Flyers

Claude Giroux's move to wing for Flyers keeps paying off in win

Claude Giroux's move to wing for Flyers keeps paying off in win

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What many believed was just crazy science is now a proven hypothesis. Dave Hakstol’s preseason lab experiment of putting Claude Giroux on left wing has encouraging test results. 

“That’s what we were looking for, and if you think back to it, those guys had a practice together and then we went away from it a bit,” Hakstol said. “There’s obviously some big changes there for ‘G’ and a different look with those three guys together. Give credit to those three guys. They’ve dug in and they’ve worked hard at it. Looking at it tonight, for sure, it’s an option.”

With one more preseason test run, the next true phase of the “G to the wing” project alongside Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek will begin Oct. 4 in San Jose. 

Thursday night’s 5-1 win over the Bruins was the proof the coaching staff and the front office needed to see against the most complete NHL level of competition the Flyers have played against during the preseason (see observations).

“I think today was our best game,” Giroux said. “We found each other a little bit better. We keep playing together, building on what we’re doing. Obviously, we’ve got some room for improvement, but we did a lot of good things out there.”

Giroux had a pair of assists in the victory. The trio of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek combined for six points and a plus-3 rating as each player turned in multi-point nights. If you were to chart the efficiency of this line over the course of this week's three games, the unit has continued to move in an upward trajectory.

“Yeah, I think we’ve gotten better every single game, especially on the turnovers,” Voracek said. “When we turn the puck over in the neutral zone, we go forward, which is really important. I think we can do it better.”

The move from center alleviates Giroux’s defensive responsibilities. In turn, Giroux can take more chances in the offensive zone while potentially increasing his shot production from the off wing.

“It’s different with ‘G’ on the left plank. I think he can risk a little bit more than when he was at center,” Voracek said. “For his advantage I think it’s real important that he can use the boards because he’s a very smart player. If you know how to use the boards, it’s a big advantage. I think we’ve been very good and we’ve just got to keep going.“ 

From that first day of the experiment, Giroux has seemed to embrace the change. Now he has the results to show for it with a pair of assists in each of his last two games at wing.

“When you play with two good players like that, and our D corps is playing great right now, it makes everybody’s job a lot easier,” Giroux said. “We like playing with each other, so hopefully we keep playing together.”

Welcome to the fight club
Picking on someone his own age is somewhat difficult to find for 19-year-old Nolan Patrick, so Thursday night he elected to go after a veteran 12 years his senior when he dropped the gloves with Boston center David Krejci (see video). Krejci had not fought in the regular season since 2011. 

“Not that old,” Patrick said jokingly when asked who was the oldest opponent he’s fought. “Kind of happened, I really wasn’t thinking too much. It kind of happens fast on the ice. Adrenaline kicks in. I’m not scared to do it if it happens, but it’s not a huge part of my game.”

“That wasn’t a necessity, but he did what he had to do in that situation,” Hakstol said. “There’s a couple other teammates that got in there and did a real good job, and for Nolan’s part, he did his part.”

Krejci even admitted he had some respect for the rookie for being willing to fight.

“Yeah, I don’t want to speak for him, but I felt like he was little over the line. He was willing to go, too,” Krejci said. “It wasn’t like I dropped and he was surprised. He was expecting that, so I kind of got to give him respect for that. First year in the league, so good for him. But at the same time, I thought he crossed the line a little bit. We fought and now it’s over with.”

When Patrick left the box approximately 4:30 into the third period, the home crowd gave the rookie a nice applause for the effort, and somewhere, Ed Snider was smiling.

In like a Lyon
Goalie Alex Lyon skated in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Thursday morning preparing as the backup for the Flyers’ game against Boston. Afterward, Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon informed Lyon that Michal Neuvirth was sick and he would be called on to start against the Bruins. So, Lyon and Phantoms backup Leland Irving carpooled from Allentown to Philadelphia during the afternoon.

Lyon responded by stopping 31 of 32 shots in earning the win, and perhaps leaving him with some confidence that he can fill in at a moment’s notice.

“Every minute I can get in here is big for confidence,” Lyon said. “It’s nice whenever you get up here to get that chemistry going with the guys, too. I felt good tonight, but the team was fabulous tonight. They played so well in front of me and made it easy.”

Lyon was expected to be back in the driver’s seat for the car ride back to Allentown since Irving is the projected starter for the Phantoms’ preseason game at the PPL Center against the Charlotte Checkers on Friday.

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