What will Flyers do if Shayne Gostisbehere misses time?

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What will Flyers do if Shayne Gostisbehere misses time?

TORONTO — After Shayne Gostisbehere left Saturday night's 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury, the Flyers could be in jeopardy of losing two key defensemen in the span of a week.

Gostisbehere's status for Monday's game against Arizona remains in question. The Flyers did not have an update on the third-year defenseman Sunday but did recall defenseman Samuel Morin from the Phantoms.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall now has the attention of those aboard the Flyers' express who may not have given a second thought there could be this degree of turbulence in the first month of the season.

"I always use a number — 10 defensemen," Hextall said a week ago after Andrew MacDonald suffered a lower-body injury. "We've done that for years, where you have 10 guys who can play a few games if need be and it's hard.

"It happens and it happens quick, and you've got to have guys that can play. Maybe they're not full-time players yet or even will be, but they can play a few games. An important part of an organization is having depth."

Supplying organizational depth must be on the radar of any NHL GM, especially during the calmness of the summer months. While the Flyers aren't quite at that point of panic, Hextall is now looking at possibly playing his eighth defenseman on that 10-man pecking order.

When the season began Oct. 4 in San Jose, the Flyers had the luxury of mixing and matching their defensive pairings based on skill set and familiarity of playing on the left or right side, while also casting rookies in a role and a responsibility that wouldn't necessarily overwhelm them.

At that time, eight defensemen was simply a good problem to have. Now, it’s a problem that may have to be solved before Monday night.

The Nos. 8, 9 and 10 hitters in the Flyers' lineup of blueliners were Morin, veteran T.J Brennan and right-hander Mark Alt, who has played just one NHL game. Brennan is currently unavailable, still a week or two away from a return from injury.

Hextall opted with Morin, who at the least will serve as the seventh defenseman Monday night depending on if Gostisbehere is available.

When camp opened in September, Hextall believed he had enough reserve that it didn't warrant bringing in a veteran on a professional tryout. Mark Streit, 40, signed a one-year deal with the defensively-dismal Canadiens and has already been released.

Streit has been seen working out on his own at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.

"It's not easy," Hextall said. "It's not easy to keep depth with 31 teams now, and quite frankly, I don't believe there's enough (players)."

Unless Hextall elects to go outside the organization, Morin is the likely and most obvious choice here.

"I don't anticipate (signing someone)," Hextall said a week ago. "We've got enough guys down there who we think can play on a day-to-day basis. We got guys down there, multiple guys, we feel can fill in for us when need be."

Then, the more pressing questions will be left for head coach Dave Hakstol, who will be tasked with trying to maintain order on the back end.

Following the loss of MacDonald, there were indeed some rough patches. Hakstol paired rookies Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg together in Ottawa, which lasted all of 20 minutes before that plan was scrapped. There was a considerable amount of mixing and matching before the Flyers finally settled down in Toronto, and then Gostisbehere's injury happened.

What could the Flyers be faced with for Monday’s game against a winless Arizona team if Gostisbehere doesn't play?

Ivan Provorov-Hagg
Two of the Flyers' most consistent defensemen so far, and after Gostisbehere went down with an injury in Toronto, Provorov and Hagg were the top two in minutes played.

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
This pair has played rather effectively in the games when Sanheim was scratched: San Jose, Washington, Florida — all Flyers victories. Hakstol should feel somewhat comfortable again, even though they’ll be tasked with playing against more talented lines.

Here’s Hakstol’s conundrum. He could elect to spread out his three rookies among his pairings or he could roll the dice and see how Morin and Sanheim respond together. I have a hard time believing he would put this much inexperience on the ice, but we saw it in Ottawa. Otherwise, a Manning-Sanheim combo would be the likelier choice.

Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

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Why the Flyers? How Canadians decided to 'bleed orange'

Aaron Roberts proudly wore his No. 88 Eric Lindros jersey when the Flyers traveled to Edmonton in December. Aaron also owns a John LeClair jersey, a Wayne Simmonds sweater, and at the time, a Claude Giroux that was on order.    

Roberts, like many who attended that game, is an Orange and Black diehard who was born and raised in Canada.

“Growing up when Philly won their Cups I started watching hockey,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I went with a winner then and I just never, ever veered away from it. Of course, there’s temptation, but it’s always been Philadelphia for me.”

It’s not unusual to see a Philly faithful make their way out of the Canadian woodwork. Their popularity even rivals that of American-based Original Six teams.  

“I find that when I go to games Flyers fans are more friendly, like everyone wants to high five and stuff, which is cool,” said Troy Krechuniak, who lives in Calgary, but grew up in Edmonton. “I had to go through all of that (the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup). That’s the problem going through the (Wayne) Gretzky years, 1985 Game 5, 1987 Game 7.” 

So why this allegiance to a team located hundreds of miles away in another country? 

At one time, the Philadelphia Flyers were as Canadian as the Montreal Canadiens themselves, considering they’re still the last team to win a Stanley Cup with an all-Canadian roster. 

“First off, you choose the identity of a team when you’re probably six-to-nine years old, and at my age, I cheered for the Broad Street Bullies - Bobby Clarke, Dave Schultz and so forth,” said Rick LeFort of Saskatchewan. “I moved to Manitoba years later. Manitoba connections are Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach.”

More than 40 years after bringing the city of Philadelphia it’s first Stanley Cup championship, the Broad Street Bullies left behind a legacy that has impacted a region where hockey is indeed a religion.

“Being in Calgary when there was no team, you got to choose which team you wanted to affiliate yourself with,” said Shawn Cochlan of Langdon, Alberta. “I did love that brand of hockey, and yet, a lot of my friends didn’t. I liked Philadelphia better because they were tougher.”

And the allegiance to the Flyers has been passed down from a generation of fans to their children and siblings.  

“My aunt and uncle were big Flyers fans, and I loved being an outsider,” said Ryan Doram of Edmonton. “Every year when the Flyers come to Edmonton we make sure we come to the games. I loved Lindros. I loved the Recchi years, and you always find your new favorites I guess. You always find players you look and gravitate to.”

Giroux has that gravitational pull. As the Flyers hit Ottawa and Montreal one final time this weekend, you’ll see No. 28 jerseys scattered throughout the arenas for the Hearst, Ontario native.

“We haven’t won a cup in a while. We’ve been there four or five times, but we’re getting better. I like what Ron Hextall is doing, and we’re going in the right direction,” said 54-year-old Tom Banks. 

“You cut me in the winter months, I bleed orange.”

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).