Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Nolan Patrick to return next week?

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Zack Hill/Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Nolan Patrick to return next week?

VOORHEES, N.J. — At this point, Nolan Patrick is pushing the extremes of what qualifies as a day-to-day injury.

Patrick, who suffered an upper-body injury on Oct. 24, has made progress — doing individual drills before practice in his yellow “injured” jersey this week. 

Both general manager Ron Hextall and head coach Dave Hakstol acknowledged the injury, a suspected concussion, has taken longer than originally anticipated to heal. But the Flyers’ rookie isn’t far off from a return.

“It’s taken longer than we thought, certainly hoped,” Hextall said. “But he skated today and everything went good and worked out. Things are good and now it’s a matter of starting to ramp him up. You just can’t go from zero to 60, it’s gotta be zero to 20 and then up. So he’ll go a little harder tomorrow and then hopefully, continues to progress.

“He skated this morning, he’s making progress and it’s a matter of kind of ramping him up a bit every day and hopefully, things continue on the path they’re going right now.”

Since being hit awkwardly into the boards in a home loss to the Ducks, Patrick has missed each of the Flyers’ last six games and will very likely miss the next two, including tonight vs. the Blackhawks. 

“It’s always a concern when a player’s out of the lineup but at the same time, there’s people that are here to work with him and we have full confidence that all the right things get done and players work hard to get back in the lineup when they’re able,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers have managed to stay afloat without Patrick, going 2-2-2, but it’s clear the team is lacking the punch and depth Patrick provided. In nine games with Patrick this season, the team has averaged 3.3 goals per game, compared to 2.8 in the six games without Patrick. 

Veteran center Jori Lehtera has stepped in for Patrick on the third line, but with a large contract and his best days behind him, it’s easy to see why he was expendable in St. Louis and a healthy scratch to start the year.

“I think Jori’s done a good job for us,” Hakstol said. … “He came in on the left side and did a good job for us and when we needed him up the middle here over the past few games, I think he’s done a very good job in a two-way sense as a centerman for us. And obviously, he’s very comfortable. He’s a veteran player and a veteran centerman in this league."

Lehtera is a fine fill-in, adding one assist in nine games this season, but lacks the playmaking ability that allowed the Flyers to roll four productive lines to begin the season.

“Jori does a very good job down low defensively as well as down low offensively. If you watch carefully, closely, he creates a lot of good puck possession and makes plays in tight spaces so he provides a real strong middle-ice presence.”

So when can we expect to see Patrick back in orange and black? Dealing with concussions is a tricky business, but with two promising skates in the last three days, Patrick seems to be improving. 

Improving enough that Hextall wouldn’t rule out a possible return on the Flyers’ upcoming road trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg next week. 

Help is on the way
More good news on the injury front for the Flyers as it looks as though Radko Gudas (upper-body injury) has been cleared by the team to return tonight vs. the Blackhawks.

Fellow D-man Andrew MacDonald isn’t far behind, as Hextall anticipates the veteran to begin skating next week. MacDonald suffered a lower-body injury while blocking a shot on Oct. 21. 

“Mac sees a doc tomorrow,” Hextall said. “He’s right on schedule. Again, I’m not exactly sure what day we’re at now but he’s at the front end of the 4-6 (weeks) is what we expect. We hope he’s skating next week.”

Projected lines
Brian Elliott will make his first start in eight days. Winger Matt Read and defenseman Mark Alt are healthy scratches.

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

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

Goalies: Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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USA Today Images

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.