Flyers

Flyers open road trip with loss to Ducks

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Flyers open road trip with loss to Ducks

BOX SCORE

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- They played well and skated with the best team in the National Hockey League.

Take away a few mistakes, and maybe the Flyers get a point against the Ducks.

But upper echelon clubs cash in on mistakes like a guy cleaning up at the card table on 21. 

And that’s why the Ducks defeated the Flyers 5-3 on Thursday night at Honda Center.

“I’m definitely pleased with the effort –- guys competed hard,” coach Craig Berube said. “That’s a very good team over there and we played with them. But it’s not good enough. You can say what you want, but we’ve got to win hockey games.”

Among the miscues … the Flyers gave up a decisive shorthanded goal to Anaheim late in the game when trailing, 3-2.

They also gave up goals in the final minute of play during the opening period.

It happened last weekend against Boston when the Bruins scored in the final minute to go into the dressing room ahead 2-0. Berube said it was as deflating as could be.

The same thing happened Thursday. After dominating much of the first period, Ryan Getzlaf scored off a deflection to snap a 1-1 tie in the final 35.1 seconds of play. A crushing goal.

“Obviously, it changed the momentum and we had real good momentum,” Berube said. “It changed it both ways.”

Vinny Lecavalier, who had one goal already by then, almost got a second but Ducks goalie Federik Andersen made a mid-air grab. Another key play.

If Lecavalier scores, maybe everything changes.

“He made a great save,” Lecavalier said. “When I got it I thought quickly, I got to get this upstairs because if he puts his glove down [it's a save]. But he made a great save. When you look at it, I should have shot it on the ice. Obviously, I didn’t know that before. He got lucky. He made a great save.”

And it became even more pivotal as Corey Perry made it 3-1 in the second period with an impossible shot from Getzlaf off the rush. Getzlaf, incidentally, had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick -- goal, assist, and fight -- in this one.

With the win, Anaheim swept both games from the Flyers this season.

“It’s a tough building to play in,” Mark Streit said. “They come hard on the forecheck. We tried everything. Even down 3-1, we were positive in the room and there was confidence in the group.”

Goalie Steve Mason said he was screened most of the night by Anaheim’s aggressive attack at the net.

Getzlaf’s goal at the end of the first period that made it 2-1 was such.

“We controlled a lot of the play and they had two deflections in there,” Mason said. “The shot was going a couple of feet wide and [Getzlaf] made a nice deflection and somehow it finds a hole like that.

“There wasn’t a single clean shot from the point the entire night. They did a great job getting sticks on it and bodies in front. When you have a team like that, it makes it difficult to stop pucks.”

There was still a lot to like about the Flyers' effort in this one as a prelude to the rest of the trip against Los Angeles and San Jose.

"You can build on it," Matt Read said. "The Ducks have a great record at home. You try to come on this trip and be a game over .500 with a 2-1 record. We got to put this behind us, learn from it and move into L.A. on Saturday and do the same thing."

How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

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How Michal Neuvirth found fresh inspiration in being a dad

For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.

Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.

“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”

Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.

To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.  

“It’s amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”

Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.  

“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”

As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.

Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.

Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out. 

Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.

Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

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Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

On the first day he was officially a member of the Flyers, Jori Lehtera was literally pumped. So much so, the weight room warrior hit the gym that morning and slapped on a few extra plates on each side of the barbell.

“My wife woke me up and said, ‘Do you know we’re going to Philadelphia?’” Lehtera said Sept. 11, after the first day he skated with his new teammates in Voorhees, New Jersey.

"I said, 'That's good.' I went to the gym and had a little bit bigger weights than normal. It was good. I needed some change because my game wasn't that good there."

Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers from the Blues at the 2017 NHL draft in the Brayden Schenn trade. In the span of one year, Lehtera’s status has plunged from a top-line center on a playoff team to the 13th forward on a non-playoff team.

That’s not to say the Flyers have failed to recognize Lehtera’s skill set and utilize him effectively, he just didn’t show enough in the preseason to warrant playing time.

The fourth-highest paid forward on the Flyers’ roster has started the first six games of the season as a healthy scratch. Dave Hakstol has opted for the speedier Dale Weise, who’s earning roughly half of Lehtera, who has a $4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

Lehtera's opportunity could come as early as Thursday against the Predators. Wayne Simmonds left Tuesday's game for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury.

If Simmonds can't go — the Flyers will have an update on Simmonds Thursday — Lehtera is the next guy up as Hakstol would have to shuffle his lines.

“I’m still excited,” Lehtera said recently. “Camp wasn’t good. I wouldn’t say terrible, it was OK. I’m kind of still looking to find my spot. When I get my opportunity, I’m going to take my spot. Where it is, I don’t know.”

Lehtera bolted St. Louis, the city he spent his first NHL seasons, in a cloud of dust. His "Spirit of St. Louis" was completely sucked dry during his time there, as he finished the 2016-17 season with just seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.

“The whole season was a struggle,” Lehtera said. “I just couldn’t get everything out of myself. It wasn’t just a couple of things. It was a lot of big things, and a lot of small things together.”

Playing for Ken Hitchcock, who just passed Al Arbour for third on the NHL’s all-time wins list, has a way of wearing down a player’s psyche.

According to Hitchcock, who rejoined the Dallas Stars this summer after he was fired by the Blues back in February, Lehtera’s struggles were partly a result of centering the team’s top line with superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

“First couple of years there was no attention being paid [to Lehtera]," Hitchcock said in the summer, "and last year, there was a lot of attention of being paid. He lost his confidence because he was in and out of the lineup, so the line wasn’t that effective. The line got special attention for the first time. Because of the way our lineup was built, we were really able to take advantage of matchups.”

Lehtera and Tarasenko developed a lethal chemistry as teammates for Novosibirsk in the KHL, but it didn’t translate to the smaller NHL rink, where time and space to operate with the puck are at a premium. Tarasenko’s reputation quickly earned the attention of the NHL opposition and its top defensive players.

“You saw that chemistry right away,” said Brian Elliott, a teammate of Lehtera’s for two seasons in St. Louis. “They were a dynamic duo and then they were split up, and I think he was looking for that guy to pass to and things like that.”

Compounding Lehtera’s struggles was a concussion he suffered that knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks in February. Once Lehtera returned, he was never quite the same, as he struggled with the speed of the game.

“We played him at wing after he came back from being injured, but his natural position is at center, and that’s where he played his best hockey,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a guy strong on the puck, good down-low player, he protects the puck well.” 

Interestingly for a guy listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and lacking quickness, Lehtera would appear to be more suited at the wing position.

And the potential opportunity Thursday alone may have Lehtera pounding out a few more extra reps in the gym.