Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Hello, Shayne Gostisbehere

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Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Hello, Shayne Gostisbehere

VOORHEES, N.J. — With 13 points, Shayne Gostisbehere is tied for the NHL lead among all defensemen.
 
And he's even missed the last three games recovering from an upper-body injury.
 
That goes to show the impact he makes on the Flyers when healthy and himself, which he appears to be again ahead of Saturday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia).
 
Gostisbehere took full part in the morning skate and sounds ready to rejoin the Flyers' lineup. However, he is considered a game-time decision, according to head coach Dave Hakstol. The Flyers will dress seven defensemen during pregame warmups and then make a decision on the six to play.
 
Barring some unforeseen setback, though, expect to see Gostisbehere's return.
 
"I'm good," Gostisbehere said. "I feel great.
 
"I believe it's going to be a game-time sort of thing. I feel like I'm ready and we'll see where it's at."
 
If Gostisbehere does play, Hakstol didn't believe he would have to strictly watch the blueliner's minutes. The 24-year-old has been out with an upper-body injury after he was boarded by Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov last Saturday in Toronto.
 
Since then, the Flyers have scored just five goals in three games, including an overtime loss to the NHL-worst Coyotes and a shutout to the Blackhawks. The power play, which Gostisbehere dynamically quarterbacks, is 1 for 6 without him. And despite the defense's gritty effort Thursday in St. Louis, resulting in a 2-0 win over the red-hot Blues, the Flyers desperately need Gostisbehere's presence.
 
Not only for his offense and improved defensive approach, but also for the experience in just his third season. The Flyers suited up four rookies Thursday because of injuries decimating the blue line. With Andrew MacDonald (injured reserve, lower body) and Radko Gudas (day to day, upper body) out, Gostisbehere suddenly becomes the Flyers' defenseman with the most NHL games under his belt at 153, a few more than Brandon Manning's 151.
 
Now, the Flyers should have a critical piece back — baby steps to getting healthy again.
 
Injury updates
Gudas did not partake in the morning skate and it looks like he'll miss his second straight game.
 
Rookie center Nolan Patrick, on the other hand, participated, albeit in a yellow jersey while the rest of the team did so in the usual orange and black practice getups. Patrick, out since Oct. 26 with an upper-body injury and now on IR, did not do much during the skate and departed before it finished.
 
Get the Weal rollin'
Forward Jordan Weal, a true rink rat, was one of the last off the ice, as usual.
 
He prides himself on preparation.
 
"It's the mindset of making sure everything is fine-tuned for when you get to the game, the little plays that you need to make out there, making sure coming off the wall, taking pucks off the boards, that you're feeling comfortable with everything," Weal said. "I've been doing that for a long time. I guess it's a part of the DNA, as well, because I think the more time you put into something, it becomes habit, you don't have to think about it as much. When you don't have to think about the little things out there as much, you can worry about making plays and creating chances for yourself and your line."
 
His line now consists of Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise, the team's third unit.
 
Weal likes the group and will be counted on to make plays.
 
"Both big bodies, both guys that have had a lot of success in the NHL," Weal said. "We're really moving our feet together well and creating chances and opportunities for ourselves. That's what we've got to do."
 
After putting up four points in his first five games, Weal has only one in the past seven. His secondary scoring is important to the Flyers. If he can get things going alongside Lehtera and Weise, two players that have been healthy scratches this season, the Flyers will take it.
 
Quotables
"I knew playing with him down there, I think our whole D core, we had such a good D core that I don't even know if you could tell who was the first pairing and the third pairing, that's just how deep we were. I think anyone could have easily been up here or got called up. I'm not surprised at all that he's up here and doing well."
 
- Travis Sanheim on Mark Alt, teammates at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season
 
"He's got the scoring touch, he's always had it. The puck is just going in for him now. He's a really smart player, so he's good at finding ways to get open, finding the open area … make sure you don't tell him I said he's smart."
 
- Claude Giroux on Sean Couturier

"It's amazing some of the things that he's able to do at that young of an age, yet he's wired in that way."
 
- Hakstol on 20-year-old Ivan Provorov
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Flyers:
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere 
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt
 
Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott
 
Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy), and defensemen Radko Gudas (upper body) and Will O'Neill (healthy).

Nick Ritchie an unlikely hero as Ducks win in 11-round shootout

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Nick Ritchie an unlikely hero as Ducks win in 11-round shootout

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Nick Ritchie isn't one of the first players called upon for the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout.

He wasn't among the first 10 shooters Saturday.

Yet, Ritchie scored in the 11th round of the shootout and John Gibson stopped the final seven shooters in the Ducks' 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

"It seems like once it gets over five or six (rounds) it can go over 15 sometimes, so there was a good chance I was going to get a shot there and I capitalized on it," said Ritchie, whose quick shot split the pads of Devan Dubnyk. Ritchie missed his other shootout attempt this season.

Prior to the goal, the teams combined for 13 straight misses.

"Anytime you win a shootout that goes that long, you feel fortunate you get the extra point. Some big stops from our goaltender, and we found a guy who scored the big goal. We'll take it," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. (see full recap).

Raanta saves 39 shots in shutout win for streaking Coyotes 
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The customized title belt the Arizona Coyotes pass around for a top performance in a victory was already in Antti Raanta's possession after a win two days earlier against Montreal.

Raanta did even more to earn the belt Saturday, though he handed it off to defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Raanta made 39 saves for his first shutout of the season and the Coyotes won their fourth straight, scoring on their first shot in a 1-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Raanta had his ninth career shutout, helping the Coyotes earn points for the fifth time in six games.

"You never get the shutouts just by yourself, you need a good team in front of you," Raanta said. "It shows you how much better we are right now ... I went with `Hammer' because Hammer's been blocking more shots than I have sometimes saved."

Cam Talbot made 31 saves for Edmonton. The Oilers have lost six in a row (see full recap).

Lundqvist pulled in Rangers' loss to Senators
OTTAWA, Ontario —  The Ottawa Senators' quick start led to an early exit for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Derick Brassard had a goal and two assists and Ottawa defeated the New York Rangers 6-3 on Saturday.

Lundqvist allowed five goals on 27 shots before being replaced by Brandon Halverson with 13 minutes remaining.

Halverson stopped five of the six shots he faced for New York in his NHL debut.

Matt Duchene and Mark Stone both added a goal and an assist for Ottawa, which has won two straight. Craig Anderson also stopped 35 shots and Johnny Oduya, Magnus Paajarvi and Thomas Chabot also scored (see full recap).

Lack saves 48 shots as Devils beat Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — Eddie Lack made 48 saves and the New Jersey Devils beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday night.

Making his third appearance as the backup since being recalled from Binghamton of the AHL on Feb. 4, Lack made a terrific glove save on Brayden Point's in-close shot midway through the second.

Ben Lovejoy, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood scored for the Devils. Taylor Hall had an assist and has a point in each of the last 17 games he has played in.

Tampa Bay got goals from Chris Kunitz, Point and Steven Stamkos, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 shots (see full recap).

Which player can the Flyers least afford to lose?

Which player can the Flyers least afford to lose?

When Sean Couturier briefly left Friday’s game in Columbus, his absence ignited a conversation around the NBC Sports Philadelphia newsroom which led to the Hot Take question: Which player could the Flyers least afford to lose to injury? In other words, which Flyer is the most indispensable to the team’s overall success? Here's my ranking, starting at the top, of the players the Flyers can least afford to lose. Let the debate begin.

1. Michal Neuvirth 
This may come as a surprise considering that just a few weeks ago, Neuvirth was serving in a reserve role behind Brian Elliott who was the clear-cut No. 1 in net. Since stepping in as a starter, Neuvirth has promptly delivered with a .950 save percentage and a 1.93 goals against. The reason Neuvirth falls under the heading as most indispensable is rather simple: the drop-off from Neuvirth to Alex Lyon is significantly steep. Lyon struggled in his two starts adapting to the NHL’s level of pace and skill, and right now, Lyon’s not a viable option to handle the No. 1 job over an extended period. Without Neuvirth, Lyon and Phantoms goalie Dustin Tokarski, who has 34 games of NHL experience plus five playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens, would serve as the Flyers' 1-2 punch in net. 

2. Ivan Provorov 
The Flyers' shutdown defenseman logs more than three minutes of ice time more than the next Flyers defenseman, and his playing partner, Shayne Gostisbehere, has elevated his game (both offensively and defensively) since he’s been paired with Provorov. Andrew MacDonald’s flaws weren’t quite as exposed playing side-by-side with Provorov prior to the switch. While Provorov hasn’t quite been his steady self over the past several weeks and his puck handling at times can be adventurous, you can’t disregard his importance because his work along the boards and his ability to separate the player from the puck is unquestionably the best among the Flyers' blueliners. If the Flyers lost Provorov, rookie Robert Hägg or MacDonald would likely join Gostisbehere on the top pairing, with Radko Gudas moving up to the second pairing and Mark Alt becoming a regular contributor again.

3. Sean Couturier 
The Flyers' No. 1 center has logged some monster minutes this season. Among forwards, only Kings captain Anze Kopitar has been on the ice more than Couturier, who also ranks fourth in average ice time. Couturier plays a vital role in all situations and will likely be a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward, not to mention, he’s also on pace to score a mind-blowing 41 goals this season. When Couturier registers a point, the Flyers' record is 23-4-9 this season. Few players can drive to the net with and without the puck as effectively as Couturier. Senators coach Guy Boucher recently called him a “buy-in guy,” who will essentially do anything that is asked of him and then some. It's difficult to envision how the Flyers would adapt without Couturier. I can't see Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton or Valtteri Filppula stepping into his role as the No. 1 center, so moving Claude Giroux to the middle and Jake Voracek to left wing on the first line would likely make the most sense.

4. Jakub Voracek 
When healthy, Voracek makes an entire line better, no matter who he’s with. While Voracek commits his share of turnovers and giveaways, his ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone is such an important part of the team’s puck possession metrics. He started the season with Giroux and Couturier before Dave Hakstol was forced to break up that trio in a desperate attempt to snap the Flyers' 10-game winless streak. His numbers have remained consistent regardless of who he has played with, and while he’s not a primary scoring option, the Flyers' power play funnels in Voracek’s direction with his league-leading 25 power play assists. No one Flyer can step into Voracek’s role and do precisely what he does on a nightly basis.

5. Claude Giroux 
Hard to believe that the Flyers' leading scorer and the NHL’s fourth-leading scorer would be fifth on this list, but it speaks more to the depth of the Flyers than it does to Giroux himself. Without Giroux, Couturier would not be enjoying the career season he’s had, and even Travis Konecny for that matter. Giroux is back playing in the 20-minute range after an injury-plagued season, and like Couturier and Voracek, redistributing those minutes would not come easily. There are the intangibles to Giroux’s game that are hard to quantify. Giroux's absence would create several holes — the ability to create offense with his vision and hockey IQ, his leadership, and the importance of winning crucial faceoffs. At 58.5 percent, Giroux ranks third in the NHL in faceoff percentage.