Nolan Patrick practices, nears return to Flyers

Nolan Patrick practices, nears return to Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Rookie Nolan Patrick practiced with Flyers teammates Monday for the first time since late October and will accompany the team on its two-game road trip to Minnesota and Winnipeg.

“It was good,” Patrick said Monday after practice. “It was fun to get back out there and be a part of the team again. It was a pretty short skate but it was good."

Patrick, who was injured when his head slammed against the glass Oct. 24 vs. Anaheim, last skated with the team during the Flyers’ trip to Toronto in late October, and after he was scratched prior to the game against the Maple Leafs, the organization backed off Patrick's practice regimen. It remains to be seen how much practice time the prized rookie will require to get ready for the pace of a regular-season game.

“It’s early in the process,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s on the front end of conditioning, timing and there’s a lot of things that have to come back to game level. That’s no different for any player, but certainly for a young player, he’s at the front end of that and he’ll continue to work hard at that.”   

By every indication, Patrick, along with Matt Read, will be the extra skaters when the Flyers head to Minnesota to face the Wild on Tuesday in the second leg of their home-and-home series. However, if given the opportunity, Patrick would love to play in front of friends and family in his hometown of Winnipeg, where the Flyers will square off with the Jets on Thursday.

“It would be pretty cool to play in my hometown,” said Patrick, who grew up about 15 minutes from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg and still remembers the exact day the NHL announced the Jets were coming back to Winnipeg on May 31, 2011.

“Yeah, I was in grade eight (8th grade) when they got the team. It was obviously pretty exciting. I was in home-ec class sewing when I found out that the team was coming back. I was making some brutal sweater I think. Obviously it was pretty cool for Winnipeg and everyone around the city was pretty fired up for that.”  

Without Patrick in the lineup, the Flyers were shut out a league-leading fourth time Saturday when the Wild escaped Philadelphia with a 1-0 win. Hakstol elected to rearrange the furniture, so to speak, during Monday’s practice. While the top line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek has consistently excelled this season and the “Honey Bees” line of Taylor Leier, Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl has generated some buzz in the offensive end of the ice, the middle lines have been stagnant during even-strength play.

Jordan Weal moved to center from left wing Monday on a line with Wayne Simmonds and Dale Weise, suggesting Hakstol is looking for more speed down the middle of the ice. Weal scored in the season opener in San Jose, but has just one goal in his last 14 games since.

“I don’t think the numbers not being there are indicative of how the play has been,” Weal said. “I’ve played a lot of games at center ice. I’ve probably played 200 games professionally as a centerman and 400 junior games as a centerman. I’ve played a lot of center. It’s not something that’s foreign to me.”

“It’s a different mix,” Hakstol said. “Sometimes just a little bit of a change has a way of breaking things loose. It’s a little different look for Weal, as well as his linemates, and something that could add a little bit of a spark.”

“We've got to do a better job getting to the net, mucking it up and getting greasy," Simmonds said. "I haven’t been very good myself for probably the last 10 games. It’s up to me and the rest of the guys to get our nose dirty. We’ve been shut out four times in 17 games, so it’s unacceptable.”

After a strong defensive performance in St. Louis against his former team, Jori Lehtera and his offensive play have lagged recently and the offense has been nonexistent as Lehtera has generated just four shots on goal over his last seven games with no points to show. Hakstol chose to move Lehtera back to left wing on a line with center Valtteri Filppula and right winger Travis Konecny, the latter of whom certainly seems out of place on that line.

“It’s a new look,” Konecny said. “We’ll see how it pans out. Lehts (Lehtera) and Fil (Filppula) have a little bit of a connection there. They feed off each other so it could definitely work, so we’ll see how it plays out.” 

General manager Ron Hextall said Saturday he was hopeful that Andrew MacDonald could rejoin the team for the first time in over three weeks after taking a puck to the side of his leg in a game against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 21. However, MacDonald did not skate and the team chose to recall Mark Alt from Lehigh Valley. Alt will serve as the Flyers' seventh defenseman on their two-game road trip.

Projected lines vs. Wild

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

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

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.”