and a fluke accident. There's no one to really blame, and I should have maybe had my head up there."

• Hextall believes Couturier should be the Selke Trophy frontrunner based on his outstanding 2017-18 season.

"I think he should win it," Hextall said. "I know those other players fairly well, and yes, I watch Coots on a daily basis, but the two-way game that he brings to our team is in my mind, the best in the league this year."

• Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist will miss his second straight game.

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Michal Neuvirth stood by his locker Wednesday night dejected, like the rest of his teammates, after the Flyers’ latest blunder, an embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins in Game 4.

The Flyers are on the brink of elimination to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and Wednesday's defeat was the latest reminder of their current state of affairs.

"Definitely good to get in the mix," said Neuvirth, who replaced Brian Elliott in the second period for his first game action since March 28. "But tough outcome tonight. We lost it to a better team tonight."

With that, Neuvirth perfectly encapsulated exactly where the Flyers stand in this first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh. It's definitely good to be in the mix, and they lost to the better team.

We've heard that before and we'll hear it again, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This Flyers team isn't quite there yet, to compete with the Penguins or in the playoffs.

There are encouraging signs. The postseason experience will pay off in the long run — it's better than not being there. Nolan Patrick, 19, has perhaps been the Flyers' most consistent forward in the series. He was the only player who competed Wednesday.

But goaltending remains an eyesore and rookie mistakes are consistently being made by veterans, and some appear immune to accountability. Game 4 was as ugly as it gets (see story), and that's counting a series that included a 7-0 loss in Game 1.

The Flyers were never really in Wednesday's game outside of about a two-minute stretch in the first period, when they were buzzing in the Pittsburgh zone until a Scott Laughton centering pass turned into a Penguins odd-man rush.

Bang, 2-0 Pittsburgh. Ballgame.

"From our standpoint," Dave Hakstol said, "we have to look from within. There's going to be momentum swings, there are going to be pushes, but we haven't been able to reestablish our game quick enough to give ourselves an opportunity."

Wednesday served as another grim reminder. This Flyers-Penguins rivalry, well, isn't much of a rivalry and hasn't been one in quite some time now.

Coming into this series, we heard the old storylines, about how much these two teams hate each other, how close games are, but the hate hasn't been there for a while and the games, they haven't been close, either.

The Penguins have dominated the Flyers, this season especially. With the 5-0 win Wednesday, the Pens have outscored the Flyers, 38-17, in eight total games and 20-4 in games played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hype machine was on full blast and we all bought into it. It's the playoffs, different animal, but some things never change no matter the environment.

At some point, it's time to bury the hatchet.

It was fun while it lasted, but for now, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is no more.