Flyers

Flyers open camp with what Jakub Voracek calls 'hardest' 1st day of his career

Flyers open camp with what Jakub Voracek calls 'hardest' 1st day of his career

VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol wanted to know right away who can hack it and who can’t. 

“It was the hardest day of a first day of camp in my 11 years,” said Jakub Voracek, whose first NHL training camp was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008. “A lot of skating, a lot of battles. On the other hand, it can make us better, so why not.”

“We had a little talk with the coaches and they said they want to do some things different,” defenseman Radko Gudas said. “They want to make sure we’re skating, we’re up the ice, we’re always around the puck even as a defenseman in our offensive zone ... supporting the offense even more than we did last year.”

Ivan Provorov needed that first day of training camp as well.  

The Flyers' top defenseman comes into his second NHL season ready to go, but he needed a hard skate to get his legs back from the jet lag of a transatlantic flight from Russia this past Sunday. Provorov found himself falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon recently as his internal clock attempts to recalibrate. He didn’t exactly view this summer as the offseason, but merely a continuation of what was an impressive rookie season.  

“The offseason is always busy for me,” Provorov said. “I try to get into really good shape so I can go all season, playing lots of minutes without having any games off, or feeling not so great until after the games.” 

Provorov said he still felt fresh even after playing all 82 games in his rookie season, which carried over into the World Championships. While the experience of international competition was invaluable, Provorov and the rest of his teammates prefer a season that includes the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which have excluded the Flyers in three of the past five seasons. A week ago, general manager Ron Hextall stated the organization does not view this upcoming season as part of a rebuilding phase.

“I think if we were in a complete rebuild, [Claude Giroux], [Voracek] and I probably aren’t here,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “We've still got our older guys. I think we’re kind of transitioning, sliding in a couple young guys hoping their skill can help us out here.”

In the week leading up to camp, goalie Brian Elliott had already spent time working out with fellow netminder Michal Neuvirth and Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, and already, Elliott likes what he sees.

“People keep asking me, 'Is there any bad apples in the dressing room or someone you know you aren’t going to get along with?' But everybody’s been great,” Elliott said. “Everybody’s been excited. I think the expectations are high internally and that’s what you like to see.”

Friday’s opening day of camp consisted of 10 different forward lines and eight defensive pairings separated into a morning and afternoon group, with an interesting blend of youth mixed together with more established veterans. Hakstol placed a clear emphasis on drills, speed work and conditioning, and less on systems and structure.  

“I think our guys have worked real hard over the summer, I really believe that,” Hakstol said. “From all the feedback we’ve gotten and just from talking to the guys throughout the summertime. I just wanted to make sure that hard work transferred and translated onto the ice.”

Of the 57 players invited to training camp, 34 would qualify as first-year players in the league with a handful of rookies aiming for a spot on the opening night roster.

“It’s a fine balance because they want to be recognized and be noticed, but they’re all good hockey players,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “They have to realize that what got them here is playing the way they have. If they continue to do that and play steady, then it’s going to go a long way for them.”

The Flyers have one more morning/afternoon skate on Saturday before they open the preseason Sunday at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Islanders, and Hakstol is already anticipating a sluggish effort as a result of the first day of camp.

“It was a hard day, there’s no question,” Hakstol said. “Playing a game on Day 3, there’s going to be tired legs. I don’t know what other teams are doing. I don’t care. We’re going to get the work in now. We’re going to have another hard, competitive day Saturday and I know our guys will go out and attack it just like they did today.”

News and notes
• Forward Pascal Laberge left the morning practice early and was being examined by doctors, according to Hextall.

• Defenseman Phil Myers was a full participant for Friday’s practice. Myers suffered a lower-body injury in the rookie game against the Islanders and was held out for precautionary reasons.

Morning group lines, pairings and goalies
Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny (more on that here)
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier-Mikhail Vorobyev-Colin McDonald    
Ivan Kosorenkov-German Rubtsov-Pascal Laberge/Anthony Salinitri

Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim    
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald    
Will O’Neill-Mark Alt
Maxim Lamarche-Mark Friedman    

Brian Elliott    
Alex Lyon    
John Muse

Afternoon group lines, pairings and goalies
Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Connor Bunnaman-Phil Varone-Mike Vecchione
Carsen Twarynski/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

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Why Nolan Patrick is such a power-play fit

Replacing Wayne Simmonds on the power play may be one of the toughest assignments in the NHL.

After all, the guy is second to only Alex Ovechkin with 85 man-advantage goals since the 2011-12 season.

So when the predicament actually faced Dave Hakstol this week, the Flyers' head coach turned to … a 19-year-old rookie.

Why Nolan Patrick?

Three components of the decision stand out:

Intelligence factor
Leading up the NHL draft, the overwhelming strength of Patrick's scouting report was his hockey sense.

Those close to him, as well draft experts, lauded Patrick for comprehending plays before they even happen and being above the ice in understanding spacing.

Those characteristics are crucial when having an extra man.

Patrick has two goals over two games filling in for the injured Simmonds on the Flyers' top power-play unit. Patrick exhibited his IQ with Thursday's game-winner, where he quickly planted himself right in front of the net, had the presence of mind to find the puck and then bury it past Sergei Bobrovsky.

"We told him, just stand in front, if you see a puck, bring it home," Shayne Gostisbehere said. "We tried to simplify it for him and he's going to take care of it himself, he's a great hockey player. It's paying off for him."

All about the touch
Patrick has excellent hands.

Put him around the net, and he'll know how to deflect pucks and find holes in a goalie. His vision, skill and finesse are why he's regarded as such an all-around playmaker.

In Tuesday's win, Patrick found immediate success with the first power-play group. Making his way to the middle, Patrick took a Claude Giroux pass and showed off that touch, adeptly going top shelf as Carey Price went low.

Studying Simmonds' net-front proficiency hasn't hurt, either.

"I watch him every game, he's unbelievable there and good at tipping pucks and making plays," Patrick said. "You learn from just watching every day."

Building up the kid
With time, Hakstol and the Flyers have allowed for Patrick to become comfortable instead of putting the world on his shoulders from the get-go.

That's part of Patrick's makeup.

"He almost always wants to be comfortable and then he really starts to exert himself," Patrick's uncle, James, said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last June

We're starting to see Patrick let loose.

As the Flyers have gradually upped his opportunity and responsibility, Patrick has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last 12 games after putting up six (two goals, four assists) over his previous 34.

Placing Patrick among the team's best talent on the man advantage will only help with his confidence moving forward, in all situations.

The Flyers' power play entered Friday with the NHL's sixth-best percentage at 21.6.

It'll need more of Patrick — but the Flyers couldn't have asked for a much better start to life without Simmonds over the next two to three weeks.

Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

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Streaking Penguins move atop Metro Division

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin each had two goals and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins routed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 on Friday night for their season-best sixth straight victory.

Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals -- two by Kessel -- in a 7:39 span in the second period.

Matt Murray made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won 11 of 13 to overtake idle Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Since the Penguins were shut out by Carolina on Jan. 4, they are 16-3-1.

They were just as busy off the ice, completing a mid-game trade in which they picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators. As part of the complicated three-team deal, they sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Teuvo Teravainen scored and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots for the short-handed Hurricanes, who have gone 0-3-1 during a four-game slide that's keeping them outside the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Wild dominate skidding Rangers for New York sweep
NEW YORK -- Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each scored twice and Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves in the Minnesota Wild's 4-1 victory over the free-falling New York Rangers on Friday night.

The Wild completed a three-game sweep of New York-area teams after beating the Monday night and New Jersey on Thursday night.

The Rangers lost for the sixth straight time in regulation. New York is 6-17-0 since beating Buffalo in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 (see full recap).

Blackhawks’ Berube dominant in 1st Chicago start
CHICAGO -- Jean-Francois Berube made 42 saves in his first start for Chicago to help the Blackhawks beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Friday night.

Defenseman Jan Rutta, activated from injured reserve Friday, and Nick Schmaltz scored, and Artem Anisimov added an empty-netter with 30.5 seconds left.

Anthony Duclair had two assists for the Blackhawks. They won their second straight and third in four games following an eight-game losing streak that dropped them to last place in the Central Division.

Berube lost a bid for this first NHL shutout when Timo Meier scored his 15th goal on a screened shot with 7:51 left in the third period.

Martin Jones stopped 33 shots for the Sharks, coming off a 7-1 loss at Nashville on Thursday night (see full recap).