Flyers' Robert Hagg on demoted Samuel Morin: 'He's going to be up here somehow'

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Flyers' Robert Hagg on demoted Samuel Morin: 'He's going to be up here somehow'

VOORHEES, N.J. — Robert Hagg now has a room all to himself following the demotion of Samuel Morin.

The two rookie defensemen roomed together throughout the Flyers' nine-day road trip and Hagg probably got to know Morin’s innermost thoughts and feelings more than anyone.

“I didn’t talk to him [Wednesday],” Hagg said Thursday. “Of course I felt for him. We’ve been teammates for two years now. We’ve known each other for at least four. Of course, I’m feeling for him. There’s not much I can do. I’m just playing my game, but I know he’s going to be up here somehow.” 

As expected, the Flyers made the decision Wednesday afternoon to reassign Morin to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, where he will begin his third year of professional hockey (see story). Morin, along with fellow defenseman Brandon Manning, was a healthy scratch over the final three games of the season-opening four-game road trip. Eight healthy defensemen was simply one too many for the Flyers moving forward.

“It’s tough to go with a group of eight and really get any rhythm and start to define roles — have players feeling comfortable and confident in those roles,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “When there’s two guys not playing, that’s a little more difficult. When there’s one guy, that’s competition. This is a good group of seven that we can grow with.”  

The battle for the two roster spots on the blue line, involving Hagg, Morin and Travis Sanheim, was one of the most highly-contested competitions throughout training camp and the preseason. While Hakstol reaffirmed his defensive pairings were “all about a mix, a mix of different abilities,” he’ll be keeping close tabs on Morin down in the AHL. 

“There were some specific things that we’re going to ask him to go back and really concentrate at working on and improving,” Hakstol said. “He’s got to do his part to show us he’s the most ready to come in and help us when called upon. When that is, I can’t answer that for you.”

While Morin firmly believed he performed well enough to earn a place in the lineup, he never let it affect his relationship with his roommate.

“Sam is happy for me,” Hagg said. “Every time we were in the room, he said, 'You played really good. Keep doing that,’ or, ‘Good luck tonight. Keep playing like you did.’

“If you’re getting pissed off at each other, it’s not going to help you. I can tell you that. Of course, everyone wants to play, and it’s not up to us. The only thing we can do is perform as good as we can, and then it’s up to the coaches and the staff to decide who’s going to play or not.”

Hagg knows it’s not a bad idea to stay on Morin’s good side. The Phantoms' opponents won’t have that luxury.

Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

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Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

Flyers coach Dake Hakstol acknowledged a shakeup in the lineup might be on the way after his squad lost for the seventh time in eight games.

“We haven’t done much of that so far, but there’s a chance that we’ll make a change or two in terms of combinations, maybe even in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the lineup,” Hakstol said after Friday’s practice. “It’s too early to say that for sure right now, but we’re looking at a couple different things just to try to change a little bit of the rhythm, change a little bit of the chemistry.”

With only 10 games remaining and the Flyers’ once tight grip on a playoff spot suddenly in jeopardy, Hakstol may not want to wait too long to act.

The Flyers enter a pivotal weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but several teams are nipping at their heels. Their 81 points are tied with the Blue Jackets, who are behind in the standings based on a tiebreaker, followed by the Devils with 80 and the Panthers’ 77.

Not only that, but the Blue Jackets and Panthers are hot, both winning eight of their last 10 contests. The Devils and Panthers also have one and three more games remaining, respectively.

Time is not on the Flyers’ side.

“We’re going to address some things individually as well as team-wise and get pushing in the right direction,” Hakstol said.

Despite their recent tumble in the standings, the Flyers aren’t panicking. Hakstol noted several of the losses have been close, though that’s largely only true of their last three defeats. They’ve played a tough schedule during the ongoing slump, a slate that included the Lightning, Penguins, Bruins, Jets and Golden Knights – all teams with better records.

Plus, the Flyers have been incredibly streaky all season long, a fact not lost on the team captain.

“We’ve been in this position before,” said Claude Giroux. “We got out of it pretty well. We just need to find a way to get out of it and stay on the winning track.”

Prior to their skid, the Flyers had a four-game losing streak sandwiched between a run where they won eight of nine and another where they won 10 of 11. There was also a 10-game winless stretch that spanned from mid-November into the first week of December.

Giroux thinks the Flyers will be fine as long as they continue doing the things that brought them to this point.

“Obviously, we have to be a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Giroux said. “But in talking about our system, I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and just work a little harder and we’ll be more successful.

Having been through cold spells before, it’s safe to say the Flyers won’t be thinking about it once the puck drops.

“Right now it’s about our guys making sure mentally the deck is clear from anything from last night or from the past week and just a real clear mindset on what our next opportunity is here,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers’ next opportunity to snap out of their funk is at the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).