Dave Hakstol: 'Not the plan right now' for Mike Vecchione to play this weekend

Dave Hakstol: 'Not the plan right now' for Mike Vecchione to play this weekend

The Flyers signed Mike Vecchione, Shayne Gostisbehere's old teammate at Union College, Friday to a one-year contract worth $925,000 (see story.)

After signing his contract, Vecchione said he gave his parents a big hug filled with tears of joy.

"It's been a long time coming, you wait your whole life for this," he said after Saturday's morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.

But Vecchione won't be on the ice with his former teammate yet. The 24-year-old center hasn't skated in a week and will not be in the lineup Saturday night against the Devils (see game notes). It's unclear when he'll get into the lineup. Saturday was his first practice with the team.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Vecchione won't play Sunday against the New York Rangers, either.

"There's always a chance but that's not the plan right now," Hakstol said. "He's gotta practice, he's got to get a little bit of time in, give us an opportunity to get to know him a little bit better, give him an opportunity to get settled in a little bit."

Vecchione said he wants to be a "sponge" in the upcoming days and learn the system, talk to the coach and figure out what role he'll be playing.

Since he doesn't have a place in Philadelphia, Vecchione has been staying at Gostisbehere's spot.

When asked if he was paying rent or doing dishes to stay with Gostisbehere, he said he's thankful Ghost took him in.

"We haven't worked out the logistics of things," Vecchione said with a smirk on his face. "We'll see what happens. I'm only going to be here a couple of weeks, so I'll try to keep it clean over at his house."

Livin' on a prayer
The Flyers are hanging on by a limb in the NHL playoff race.

They currently sit six points out of the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot, and every game has turned into a must-win scenario.

But Hakstol doesn't think there's anything different about this game.

"We've been in the same mode," Hakstol said. "I think our focus is on exactly what it's been -- taking care of our own backyard, taking care of our own business, and that's what we've done. And that's the opportunity that we have again today. It's no different today than it was two days ago or a week ago."

For Hakstol's sake, he better hope his guys are in the same mode they were Thursday night when they unloaded six goals against the New York Islanders on 30 shots.

If the Flyers lose in regulation against the Devils on Saturday, the Bruins beat the Panthers and the Maple Leafs pick up at least one point against the Red Wings, the Flyers are eliminated from the playoffs.

Michal Neuvirth will get the start over Steve Mason on Saturday against the Devils. Neuvirth has better career numbers against the Devils (6-3-5, 2.23 GAA) compared to Mason's (0-9-0, 3.93 GAA) record.

But Hakstol claimed that wasn't the reason Neuvirth will be starting.

"There's a lot of factors, the biggest factor is the back to back," Hakstol said. "Neuvy has a had a great week here in terms of practice and readiness, so we felt like this is the start that Neuvy will get it and Mason will go tomorrow."

Next man up
With Matt Read out for the rest of the season with a broken right arm, Colin McDonald has been called up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

At the age of 32, McDonald isn't new to the NHL by any means. He's played for four different teams in the NHL and a total of 145 games, including five with the Flyers last season.

"You're waiting a long time and you're just really excited to get this opportunity as the year goes on," McDonald said. "You kind of start doubting if you're going to get a chance and sure enough, here it is. I'm excited to go out and do that."

McDonald was also called up during last season's playoff run with the Flyers, so he knows what to expect heading into the final games of the season. In three playoff games against the Washington Capitals last season, he took four shots and had 13 hits.

"The fact that they called me up in the middle of their playoff run last year and stepped right in, I think they know I can step into a similar situation," McDonald said. "And maybe that's part of the reason why they called me up, even though I haven't been here all year, they felt confident that I'm going to be able to do my job, so that's my mindset."

Projected Flyers Lineup
F: Travis Konecny-Claude Giroux-Jakub Voracek

Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds

Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Brayden Schenn

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Colin McDonald

D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald

Micheal Del Zotto-Shayne Gostisbehere

Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

G: Michal Neuvirth

Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

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Blue Jackets tighten grip for 10th straight win

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots for his fifth shutout of the season, Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, and the Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Florida Panthers 4-0 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win.

Pierre-Luc Dubois had two assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved to 42-28-5 and joined Philadelphia (1984-86) and Pittsburgh (2010-13) as the only NHL franchises to record 10-game win streaks in consecutive seasons.

The shutout was the 24th of Bobrovsky's career and his seventh straight win. Sonny Milano, Seth Jones and Thomas Vanek -- into an empty net -- also scored for Columbus, which moved into a second-place tie in the Metropolitan Division with idle Pittsburgh, each with 89 points.

Florida dropped to 37-28-7. With 10 games left in the season, the Panthers remained a point behind the idle New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot (see full recap).

Maple Leafs top Predators in Matthews’ return
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Auston Matthews had a goal in his return from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday night.

The Predators had been 14-0-1 since their previous regulation loss on Feb. 17.

James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner each had a goal and an assist, and William Nylander and Jake Gardiner also scored for Toronto, which has won five of six.

Morgan Rielly had three assists for the Maple Leafs, and Tyler Bozak had two. Frederik Andersen stopped 23 shots.

Viktor Arvidsson and Scott Hartnell scored for Nashville. Pekka Rinne had 23 saves (see full recap).

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings
DETROIT -- Philipp Grubauer made 39 saves for his third shutout of the season, and Brett Connolly scored the game's only goal on a third-period breakaway to lift the Washington Capitals to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won six of seven and lead Pittsburgh and Columbus by four points atop the Metropolitan Division as the regular season winds down. Washington has turned increasingly to Grubauer of late after Braden Holtby struggled in February and at the beginning of March. Holtby wasn't available Thursday because of an injury coach Barry Trotz described as a tweak.

The Capitals took the lead with 13:19 remaining in the game after Detroit defenseman Xavier Ouellet couldn't control the puck near Washington's blue line. Connolly and teammate Jakub Vrana went the other way on a two-man breakaway, and Connolly beat Jimmy Howard with a wrist shot to the glove side. It was his 15th goal of the season.

The Red Wings had a goal called back for goalie interference in the first period -- replays showed Tyler Bertuzzi appearing to make contact with Grubauer in front of the net. Detroit squandered a great opportunity in the second when the Red Wings had a two-man advantage for the full 2:00.

Andreas Athanasiou had a breakaway in the third, but couldn't beat Grubauer. Athanasiou had another chance in the final minutes, but his shot deflected wide as Grubauer tried unsuccessfully to grab it with his glove.

Detroit has lost 11 of 12 (see full recap).

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers

Dave Hakstol shows who he can trust in Flyers' win over Rangers


Who can I trust?

That’s the underlying question Dave Hakstol is attempting to answer almost nightly as the Flyers inch their way toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was no different in the Flyers' frantic 4-3 win over the Rangers Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

“We were sporadic. The first three or four minutes of the game, we weren’t sharp or crisp,” Hakstol said. “Honestly, we got back on our heels in the last part of the third period. There are things that we obviously have to clean up.”

The cleanup crew Hakstol is looking for must possess a trustworthiness factor that makes each player dependable during crunch time. Against the Rangers, the Flyers' coach was forced to lean heavily on a handful of guys who weren’t even on Hakstol’s roster during the first half of the season.

Matt Read replaced Travis Konecny (who scored two goals) on the top line, and was counted on defensively where Konecny came up short in the previous two periods. Read played 13:52 to Konecny’s 12:29.

“He wasn’t taking care of the puck very well,” Hakstol said of Konecny. “Individuals have got to be better at this time of year and how we manage the puck and the mentality that we’re going to do things with.”

“It’s just part of buying in and doing things for the team” Konecny said. “I have no problem with it. It’s a matter of getting the two points. If that’s the way we’ve got to win, then we’ve got to do that every time.”

The 21-year-old Oskar Lindblom scored the eventual game-winning goal on the opening shift of the third period, and the second-line winger was consistently shifted until the final four minutes of regulation.  

“Everybody’s different. It depends on the player,” Hakstol said. “Oskar is a guy that has come in and fit into the structural part of our game very well if you watch Oskar’s game. He’s just very intelligent in terms of playing within a system. He always finds a way to be on the right side of the puck.”

And then there’s goaltender Alex Lyon, who stepped up following his strong performance in relief of Petr Mrazek Tuesday night in Detroit. 

When the defense in front of him broke down, Lyon answered the call and preserved the Flyers' lead throughout times in the second period and even during a spotty third period.

“I was actually thinking about it before the game today,” Lyon said. “Every game is so different, and you feel different. Circumstances are different, the team is different every day, so I think the best guys are those who can adjust to that, so I try and take a page out of their book.”

And with his 33-save performance, Lyon has put himself in position to start Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

If there’s a doghouse for those who perform poorly, then consider this to be Hakstol’s safe house. They may not be the Flyers' best guys, but as of now, they’re the reliable ones.

Or as Hakstol is looking for — those who play on the right side of the puck.