Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster


Flyers-Islanders preseason thoughts: NHL defense highlights Allentown roster

Flyers vs. Islanders
7 p.m. on TCN/ and NBC Sports App

We'll have to wait another day to see if the Flyers truly plan on experimenting with Claude Giroux on the wing … if we ever see it at all in a game situation.

Giroux is not playing in tonight's split-squad game against the Islanders either in Allentown or Brooklyn. Tonight's rosters are heavy of players competing for spots.

Here are a few reasons to watch tonight:

• We'll get a look at the majority of the Flyers' defense tonight in Allentown as Shayne Gostisbehere, Brandon Manning, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are suiting up.

Gostisbehere is a lock, and Manning is as close to a lock as you can get. He could still lose his NHL job, but it appears unlikely at this point.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Hagg and Morin came into training camp as the favorites, and they appear to have taken a stranglehold on their competition.

Many thought Sanheim would push for a job, along with Phil Myers, but neither Sanheim nor Myers have done enough in camp to make the team. Things can change, but they're behind.

What I'll be watching: Gostisbehere and Hagg will be paired together. This could be a pairing when the Flyers open their season in San Jose on Oct. 4.

• Nolan Patrick has yet to find the scoresheet in last week's rookie game and last Sunday, but the 19-year-old — his birthday was Tuesday — hasn't looked out of place.

Patrick's spot on the Flyers has yet to be secured. As in they haven't said he's on the team yet. But he's had a steady camp and looked too good to play with kids his age in the rookie game and didn't look misplaced in his first preseason game.

Tonight gives us another look at the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. For many, it will be their first glimpse at Patrick. I'd bet on him getting on the scoresheet tonight.

On Sunday, the Islanders sent out a largely veteran lineup filled with most of their star players. Patrick passed that test. Tonight in Allentown, it's a little less star-studded Isles team. Patrick will be playing with Oskar Lindblom and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Michal Neuvirth will be in net tonight with Leland Irving backing him up, and with the Flyers banking a lot on Neuvirth this season, it'll be worth watching.

Neuvirth has never stayed healthy throughout his career. When he has, he's largely been a solid goalie. Last season was a different story. Neuvirth had the worst save percentage among qualified goalies, and he simply wasn't good.

The Flyers moved on from Steve Mason and signed Brian Elliott this summer. It's going to be a tandem with Neuvirth and Elliott, who isn't playing tonight in either Allentown or Brooklyn. How it works is a big question mark.

What you want to see from Neuvirth tonight is a steady performance. It's his first action of the year, so there will probably be rust. But you don't want to see too much rust, and you want to see him get steadier as the game goes on.

We don't know how much he'll play tonight, whether they'll split the game with Irving. But Neuvirth is definitely a player to watch tonight.

• Here are the rosters for tonight's split-squad game:

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

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Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).

Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

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Alex Lyon can save the Flyers' season

Lost amid the Flyers’ 5-3 defeat at the hands Blue Jackets on Thursday was yet another stellar relief appearance in goal from Alex Lyon.

Lyon was sensational after replacing Petr Mrazek between the pipes early in the second period, stopping all 18 shots that came his way. Flyers coach Dave Hakstol praised the rookie netminder for giving his team an opportunity to come from behind.

“He’s a battler, and that’s what we asked from him last night going into that situation,” Hakstol said following Friday’s practice.

“You need to have a mindset of going in there and absolutely slamming the door to give your team a chance to win. In order to do that, you have to have a real battling mentality, and I thought he had that right from when he stepped in the net.”

Success in a sort of stopper role has become increasingly commonplace for Lyon since joining the Flyers.

Lyon came off the bench to make five saves during the final eight minutes of a 5-3 loss to the Capitals in his January debut. The 25-year-old later earned his first NHL win against the Rangers in February, blocking 25 of 26 shots over the second and third periods to help procure a 7-4 victory.

His play has been on the rise ever since. Lyon appears to be improving with experience, posting a 2-1-0 record with a .939 save percentage in his last four games.

“I don’t know if I’d say confidence so much as comfortability,” Lyon said of his growth. “I think I always had the confidence in myself that I could do it. It’s just you have to get comfortable enough to kind of believe that.”

He shined as a substitute goaltender all along. Including his performance against the Blue Jackets, Lyon has amassed a .980 save percentage in three relief appearances — a number emblematic of his season.

Lyon began 2017-18 as the emergency-goalie-in-waiting at Lehigh Valley. He earned the call-up to the Flyers’ main roster after the injury to Brian Elliott, then saw an uptick in ice time due to Michal Neuvirth’s subsequent maladies.

The club traded for Petr Mrazek after Neuvirth went down, but Lyon still finds himself in the mix. He’s expected to start against the Hurricanes on Saturday — a pivotal contest for the Flyers’ bid to make the playoffs.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Lyon said. “This is what you think about when you’re a little kid.

“It’s not quite the same, but down in Allentown we were in a pretty hot playoff race last year and always at the top of the standings, so I’m going to draw on my past experiences.”

Elliott returned to the ice this week and could be back in uniform soon, at which time Lyon will be sent back to the minor leagues. But if the Flyers do manage to reach the postseason, his fill-in contributions will have played a big part.

Perhaps Lyon will even warrant a closer look for a full-time spot on the Flyers’ roster next season.