Flyers

Flyers focused on catching Rangers for 2nd place

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Flyers focused on catching Rangers for 2nd place

TAMPA, Fla. -- So how do the Flyers overtake the New York Rangers and steal second place in the Metropolitan Division from them?

If the Flyers win their remaining three games, they will finish with 97 points. They have a game in hand on New York, which can finish with 97 points but holds a tiebreaker.

If the Flyers win out and the Rangers split with a win and regulation loss or overtime loss, they can only finish with a maximum of 96 points, which gives the Flyers second place.

Second place means home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

“Home ice is important,” coach Craig Berube said. “We all know that.”

The Flyers may covet home ice but it’s not looking good, even though they will catch a break in one game on Thursday night against the Lightning because goalie Ben Bishop (37 wins) is injured and Anders Lindback (six wins) will get the start.

“Even though we made the playoffs, we don’t want to fall to the bottom where Boston or Pittsburgh is waiting there,” said Jakub Voracek.

“We got to make sure we keep winning these last three games and hope we catch the Rangers. We got to hold off the Blue Jackets first.”

Teammate Sean Couturier said these last three games come down to inner strength.

“Self-motivation is trying to catch the Rangers and get that home ice,” Couturier said. “We should use that as motivation to get three wins.”

The Flyers face Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Carolina to end the season, while New York has Buffalo and Montreal.

“You move forward and try to get home ice,” said Kimmo Timonen. “The better you play these last three games, it’s better for the playoffs.

“You can’t relax now just because you made the playoffs. It’s a great accomplishment for our team, but we move forward. Win [tonight], win Saturday, then win Sunday. That’s the key.”

Vinny Lecavalier, the seventh and newest member of the Flyers’ 20-goal club, has been saying all week the team's focus needed to be on catching the Rangers.

“You got to fight for position now and home ice is important,” Lecavalier said. “We got to make sure we finish strong.

“Every time we’ve had a big challenge this year, we came and played the way we should play. It doesn’t change. [This] is a big game, then go into Pittsburgh.”

He also said this is the time you build momentum for the postseason run. He referenced the Lightning’s 2004 run to the Stanley Cup against Calgary.

“When we won the Cup in 2004, we were 10th or 11th in December,” Lecavalier said. “We finished strong … we kept winning and building that confidence.

“It’s all about going into playoffs with confidence knowing you can go into any game and win a hockey game. We’re in a good spot.”

Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

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Andrew MacDonald out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

A roster spot for Samuel Morin appears to have opened up.

Andrew MacDonald will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced Sunday. MacDonald will likely land on injured reserve.

The injury likely occurred midway through the third period against the Oilers on Saturday, when MacDonald blocked a Mark Letestu slap shot with 10:48 left in regulation and 1:44 left on an Edmonton power play.

MacDonald hobbled around on basically on one leg before being able to clear the puck and make it to the bench after 44 seconds. MacDonald blocked a game-high six shots Saturday.

“You just got to get up,” MacDonald said after the Flyers’ 2-1 win. “If you don’t get up, it’s 5-on-3. There are other opportunities that can arise from it. Do your best and try to hang in there. Wait for some help. Wait until you clear it. Everyone battles through it.

“You take a shot. You just get up, get back in there and help your guys.”

With MacDonald injured, the Flyers now have six defensemen. Brandon Manning has been a healthy scratch the past two games as Travis Sanheim drew back into the lineup.

The Flyers have yet to make a corresponding roster move, but considering Morin nearly made the team out of training camp and hung around for the four-game season-opening West Coast trip, it’s a safe assumption that Morin will find his way back to the NHL.

Morin had a goal and an assist for the Phantoms on Saturday night, an assist Friday night and points in all his three games in Lehigh Valley.

If Morin does come back up, the question is will he play?

The Flyers were reluctant to play three rookie defensemen on their season-opening trip and scratched both Sanheim and Morin for the season opener.

Things have changed now, though. MacDonald is third on the Flyers in ice time, averaging 19:36 while playing with Ivan Provorov, who will now find himself with a new partner.

Dave Hakstol could insert Manning into the lineup, which is a strong possibility. How Hakstol draws up his pairings remains to be seen, though it’s unlikely he’ll break up Shayne Gostisbehere and rookie Robert Hagg. It’s possible Provorov finds himself with Manning or Morin, or perhaps Radko Gudas. We’ll know more after Monday’s practice.

Calling up Morin is not Hextall’s only option. The Flyers also have T.J. Brennan in the AHL, who is a better fit as a seventh defenseman.

Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

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Scott Laughton credits longtime skating coach Dawn Braid for NHL rebirth

After spending nearly the entire 2016-17 campaign at Lehigh Valley, Flyers center Scott Laughton looks like a whole different player this season. But the demotion and time spent in the minor leagues aren’t the only reasons behind his NHL rebirth.

Laughton also became a far better skater.

Through eight games, Laughton has two goals and one assist with a plus-one rating – hardly the kind of numbers that typically garner a lot of attention. However, the former first-pick is centering a quality fourth line for the Flyers, a grouping that has been strong in its own end while also generating impressive offensive opportunities at the other. Laughton leads the club’s forwards in shorthanded time on ice as well, playing a huge role in a penalty-killing unit that’s managed to ward off all but one of the last 13 power plays it’s faced.

The difference is apparent, and Laughton knows it, too. Some of that comes with age and experience – he’s only 23, with 117 NHL games under his belt. Yet Laughton directs much of the credit for his growth on the ice to his longtime skating coach, Dawn Braid.

“Worked with the same skating coach I have been for the last six, seven years,” Laughton said Friday of his offseason regimen. “She actually just got hired with Arizona. She was a skating coach there.

“I've been working with her. I did a lot of tight edges, a lot of tight work, and I did a lot of crossovers to try and develop speed. I think everything kind of comes together though — your off-ice training combined with that — and just getting stronger as I get older. I'm getting older and coming into my body.”

A former figure skater, Braid was named the Coyotes' skating coach in August of 2016, become the NHL’s first full-time female coach in the process. From the sound of things, the hiring was long overdue.

Braid had built a following around the league, and from players vastly more acclaimed than Laughton.

“She works with (Islanders center and four-time All-Star) John Tavares and helped him,” Laughton said. “She's got (Stars center Jason Spezza). She's got a bunch of guys. A lot of guys go to her. She's like Barb Underhill in Toronto. They were partners.

“I've been skating with her since I was in first year of juniors, so I really like her.”

It sounds like Laughton is getting an education in more than how to be better on his skates. As Braid has worked with more NHL stars and teams, she’s began teaching more than just being quicker and more fluid on the ice.

There are applicable hockey lessons and techniques involved in their training.

“I think she's really incorporated puck work,” Laughton said. “It used to be no pucks. She watches game film and things like that, and sees what's going on in the game and tries to help you that way.”

Whatever Laughton is doing, it appears to be working. A year ago, he couldn’t crack the Flyers’ main roster, managing to appear in just two games. He finished with 19 goals, 20 assists and a plus-17 rating in 60 games for the Phantoms in 16-17, with an additional two goals and one assists in five playoff tilts. Despite finishing with a 39-33-10 record and missing the postseason, the big club never felt as though Laughton was needed.

It’s early into the 17-18 campaign, but it’s already difficult to imagine this Flyers squad without Laughton’s contributions – so give the assist to Baird on this one.