Injuries, illness create questions in net for Flyers

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Injuries, illness create questions in net for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — “You need two goalies, I don’t care who you are.”

That was Ron Hextall’s assessment prior to the All-Star break and the general manager’s philosophy will be put to the test right away with three games over the next four days.

Actually, the Flyers may need three goalies at some point over the stretch drive to the postseason after the team placed Brian Elliott on injured reserve Tuesday morning, and recalled Alex Lyon from Lehigh Valley.  

After missing his first game of the season last Thursday against the Lightning, Elliott returned to practice Monday, but left prematurely still dealing with a nagging lower-body injury. Elliott’s IR designation is retroactive to his last game played, so he could be activated at any time. The move was made solely to open up a roster spot for Lyon.  

Neuvirth is now the expected starter Wednesday in Washington, but the bigger question moving forward: How much does Hakstol and the organization trust Lyon to make his NHL debut when the team is in a dogfight for the playoffs?

“If we need him, he’ll play. Bottom line,” Hakstol said regarding Lyon. “He’s ready to play and we have confidence in him. He’s been with us before and he’s a guy that’s ready to play, and when called upon, he’ll go in and do a good job if we decide to do that.” 

Prior to the All-Star break, Hakstol tipped his hand slightly when he stated that Neuvirth would likely receive one of the two starts with back-to-back road games against the Capitals and Devils, but that was when Elliott was healthy. 

“It’s a different situation,” Hakstol said. “There’s still a strong possibility that both guys (Neuvirth and Lyon) will start one. I’m not going to make that decision right now or that distinction. I won’t even go as far as saying who’s going to start tomorrow.” 

Lyon has dressed for 10 games this season, but has not budged from the bench. Whether he plays his first NHL game in relief or as the starter remains to be seen, but his personal preference is to have the knowledge the net will be his from the morning skate.

“There’s something to be said for owning your own game, which I really like,” Lyon said. “Obviously I’ll take it however I can get it, but at the same time, I don’t envision myself as a spot guy. I want to start every game. I want to start as much as I can. I’m not going to try and speculate when that will be, or anything like that, I’m just keeping my head down and keep grinding.”

Neuvirth has also kept his head down recently but for all the wrong reasons. The Flyers' backup spent much of the past several days working his way through what Hextall described as a “stomach bug,” which forced Neuvirth to miss Monday’s practice.

“The worst is behind me,” Neuvirth said tongue-in-cheek as he returned to the Skate Zone ice on Tuesday.

When asked if he’s capable of starting on back-to-back nights, which Neuvirth hasn’t done this season, he was hesitant to commit.

“Let’s just focus on tomorrow first,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a big game against a really good team, so let’s just focus on tomorrow.”

Additionally, Hakstol will have to determine how much workload Neuvirth can handle with a history of injuries and a heavy workload of games coming up on the Flyers' schedule.

“I've definitely got to earn the playing time,” Neuvirth said. “I've got to push myself and you've got to play good to earn more games."

“We’ll gauge exactly how and where he’s at after today’s practice,” Hakstol said. “Today, he had a real strong practice and he looked great.” 

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics

Just shoot! Jakub Voracek quiets many with his heroics


Jakub Voracek had dead aim, at least that’s what the score sheet confirmed Tuesday following the Flyers' 3-2 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens (see observations).

Two shots on net. Two shots that found a way past Carey Price.

Even though the NHL’s assist leader has more shots on net than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Voracek hears the voices that say he passes up on quality scoring opportunities. 

One prime example came with 30 seconds remaining in the second period. Claude Giroux forced a takeaway and fed Voracek on a 2-on-0 prime scoring chance, but it resulted in Voracek sending a pass back to Giroux when perhaps he should have shot.

“It’s always easier to say we’re over-passing things,” Voracek said. “If you’re on the ice, the actual situation looks completely different. I hear ‘shoot the puck’ every single time I touch it. If I listened to all the people who say shoot the puck, I’d have 500 shots at the end of the season.”

However, Voracek shot the puck when it mattered most. With the Flyers trailing, 2-1, Dave Hakstol pulled goaltender Alex Lyon for the extra attacker Voracek, who took a shot from the top of the right circle that deflected off the stick of Max Pacioretty and past Price for the game-tying goal, and then buried the game-winner 1:26 into overtime (see highlights).

When asked if he caught Price by surprise on the equalizer, Voracek responded: “Me shooting? 100 percent. I just tried to hide behind the D and I got lucky and it went in.”

“It’s one of those nights when you had a lot of really good scoring opportunities and we weren’t able to cash in on them,” Hakstol said. “It’s nice to get a bounce like that with a minute and a half to go to tie it up.”

For the game, the Flyers had 79 shot attempts to Montreal’s 55. Thankfully for the Flyers, No. 79 was Voracek’s game-winner, which came at the end of his 56-second shift. Had he missed the net and been forced to play defense at the other end of the ice, there may not have been much left in the tank.     

“I was pretty tired,” Voracek said. “I’d rather have it like that. If I had missed the net, I’d have to stay on the ice and try to backcheck after, so I got lucky.”

Voracek became the second player in franchise history to score a game-tying goal in the final two minutes of regulation, and then follow it up with an overtime game-winner. Moving forward, the Flyers may need Voracek to shoot and score more with the recent injury to Wayne Simmonds, who will miss the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury (see story).

To make matters worse, Flyers top-line winger Travis Konecny may have suffered a foot injury after taking a shot off his skate in the opening period (see video). Konecny never left the game but labored playing short, limited shifts, and wasn’t on the ice with Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov to begin the overtime session.

“He obviously got hit with the puck there, but he finished the game and that’s part of the game,” Hakstol said. “He was obviously sore through the rest of the game, but I give him credit, he continued to battle through to do everything that he could.”

Less than 24 hours after the Flyers acquired Petr Mrazek from the Detroit Red Wings to solidify the goaltending position, Alex Lyon turned in another solid effort with 25 saves on 27 shots, beating perennial All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price in back-to-back victories.

“Yeah, it’s cool obviously to play against those guys,” Lyon said. “You watch them and you try to model your game after them. Obviously, they’re fantastic. In the same breath, you've got to go out there and say, ‘I’m coming out here to be better than you today.’”  

“It’s always nice to have some clarity,” Hakstol said. “I think Alex said it best after the game in New York the other day — it’s an ever-changing business. You just have to be ready and prepared for what the next day brings. He pretty much lived by his words.”

• Simmonds' streak of 223 consecutive games played ended Tuesday night. It marked the first game Simmonds has missed dating back to April 11, 2015.

• For the third straight game, the Flyers weren’t forced to utilize their penalty kill at any point, becoming the second team in NHL history to go three games without allowing a power-play opportunity.

• Forward Oskar Lindblom made his NHL debut Tuesday night, replacing the injured Simmonds in the Flyers' lineup. Lindblom finished the game with 15:11 of ice time and one shot on net.  

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

USA Today Images

Blue Jackets snap skid on rare Harrington goal

NEWARK, N.J. -- Defenseman Scott Harrington broke a second-period tie with his second goal of the season, and the slumping Columbus Blue Jackets snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the New Jersey Devils' four-game winning streak with a 2-1 decision on Tuesday night.

Boone Jenner also scored as the Blue Jackets moved into the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, one ahead of Carolina and the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in helping the Blue Jackets win for the fifth time in 15 games (5-9-2).

Taylor Hall scored for the Devils to extend his point-scoring streak to 12 games, tying David Pastrnak of the Bruins for the league-high this season. He also pushed his personal point-scoring streak to 19 games. He missed three games with a thumb injury, so the league does not consider that to be part of his current streak.

Keith Kinkaid had 17 saves for New Jersey, which holds the first wild-card spot in the conference (see full recap).

Point helps Lightning beat Capitals in showdown
WASHINGTON -- Brayden Point scored two first-period goals, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 35 shots to earn his NHL-leading 35th victory and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 Tuesday night in a matchup between division leaders.

Chris Kunitz also scored in the opening period, which ended with Tampa Bay up 3-0. That was enough of a cushion for Vasilevskiy, an All-Star who came in with a 2.34 goals-against average.

After Alex Ovechkin notched his NHL-high 36th goal for Washington to make it 3-2 at 11:02 of the third period, Nikita Kucherov clinched it with a breakaway goal with 7:02 remaining.

The victory improved Tampa Bay's NHL-best record to 40-17-3 and kept the Lightning ahead of surging Boston in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

Lars Eller scored a power-play goal for the Capitals, who lead Pittsburgh by one point in the Metropolitan Division (see full recap).

Andersen makes 40 saves in Maple Leafs’ shutout
TORONTO -- Frederik Andersen made 40 saves and James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal as the surging Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 1-0 on Tuesday night.

The shutout was Andersen's career-best fifth of the season. The 28-year-old goalie has reached 30 wins for the third time.

Toronto (37-20-5) has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.

The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Florida threatened in the third with goaltender Roberto Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen managed to thwart the Panthers' best chance -- a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.

Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss (see full recap).