Nolan Patrick practices again but will he return for a special homecoming?

Nolan Patrick practices again but will he return for a special homecoming?

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — When the Flyers' charter touched down early Wednesday morning, the team was greeted with its first snowfall of the early season. Mid-November in Winnipeg may as well be late January in Philadelphia. Temperatures in the 20s, scarf and glove weather, and cars caked in snow slush.

While Nolan Patrick recognized all the familiar sights of his hometown and was clearly comfortable in familiar surroundings happy to be back to see family and friends, very little changes here in the Canadian midwest. Perhaps more importantly, change for Patrick seems to move just as slowly. 

Just like he did three weeks ago, Patrick was on the ice practicing with his teammates, this time at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg. The Flyers' 19-year-old rookie did not have an ounce of enthusiasm in his voice as if he was preparing to play his first NHL game in the area he grew up watching, learning and playing the sport of hockey.

“Anywhere would be nice,” Patrick said. “Obviously to play here would be pretty cool, play my first game in my hometown, but that decision is not really up to me, so I guess we’ll see what happens.”

“I’ll make those decisions on game day,” said head coach Dave Hakstol, which leads one to believe Patrick's return to the ice is now based more on what works best for the team and not anything related to the protocol and baseline testing.

“It’s hard on any player. When you’re out of the lineup for an extended period of time, sometimes more so for a young player. He’s worked hard. He’s done all the things asked of him. Most importantly, he’s got a good group of teammates around him. Those are some of the most important people around him when he is out of the lineup.”

Patrick was quick to remind the Canadian media how he was struggling when he sustained the hit Oct. 24 against the Ducks. In the four previous games, Patrick had contributed just one assist and five shots on net. You can’t expect a player still learning the NHL game and having missed three weeks to be the offensive savior on a team that hasn’t scored a goal in its last 156 minutes of action.

“Hopefully I can contribute when I get back," Patrick said. "That’s something that I need to produce more when I get back. My last couple of games before I got hurt, I didn’t think I played really well. I’ll just try and get into a rhythm as fast I can when I get back.”

This ordeal isn’t much different than Patrick’s final season of junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings when he was in and out of the lineup dealing with a multitude of core muscle injuries. 

“It’s not that frustrating,” Patrick said. “I’ve been through the injury process before so I know how to handle it. I just try and stay positive through the whole thing. I don’t think anyone wants to be hurt. It’s part of the game. Just stay positive throughout the process.”

Patrick circled Thursday on his calendar months ago when the NHL schedule was released, and the Flyers likely wanted Patrick to accompany the team, if anything, just to enjoy his first trip back to the town where he grew up. Eventually, he’ll have that first game in Winnipeg, but for now, it may not be what’s best for a struggling Flyers team searching for offense. 

'Mac' update
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald rejoined the team for the first time Wednesday in Winnipeg. MacDonald hadn’t skated since taking a slap shot off his leg Oct. 21 against the Edmonton Oilers. MacDonald just ditched the crutches the past Saturday, so it doesn’t appear as if he’s preparing to play against the Jets either.

“I’m not sure that’s realistic or not,” MacDonald said. “Just being off for the amount of time I was. It did feel really good, but again, we just have to go through the process of seeing how it feels tomorrow (Thursday), and kind of progress from there and make sure there’s no setbacks or anything.”

GM meeting
General manager Ron Hextall did not accompany the team to Winnipeg as he prepares to join the league’s other GMs in Montreal, where a number of topics will be discussed, including the effect of the new slashing penalty and the changes to the coach’s challenge.

Trade talks are always on the table now that injuries have created some holes on team’s rosters, while other teams are looking to fortify their position, especially after the three-team swap earlier this month that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa.  

Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

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Best of NHL: Islanders shut down Capitals to snap 5-game skid

NEW YORK -- Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves after getting a vote of confidence from his coach, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 on Monday night to snap a five-game winless streak.

Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd and John Tavares scored goals for the Islanders, who built a 3-0 lead early in the second period and ended Washington's four-game winning streak.

It was the second time this season that Halak held an opponent to a single goal and the third time New York has allowed one goal as a team. Halak's strong performance came after coach Doug Weight sternly defended his goaltenders following the team's skate Monday morning. New York was 0-3-2 over its last five games.

Braden Holtby made nine saves for the Capitals before being pulled after the Islanders scored their third goal 1:34 into the second period. Philipp Grubauer made 17 saves in relief, and Dmitry Orlov scored Washington's only goal (see full recap).

Bernier makes 39 saves as Avalanche top Penguins
PITTSBURGH -- Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots and Mark Barberio scored in the third period, helping the Colorado Avalanche top the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Monday night.

Blake Comeau added an empty netter against his former team as Colorado won its second straight after a string of six losses in seven games. It was Comeau's seventh of the season.

Barberio put the Avalanche ahead to stay 6:17 into the third. His slap shot off the rush hit Pittsburgh forward Riley Sheahan in front and got past goaltender Tristan Jarry.

Bernier was on track for his second shutout of the season before Phil Kessel scored his 15th goal for Pittsburgh at 19:48. Bernier beat the Penguins for just the second time in 10 career games (see full recap).

Perreault, Jets beat Canucks to snap skid
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Mathieu Perreault scored two goals and added an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets halt a three-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night.

The win was the Jets' seventh straight victory at home and they have points in their last 11 games (10-0-1) at Bell MTS Place.

The Canucks have lost three straight in regulation for the first time this season.

Dmitry Kulikov, Josh Morrissey and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for Winnipeg (18-8-5). Ehlers' 14th of the season was on the power play and gave him goals in three straight games.

Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 16th goal for the Canucks. He also extended his goal-scoring streak to three games.

Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves for Winnipeg (see full recap).

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Reversing home fortunes

VOORHEES, N.J. — Home is where the _____.

For the Flyers, filling in this blank hasn’t solicited positive responses this season.

Of course, the Flyers haven’t provided positive results.

After trouncing the Capitals and Panthers in their first two home games of the season, the Flyers have dropped 10 of their last 12 in South Philly. They gifted the Arizona Coyotes their first win of the season back in late October and have turned in lethargic efforts against the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins in recent weeks.

More alarmingly, the Flyers have just a 1-2-5 record in one-goal games, a situation in which home ice should come into play as one of the deciding factors. The losing and frustration culminated with a barrage of boos and a “Fire Hakstol” chant during that 3-1 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

“It doesn’t help, but we’re not doing anything to help ourselves,” goaltender Brian Elliott said Monday. “You’re trying not to listen to any crowd. You’re just trying to block it all out and stay in that moment, just playing with your team out there, and that’s probably how I approach it. It’s taking that road style hockey game and bringing it here.” 

“I think the atmosphere will be better,” Sean Couturier said. “When you’re losing, it’s tough. We were trying so hard to get a win. It didn’t seem to come, and then finally to get one, two and then three. We’re kind of on a roll, but at the same time, it’s only three games. We’re pretty excited to be back home and keep winning.”  

Tuesday, the team will be looking to change its Wells Fargo Center fortunes when it opens up another five-game homestand, its longest of the season, beginning with a visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers are hopeful they can carry over their success from a three-game sweep in Western Canada when the Leafs hit town. 

“We keep it simple on the road. We went on the road and made a pact to keep it simple and play the right way,” Wayne Simmonds said. “We’ve had one of the best home records over the past three years. I think we do alright at home. Obviously, we’ve had a slow start at home, but we’ll pick it up.”

Not that the previous 14 home games have been irrelevant, but the final 27 games on home ice will have a much greater emphasis as 23 of their final 28 games come against Eastern Conference opponents, with 12 of those directly within the Metropolitan Division.

“From now on, games are going to get more and more important,” Couturier said. “Every point is pretty much necessary for us, especially when you lose 10 games in a row. You get behind in the standings and you’re chasing. We've got to stick together and get some more wins.”

'Ghost' feels for Wentz
Shayne Gostisbehere knows what it's like to wake up the way Carson Wentz did on Monday morning.

Wentz tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 43-35 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. 

In November 2014, Gostisbehere tore the same ACL in his knee during his rookie season with the Phantoms just five games in and never returned to action. Faced with months of rehab, there were moments when "Ghost" didn’t feel as if the injury was improving.   

“I saw the game yesterday,” Gostisbehere said. “I hope for the best for him. The rehab is really grueling. It's ups and downs. Some days you’re going to feel great, feel like you’re getting ahead of the game, and other days you feel you’re never going to get better. I think overall he’s going to have the best care in the world. I think obviously you hope for the best and hope it’s not that bad.”

Elliott named third star
Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott was named the NHL’s third star of the week after posting three road wins with a 1.67 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

“It’s great when you get recognized,” Elliott said. “Whenever you get those recognitions as a goalie, it really shows how the group has been playing, especially this last week here. It’s probably my name up there, but definitely the whole team deserves that.”