Flyers

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Jori Lehtera's move, sweet connection, more

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Zack Hill/AP Images

Flyers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Jori Lehtera's move, sweet connection, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — It was around 7 a.m. in his native Finland when Jori Lehtera was woken up by his wife.
 
"She said, 'We're going to go to Philly,'" Lehtera recalled Saturday.
 
He had been traded to the Flyers.
 
"I was like, 'OK,'" Lehtera said. "And I kept sleeping."
 
No big deal, huh?
 
"I'm just kidding," he said with a laugh. "I started to Google the place."
 
This came during June when Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers on the night of the NHL draft in the deal that sent Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues.
 
Lehtera, a 29-year-old center, now finds himself in Voorhees for his first training camp with the Flyers. And just like when he started researching Philadelphia, Lehtera is excited about his new beginning. Last season — his third with the Blues and in the NHL — the 2008 third-round pick set career lows across the board, scoring 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 64 games for a minus-6 rating. He was also a healthy scratch in three of the team's 11 playoff games.
 
"The whole last year was frustrating," he said. "I'm really happy to get a fresh start here. Really excited."
 
Through two days of training camp, Lehtera has been paired on a line with fellow Finn Valtteri Filppula. The two are well-acquainted, having worked out together in previous summers. Lehtera and Filppula are two of many options the Flyers have at the center position. Should Lehtera have to play the wing, that's no problem he said.
 
"I've played winger before in the world cup, Olympics, world championships," he said. "I'm fine with that."

So what did he find out about Philadelphia on that Google search?
 
"It's a big city," he said.
 
Then Claude Giroux, at the locker stall right next to his new teammate, chimed in.
 
"Great media!" the Flyers' captain said with a huge smile.
 
Game time
Following two days of camp, the Flyers jump right into their preseason schedule with a 1 p.m. game Sunday against the New York Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

As for who plays among the 57 players on the training camp roster will be announced Sunday morning, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said.
 
Per NHL rules, a club has to dress at least eight veterans for an exhibition game, while a first-round pick from the most recent year's entry draft can constitute as one.
 
Regardless, we'll find out the lineup Sunday morning. Expect more junior and AHL players than established NHLers, though, as early roster cuts could come as soon as Monday morning.
 
What does the preseason opener mean for Hakstol?
 
"We've barely touched on or talked about a system," he said. "It's not going to be about systems tomorrow, it'll be more so about individuals going out and playing to their strengths and doing that throughout the 60 minutes. We're coming off a couple of real hard days. I would expect at some point in time — we might get a little low on energy at some point in time in the 60 minutes. I'm not concerned with that. I want to see guys that are able to rise above that a little bit, continue to think the game well and play hard and play intelligent."
 
Captain to kid
The morning session with the first group provided an exciting sequence between Giroux and anticipated prospect Oskar Lindblom.
 
In a 2-on-2 drill, Giroux slipped a pretty pass through traffic to Lindblom, who skillfully deflected it home for a goal. The play just so happened to occur on the south end of the rink where fans are allowed to watch along the glass.
 
Fans packed Flyers Skate Zone at 9:15 a.m. for festivities and to watch practice.
 
They certainly took delight in the Giroux-Lindblom connection.
 
Back together?
It appears Dean Lombardi is reuniting with Ron Hextall.
 
The Flyers have hired the ex-general manager, according to a report Saturday by The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun. In what function he'll serve Hextall has not yet been reported.
 
Hextall was Lombardi's assistant GM when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. The Kings, who also won the Cup under Lombardi's watch in 2014, fired the 59-year-old in April.
 
Lombardi was a scout for the Flyers from 2003 to 2006.
 
Patrick's line
Like Day 1, No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick was paired with Jordan Weal and Wayne Simmonds.
 
The Flyers clearly want to see how Patrick and Lindblom fare with NHL talent as the organization's two biggest roster hopefuls in camp.
 
Weal has been impressive with his speed and puck-handling. Once he gets a head of steam, he makes things happen.
 
He has also been impressed by Patrick.
 
"He's a smart player, you can tell right away," Weal said. "He's calm in the middle of the ice. It's nice to have a guy like that that has a good presence in there and is calm with the puck and can make plays out to the wingers. It's the first couple of days, so we're just starting to get to know to each other and I think it's just going to keep on getting better from here."
 
Hard to believe Patrick turns just 19 Tuesday?
 
"They're getting younger and younger, you know?" Weal said. "It's pretty crazy. He's a talented kid and it'll be nice if we can get to play together a little more moving forward."
 
Crushin' Cole
Forward prospect Cole Bardreau seemed to hit just about everything in sight Saturday.
 
Bardeau is only 5-foot-10 but 194 pounds and fearless physically. Playing in the first group, he bulldozed Mark Friedman (5-10/192) — an energy guy himself — in front of the net and sent Ivan Kosorenkov (5-10/187) hard into the boards shortly thereafter.
 
The all-out style is Bardreau's calling card.

"It's part of who he is as a player, he's in the middle of everything," Hakstol said. "In the first couple of days, he's certainly a guy that is trying to take advantage of every opportunity. There's no part-time to what he's done so far in the first couple of days. And I guess I would expect that out of him. He's an energy-type player, he plays the game in your face. He did that all last year when he was in the lineup in Lehigh. He's continued to do that here early this week."
 
The 24-year-old will more than likely start 2017-18 with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and provide that edge in hopes of being a depth option for the Flyers if needed.
 
Injury note
Forward prospect Pascal Laberge, who left Friday's morning practice early to be examined by a doctor for an undisclosed issue, is fine and was back on the ice Saturday.
 
He played alongside prospects German Rubtsov and Kosorenkov.
 
"It felt good, the second practice of the main camp, we had a good pace out there and I think we worked well," Laberge said. "It was fun.
 
"They're Russian players, they have a lot of skills, I think I can bring skills, too. We have a great line out there and hopefully, we can play together tomorrow or later in the camp."
 
Quotables
"Your first goal is always to make the playoffs and then you go from there. I think our division is tough, but at the same time, our team, we're molding as a good team pretty quick here. Having those young guys come in and make a difference for us right away, I think it's going to make us a pretty dangerous team."
 
- Claude Giroux
 
"It's really intense, a lot is concentrated on the D joining the rush and scoring. It's the first two days, I'm sure they have their reasons for certain drills. We just have to trust the process, go out there and do what they're asking us to do. The first couple days haven't been really goalie-friendly, let's just say that. The D drills will come out soon and we'll be sorting out defensive-zone coverages and things like that."
 
- Brian Elliott
 
Group lines, pairings and goalies
They were nearly identical to Day 1.
 
Morning
Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier-Mikhail Vorobyev-Colin McDonald
Pascal Laberge/Anthony Salinitri-German Rubtsov-Ivan Kosorenkov
Greg Carey-Corban Knight-Cole Bardreau
 
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald    
Will O'Neill-Mark Alt
Maxim Lamarche-Mark Friedman
 
Brian Elliott    
Alex Lyon    
John Muse
 
Afternoon
Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Connor Bunnaman/Carsen Twarynski-Phil Varone-Mike Vecchione
Tyrell Goulbourne-Radel Fazleev-Danick Martel
 
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
T.J. Brennan-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Phil Myers
Frank Hora-Reece Wilcox/James de Haas
 
Michal Neuvirth
Carter Hart
Leland Irving

Here come Flyers with nasty OT combo

Here come Flyers with nasty OT combo

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — It may have taken eight straight unsuccessful overtime periods, but Dave Hakstol has finally found a deadly combination.

For the second time this week, the trio of Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Ivan Provorov scored on the opening shift of OT, as the Flyers beat the Washington Capitals, 2-1, at Capital One Arena Sunday, while also earning their third straight win (see observations).

Konecny knifed his way through a defender along the wall before cutting to the middle and beating Caps goaltender Braden Holtby with a snap shot from between the circles. Just three days ago, it was Couturier who connected 18 seconds into overtime of Thursday’s 3-2 victory against the Maple Leafs.

“We got a good opportunity and we capitalized on it," Couturier said. “It’s all about starting with the puck and trying to control it. We did a good job of hanging onto it.”

“We’re just finding ways to win hockey games,” Konecny said. “They’re tough games to win when you’re playing against good teams. We’re just keeping things simple and trusting our abilities. I know that those two are on the defensive side of things, and Coots makes sure I know that every time by giving me a heads up to stay below my guy in the defensive zone. It just seems to be clicking right now.”

The offensive-minded Konecny has now scored goals in back-to-back games for just the second time in his career with the previous occasion coming in November 2016 of his rookie season.  

The victory was also the Flyers' seventh in their last eight games, which propelled them back into a playoff spot for the first time since Nov. 11, a day that coincided with the start of the team’s 10-game winless streak. Currently, the Flyers occupy the first wild-card position and are just a point behind Columbus for one of three automatic berths in the Metropolitan Division (see standings)

“It’s about finding the way to get the win and I think earlier in the season that was one of the issues is that we didn’t find a way,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We were playing good hockey, but we didn’t find ways. Now, we’re finding ways and we can’t stop here.”

“It’s big and I think if we keep going on the same track, we’ll keep plugging away at teams above us,” said goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves on 28 shots. “We've got to keep our heads looking forward and not behind us. We can be our best and our worst enemy.” 

Right now, the Flyers have the luxury of relying on two steady goaltenders. Michal Neuvirth has won his last three starts, allowing just four goals, and Elliott looked refreshed in just his third start over a two-week period after receiving some extended rest with the bye week.

“He was sure sharp tonight,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “As much as rest, it’s just a day or two of maintenance work. When you play as much hockey as Moose has played for us, you don’t get those quality practice days in. Sometimes you forget the value of just good, simple work.”

“I think it’s the confidence level right now. Obviously, Moose and Neuvy stepped up over the last couple of games and they played outstanding,” said Michael Raffl, who scored his ninth goal that gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead. “When you have good goaltending, you have a chance to win every game in this league.”

Impressively, the Flyers (23-16-8) have three different three-game winning streaks in which they’ve been forced to play three games over a four-day period. The first set of three came on their Western Canada road trip beginning in Calgary. They also ripped off three straight victories in four days leading into their bye week.

“I think it’s just guys battling through that extra step, that extra fight. That’s what you want,” Couturier said. “You don’t want to just sit back and try to save your energy. You've got to push and push through it and fight for your chances.”

“That’s a real credit to the players with their preparation,” Hakstol said. “The mental side is about your preparation, especially a 12:30 p.m. game is a little bit different routine. I thought the first period was going to be one of the keys to this game. Our checking and our brains were turned on that way. Getting through that first period made us a better team with the puck and pushing the game in our direction.”

The Flyers have two more games before the All-Star break as they travel to Detroit on Tuesday before hosting the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Flyers complete weekend sweep of Metro's top-2 teams

Flyers complete weekend sweep of Metro's top-2 teams

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — For the first time since Nov. 11, the Flyers are back in a playoff spot.

The Flyers earned their third straight win and their seventh in their last eight games Sunday afternoon after knocking off the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals 2-1 at Capital One Arena.

Travis Konecny connected on the opening shift in overtime as he took the puck away in the neutral zone, cut to the middle of the ice and scored on a shot that deflected off Caps forward T.J. Oshie.

Konecny now has four goals in his last eight games.

Goaltender Brian Elliott made 27 saves to earn the victory in net.

Michael Raffl opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season and his third in his last eight games, and Alex Ovechkin tied with a power-play goal in the second period.

The Flyers have beaten the Capitals in the first two games of their season series and the two teams will renew their rivalry Jan. 31 in Washington.

• The Flyers kept the Capitals' offense on the perimeter until Ovechkin picked the puck right off of Ivan Provorov’s stick, which ignited a 2-on-1 the other way. Ovechkin took the shot with the rebound kicking right out to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who fired the puck right into Elliott’s pad. The puck was bouncing and rolling on its side, otherwise, I think Kuznetsov would have been able to finish that play.  

• With the Flyers clogging the middle of the ice by placing a forward between the circles, the Capitals were looking to challenge Elliott with some sharp angle shots in the first period. The shot chart from naturalstattrick.com highlights where in the Flyers' zone the Caps were firing from with the bright orange circles indicating a higher frequency of shots.

For the most part, Elliott had some rather routine saves until the final five minutes of the opening period when the Capitals were able to find the soft areas in the slot. Dave Hakstol was able to utilize the Valtteri Filppula line against Ovechkin for most of the first period keeping his chances at a minimum, except for this chance late in the period.

• The Flyers were trying to get Capitals pest Tom Wilson off his game in the opening period. Provorov laid out Wilson with a perfectly-timed shoulder-to-shoulder hit leveling him to the ice and Konecny doing some major chirping with Wilson in an attempt to get under his skin until Wilson had enough and gave Konecny a nudge. Sure enough, Wilson showed his true colors with a tripping penalty in the first 10 seconds of the second period.

• I liked how the Flyers came out and dictated the pace in the second period, outshooting the Capitals 6-2 in the first six minutes. The Filppula-Michael Raffl-Jakub Voracek line was the Flyers' best line throughout the first half and finally exposed the Caps' top line with a strong forecheck that resulted in Raffl’s 1-0 goal from the left circle. Raffl’s shot placement was perfect as he elevated it just enough to graze the top of Braden Holtby’s pad and ricocheted into the net.

• Tyrell Goulbourne took his first penalty late in the second period when Jay Beagle was hooked in the act of shooting. I didn’t think it was a bad penalty on Goulbourne’s part considering the close range of Beagle’s shot, but the play evolved as defenseman Brandon Manning was stripped cleanly behind his net by Caps fourth-line forward Jake Vrana.

• If you thought the save on Ovechkin was solid, Elliott may have topped it as he turned aside Nicklas Backstrom from the low slot with a full extension kick out of the pads. However, Claude Giroux was guilty of slashing Backstrom that put the Capitals back on the power play, which led to vintage Ovechkin, who ripped home his ninth power-play goal of the season and No. 587 of his career, tying the game at 1-1.

• Shayne Gostisbehere put together another solid game following his performance against the Devils. Ghost blocked an Ovechkin shot with his stick early in the third period where Ovechkin had a clear break coming down the left wing.

• On Ghost’s next shift, he made a superb defensive play filling the middle of the ice, spinning around and using his stick again to spoil a potential high danger chance with Ovechkin looking to drop a pass to Kuznetsov. 

• Dmitri Orlov, Kuznetsov and Oshie applied some real hard pressure to the Flyers' defense including a give-and-go from Orlov to Backstrom. Kuznetsov was wheeling around the offensive zone in the third period and was a tough to contain for the Flyers' defense.

• Not a good penalty for Raffl to trip up Matt Niskanen on a puck battle along the boards behind the Capitals' net. It put the Caps back on the power play with just over five minutes remaining in regulation of a 1-1 game.