Flyers

Jakub Voracek leading offense even without scoring a goal

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Jakub Voracek leading offense even without scoring a goal

OTTAWA, Ontario — If an NBA shooting guard started the season 0 for 29, there would be questions as to why he’s in the league.

If a major-league hitter started the year 0 for 29 at the plate, there might be a minor-league assignment to work on his mechanics.

But in the NHL, an 0-for-29 shooting start to a season may not even warrant a discussion or, in the case of Jakub Voracek, an afterthought.

It may appear bizarre that the Flyers' leading scorer (12 points), who also leads the team in shots on net, is without a single goal through the first nine games of the season. Tuesday against Anaheim, Voracek ripped a slap shot from the top of the circle that hit Ducks goaltender John Gibson right in the chest. At that moment, Voracek looked straight up to the rafters with curiosity as to when that first puck might find the back of the net.

However, this is a different Flyers team, a different season, and quite possibly, a different Voracek.

“I think it’s different this year, because we’re winning and I’m still putting up points,” Voracek said Thursday. “It would be worse if I wasn’t putting up points, and it would cost the team from winning the games. It’s different because as a team, I think we’re scoring, so I’m not that worried about that.”

Right now, Voracek and Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov are the only two players in the league with a double-digit point total without the benefit of a goal. 

Goals will come eventually as Voracek’s been generating offense from the opening period in San Jose when he snared a Martin Jones pass and fed a wide-open Claude Giroux, who one-timed a shot into the empty net for the Flyers' first goal of the season. It’s one of the top lines in the entire NHL with Voracek, Giroux and Sean Couturier combining for 32 points and are first, second and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring.

“If Jake keeps playing the way he’s playing, I’ll be real happy,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s doing a lot of good things for our team. He’s going to score at some point in time with the number of opportunities. He’s producing offense, whether or not he’s the guy putting the puck in the back of the net, he’s producing offense for our team, whether that’s 5-on-5 or on the power play.”

The 5-on-5 portion of Voracek’s play appears to be his greater emphasis. Last season, despite leading the team with 61 points, Voracek also posted a team-worst minus-24, which was a reflection of how poorly the Flyers' top line performed at even strength and a reminder how much better Voracek needed to play defensively.  

“I’m more focused on the way I play,” Voracek said. “So far, Coots is helping as well. I’d say I’m playing a pretty good two-way game. I take it to heart last year because the plus/minus number for me wasn’t very good. It’s real important for me to be in the plus number.”

Voracek is driving hard to the net and creating quality scoring chances, which if it was an official NHL stat, he’d likely lead the Flyers in that category as well. 

"For me, I think that’s always been most important,” Voracek said. “Make sure I’m in the right spot. I earn those chances during the game because I work hard. That’s what I can do right now. If I get stuck on not scoring a goal, it’s only going to get worse.

"Obviously, it would be nice if I got that goal sooner or later.”

'Simmer' vs. the Senators
Wayne Simmonds expects to play tonight against the Senators after taking a puck off his leg and hobbling at times during the game Tuesday night.

“As long as I can contribute, right, and not be a detriment to the team, I’m going to play,” Simmonds said.

Simmonds comes into Thursday’s game against Ottawa looking for his first point against the Senators since Guy Boucher took over as head coach last season. The 'Wayne Train' generated just three shots in those three games, and with patience comes points.

“I think they want to lull you to sleep and then they jump on their opportunities,” Simmonds said. “It’s like going through a maze in the neutral zone. You get pucks deep, you can’t turn them over. For us, play smart, play fast and make sure their defense is facing their glass.”

“These guys for sure present a challenge,” Hakstol said. “They’re hard to play against with and without the puck. So much of the discussion about Ottawa is what they’re doing without the puck. You've got to remember once they turn it over, they’ve got a lot of team speed and they transition very well, and that’s where they hurt you.” 

Projected Lines

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

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

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Update: Patrick did not play because of an upper-body injury. The rookie center is considered day to day.

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

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Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds would make a pretty good salesman.

He speaks with conviction and knows how to convey a point.

On Monday, he was selling the 2017-18 Flyers.

None of it was fluff. In fact, the sales pitch was completely valid.

Many clamored for the Flyers to become younger, and they did. Nolan Patrick, 19, is just getting healthy again after missing nine straight games. The fourth line features two 23-year-olds (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier) that developed last season in the AHL. And half of the current defense is made up of rookies.

That's not to mention Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are only 20 years old, while Jordan Weal is in his first full NHL season.

After losing four straight games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and still only five points out of first place despite sitting in last in the Metropolitan Division.

Things could be worse. Really, they're not all that bad.

"The season's not even close to being over," Simmonds said after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "That's the way I'm thinking about it, guys. There's no need to be worried, we're a .500 hockey team right now, we've played 20 games, we have 62 games left, we've got a really young team and we're growing every single day. Yeah, we're going to have our struggles, but we're also going to have points in the season where we make huge strides. We've got to stick with it and we've got to keep going and going."

The Flyers were 9-8-3 after 20 games last season. Two games later, they were starting a 10-game winning streak. The run didn't accomplish much by season's end, but it's an example of how quickly trends can turn in the NHL.

Simmonds is experiencing his own negative trend of 12 straight games without a goal after scoring six in eight games to start the season.

"Sometimes you score 10 goals, then you don't score again for 20 games or something like that," Simmonds said. "Like I said, it's a long year, you keep going, you keep grinding, you guys want to jump to conclusions, that's your job. You guys have got to make decisions on a game-to-game basis, but for us, we just have to make sure we're coming to the rink and doing our job every single day and continuing to try and get better."

Throughout much of his drought, Simmonds has not looked himself, likely banged up from the style in which he plays and excels.

With time and patience, Simmonds is building himself up again physically.

"You think you can do some things and sometimes your body just tells you no," Simmonds said.

"I've been feeling better the last little bit. I feel like I've started to play better, things aren't coming offensively for me. I think as an individual, I've just got to keep working hard. The only way to break yourself out of a bad streak is to continue to work hard and hopefully things eventually go your way."

When does he know his game is coming to him?

"When I'm aggressive," Simmonds said. "When I'm battling in the corners, I'm hitting — I think earlier this year, I wasn't fully engaging in battles and stuff like that, and that's not me, that's not my game. I think the last little bit here, I've felt a lot better, I've been doing a lot more battling, a lot more hitting, a lot more physical things. It's nice and we've got to continue that. As a team, we've got to continue to do the same thing, to get to the front of the net and continue to put pucks in."

Aside from the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, scoring struggles have permeated the middle six and secondary options. Konecny and Weal, two players the Flyers expected jumps from in production, have combined for four goals and nine assists. Konecny is without a goal over his previous 10 games, while Weal has scored one in his last 12.

"It's been a lot of hard work and not much to show for it," Weal said. "No matter what line we've been on, it seems like we've been getting three or four chances every game to put something in and nothing right now seems to be going in. It's one of those things that happens during a season.

"When it breaks open, hopefully it'll break wide open.

"When we have all four lines scoring, we're a really dangerous team."

Both Konecny and Weal are frequently the last two players off the practice ice.

Monday was no different.

"I just need to make sure I'm battling and creating more offense," Konecny said. "I feel like the opportunities are there, I'm not worried about that."

Nor is Simmonds worried about the Flyers with 62 games to go, the next coming Tuesday night at home against the Canucks.

Similar to building up strength and good health, patience is important to a season, especially with the makeup of this Flyers team.

Simmonds believes you'll buy in … just give it some time.

"You can look at the standings, you can do whatever you want, but we've played 20 games," Simmonds said. "There's still a long time to go in the season. We've got work to do.

"I'm definitely feeling better. It's up to me to get going."

When he does, the Flyers hope the rest follow.

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Gudas reacts, roster buzz, more

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Gudas reacts, roster buzz, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — Radko Gudas helped warm up the goalie before practice.
 
He was also one of the last players off the ice.
 
This will be usual for the next three weeks when the Flyers' defenseman serves the remainder of a 10-game suspension handed down Sunday night by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. The punitive actions are a result of Gudas' slash to the head of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault during last Thursday's game.
 
Gudas and the Flyers don't have to agree with the decision, but they must move past it.
 
"I don't think it was intentional by any means, but the league is going to do what it wants to do," Wayne Simmonds said Monday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I don't agree with it, I don't think anyone in here agrees with it. But what are you going to do? That's the league."
 
Despite being considered a repeat offender, Gudas was "surprised" by the suspension's length.
 
"I didn't really expect that, no," Gudas said.
 
"I don't agree with it, but I accept their decision. Not much else I can say."
 
Understandably, Gudas was not in much of a mood to discuss the incident and simply said it was accidental from his side.
 
"I'm not recapping the play, no, it is what it is," Gudas said.
 
"Before, I've never used my stick in any way like that. It was unfortunate."
 
Saturday's loss to Calgary, which Gudas missed because his hearing was not until Sunday, marked the start of the ban, meaning he'll miss the next nine games and will be eligible to return on Dec. 12 against the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
With Gudas out, the Flyers lose a contributor on the penalty kill. The burly defenseman is sixth among all Flyers in short-handed time on ice at 35:52 and second in blocked shots on the PK with nine.
 
"Gudy's really good physically, he's great on the PK, he's got some surprising hands on him, too," Simmonds said. "We've got a lot of young guys back there, they're going to fill in. And for the majority of the season, they've played really well, the young guys have done a very good job."
 
One of those young guys will be Mark Alt. The 26-year-old rookie has played five games this season and will draw into the lineup again on Tuesday night when the Flyers host the Canucks (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia). 
 
And he very well could play Wednesday in Brooklyn against the Islanders. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald practiced Monday, but took reps with Gudas, while Alt was alongside Travis Sanheim. MacDonald, out since Oct. 24 with a lower-body injury, said he's not ready to return Tuesday and doesn't believe he'll be back Wednesday, either.
 
"Everybody just has to trust the teammates, go out and do their part and know that the next guy up will do his part," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "and I'm confident that the guys will do that."
 
"The league's made the decision. For me, my outlook is who steps in now for Gudy and his role, who steps up and takes advantage of that opportunity and helps our hockey team? On the individual side, for Gudy, we've got three weeks of work here to do to make sure he's as ready as possible to come back in our lineup when he is eligible."
 
Roster buzz
Speaking of MacDonald, he is currently on injured reserve and a roster spot must open for when he returns.
 
Forward Matt Read was placed on waivers Monday, according to a report by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. This is presumably to clear the way for MacDonald or a call-up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. With MacDonald still out and Gudas suspended, the Flyers have only six active defensemen.

Read, 31 years old and with just four games played this season, was placed on waivers at the start of 2017-18 and went unclaimed, which sent him to the Phantoms. If he goes unclaimed again, he'll likely report back to Lehigh Valley.
 
That's Weal talk
Forward Jordan Weal practiced and is good to go after missing Saturday's game with an upper-body injury.
 
Weal last Thursday took a nasty elbow/high hit at center ice from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who was not whistled for a penalty or punished by the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
 
"I thought it was a blindside hit, to be honest with you," Simmonds said. "The league can do what they want. … We just kind of have to go with it."

Weal, tough for 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, shrugged off the blow from the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Byfuglien.
 
"I didn't really watch the full play, I was going to watch that today," Weal said. "He's a big guy, I'm a little guy, so [the hit] is always going to look a little bigger than it actually is. Throughout the game, things happen … solid check."
 
Let's play outside!

Claude Giroux and Simmonds were both excited about Sunday's announcement of next season's outdoor game against the rival Penguins.
 
The game on Feb. 23, 2019, will be part of the NHL Stadium Series. Last season, the Flyers played Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers.
 
Next season, it's time for Lincoln Financial Field.
 
"It's definitely cool," Giroux said. "I've had a lot of games outdoor, they've all been pretty special. This one will be special, too, especially in Philly and that building is always fun to go to. So being able to play in it, it's going to be pretty cool."
 
Unlike NHL arenas, where attendance is around 19,000-20,000 people, the Linc can hold between 69,500 and 70,000.
 
"That's pretty cool," Simmonds said. "Obviously a really great opportunity when you get a chance to play in an outdoor game. This will be, since I've been here, our third opportunity to do that. Hopefully, we can get the win this time.
 
"Those are always fun — 60,000, 70,000 people in the stands all rooting and cheering for you. And we're on the home side this time, so it's going to be unbelievable."
 
Projected lineup
Here are the lines, pairings and goalies from Monday's practice.
 
Michal Neuvirth is expected to start in net Tuesday, the first game of a back-to-back for the Flyers.
 
Winger Dale Weise, after playing eight straight games, will likely be a healthy scratch.
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott