Flyers

Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Senators: 5 things you need to know

The Flyers (5-10-1) will begin a three-game road trip on Tuesday night when they take on the Ottawa Senators (7-6-1).

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (CSN) at Canadian Tire Centre -- formerly Scotiabank Place -- in Ontario.

With the Flyers looking to build on a strong offensive performance and the Senators hoping to extend their win streak to four, here are five things you need to know for the game:

1. Keep the offense going
Goals have not come easy for the Flyers this season. They’re averaging an NHL-worst 1.62 goals per game and have scored two goals or less in 14 of their 16 contests.

However, the Flyers are coming off one of their better performances this campaign after dispatching the Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, on Saturday.

Several positives came from the Flyers’ victory over Edmonton. Claude Giroux registered his first goal in 21 games. Vinny Lecavalier snapped a three-game pointless streak with a third-period tally. Scott Hartnell found the back of the net for the second time in three games after failing to collect a point in his first nine games.

Those are three players the Flyers need to see on the scoresheet on a consistent basis if they want to put a stretch of wins together.

It’s important for the Flyers to keep putting the puck in the net. They remain dead last in the Metropolitan Division and need to start gaining ground sooner rather than later.

2. Downie returns?
The Flyers could have their only injured player back in the lineup on Tuesday night.

Steve Downie, who practiced on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read on Monday, has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion during a fight with Captials winger Aaron Volpatti earlier this month.

In his only game with the Flyers since he was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche, Downie played over 10 minutes with two shots before dropping the gloves with Volpatti. He is considered a game-time decision for the Flyers’ matchup with Ottawa (see story).

“We’re working on it,” Downie said Monday. “Today was another step. We’ve got some more talking to do.”

If Downie returns, Michael Raffl will likely be the odd man out. Although head coach Craig Berube could choose to sit Kris Newbury or Jay Rosehill, as well. Both Raffl and Newbury have spent time with the Adirondack Phantoms this season. One of the two could be sent back down to the AHL when Downie is 100 percent healthy.  

3. Between the pipes
Apparently three consecutive wins and a First Star of the Week award isn’t enough to keep Robin Lehner in net for the Senators.

Instead of going back to the red-hot Lehner, Ottawa coach Paul MacLean will start No. 1 Sens goaltender Craig Anderson against the Flyers on Tuesday night.

Anderson has sat out the last three games with a stiff neck. Prior to his injury, Anderson allowed 16 goals in his last four starts -- all losses.

With Anderson sidelined, Lehner took advantage of his opportunity to play. He stopped 91 of 95 shots fired his way and posted a 1.33 goals-against average in three starts -- all victories. He’ll back up Anderson on Tuesday.

Anderson has had success against the Flyers in his career, going 7-3-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 12 games (11 starts).  

4. Dynamic duo
The Flyers are going to have their hands full with Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris on Tuesday.

The two linemates have keyed the Senators’ current 3-0-2 stretch. They’re both plus-8 in those games and enter Tuesday with lengthy scoring streaks.

Ryan has scored three goals and assisted seven more during his six-game point streak. The New Jersey native, who was acquired Ottawa this past summer, is off to a marvelous start to his Senators career. He has a team-high 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) through 17 games this season.

Turris has recorded a point in seven straight. He has three markers and seven helpers during his current run and is tied with Erik Karlsson for second on the Senators in scoring with 18 points (four goals, 14 assists).

5. This and that
• The Flyers took two of three games from the Senators in 2013 despite scoring just five goals in the season series. They last met on April 27, when the Flyers closed out their season with a 2-1 win in Ottawa.

• Colin Greening led the Sens offensively against the Flyers last year, registering one goal and two assists. He has just three points – all assists – in 17 games this season.

• Jakub Voracek had two of the Flyers’ five goals against the Senators last year.

• Visiting teams are 2 for 39 on the power play in Ottawa this season.

• With Anderson returning, Erik Condra is the only other injured Senator. He’s out with a leg injury.

Flyers-Panthers observations: Goals continue to pile up in 5-1 win

Flyers-Panthers observations: Goals continue to pile up in 5-1 win

BOX SCORE

The second period has been the knockout round lately for the Flyers and that proved to be the case again on Tuesday night.

The Flyers won their second straight game at the Wells Fargo Center as they scored four goals in the second period to crush the Florida Panthers, 5-1. They proved once again that their four-line attack is simply too much for opponents. 

Going back to last Tuesday’s game in Nashville, Dave Hakstol’s team has now scored 10 second-period goals in its last three games.

Starting for the first time in 12 days, Michal Neuvirth was a well-oiled machine and showed no signs of rust as he stopped 40 shots for his first win of the season. The Panthers scored a power-play goal with 3:50 remaining to spoil Neuvirth’s chance at a shutout. 

• Neuvirth stymied the Panthers in spectacular fashion in the early stages. He denied Derek MacKenzie, Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov in the opening 20 minutes. It’s going to be hard for Hakstol not to reward Neuvirth with another start soon.

• The Flyers dominated mostly through their transitional game. One of the biggest differences in the opening month has been the Flyers’ ability to create quality scoring chances off the rush, and they dominated in that area Tuesday night.

• Shayne Gostisbehere scored his first goal of the season on a breakout after a nice give-and-go play with Wayne Simmonds. Jordan Weal deserved some sort of assist as he drove his defender Mark Pysyk into the shooting lane, blocking Roberto Luongo’s view. Instead, it was rookie Robert Hagg who picked up his first NHL point on the secondary assist that started the breakout. 

“We’re confident,” Gostisbehere said. “We’re riding high, but we have to keep an even keel and keep going.”

• Later in the second period, the Flyers’ power play went to work. After the Panthers’ shorthanded opportunity was thwarted, Valtteri Filppula fed a wide-open Claude Giroux, who beat Luongo through an exposed five-hole. Giroux pumped his fist in celebration, displaying some confidence that was lacking for most of last season.

• The prettiest scoring play of the night was reserved for the Flyers’ fourth goal. That play started when Travis Konecny outraced the defense for a breakaway that Luongo denied. A trailing Nolan Patrick fed a pass between his legs to Dale Weise, who slipped a wrist shot past Luongo. Patrick’s second career assist was proof of the hockey sense to know where his teammates are on the ice and a credit to his unselfish play (see video).

• Simmonds capped the entertainment value on this night when he roughed up the Panthers’ newest “enforcer” Michael Haley, dropping him to the ice following a series of rights. Haley joined the Panthers in the offseason after he was second in the NHL last season with 16 fights.

Simmonds was last on the ice around midway through the third period. He was taken out for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury. A further update will be provided in the next two days.

• Sean Couturier’s office appears to be anywhere there’s blue paint. The Flyers’ top-line center opened the scoring from the seat of his pants as he was left alone in front, made a nice move and whacked away at a loose puck that just crossed the line behind Luongo. Of Couturier’s four goals, the puck has yet to leave the ice.

First-period observations
• If you’re going to get burned on a breakaway, better make it against a fourth-line center. Florida’s MacKenzie was denied a point-blank shot in the first period as Konency did an excellent job of racing back to get his stick on the puck from behind MacKenzie without committing a penalty.

• Looking for his first goal since the season opener in San Jose, Weal had two prime opportunities in a span of 15 seconds to score on the Flyers’ first power play. Playing his off wing, Weal misfired on one chance and missed the net on the other.  

• Panthers center Owen Tippett made his NHL debut Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center. Tippett was the 10th overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft, and he’s the fifth player from the most recent draft class to play in the league this season. Unlike Patrick, selected second overall, Tippet was a non-factor.

Lines, pairings and scratches

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratched: Jori Lehtera and Travis Sanheim.

Travis Sanheim likely to sit again vs. Panthers

Travis Sanheim likely to sit again vs. Panthers

VOORHEES, N.J. — It looks as though Travis Sanheim will sit for the second straight game vs. the Panthers tonight (see Flyers-Panthers thoughts)

Now, before you get angry — and fire off a hot take about Andrew MacDonald or Brandon Manning — understand this isn’t a death sentence for Sanheim.

The Flyers have played all of five games this season. Sanheim has played in three, and after a bumpy NHL debut vs. the Kings, the talented rookie showed growth to round out the Flyers’ season-opening road trip (see Flyers Rookie Report)

“I think that the L.A. game was a bit of a wash, with it being my first game and it not going the way I wanted it to,” Sanheim said Tuesday after morning skate. “But I thought the other two games, you started to see some more of the way I want to play. I thought even into the Nashville game, I got better that night, as well. I think that’s what you want to see with a young guy, is getting better every night and I’ll continue to do that.”

And after watching from the press box during Saturday’s blowout win vs. the Capitals, the Flyers’ top defensive prospect will get his chances ... at some point. 

“I don’t have a number for you there,” Hakstol said of when we could see Sanheim crack the lineup. “But your players have to play. That doesn’t mean they have to play every game, but certainly they have to learn, both off the ice, on the ice, practice, game-wise and continue to grow.”

So Sanheim — who is a minus-two with zero points — has to learn the NHL game. It’s not uncommon for rookie defensemen to struggle with the speed and skill of the NHL in the early parts of their careers.

“The position is a hard position to make the adjustment to and to learn,” Hakstol said. “That being said, I think your players can be successful in making the jump and making the transition.”

If Sanheim needs any inspiration, he simply needs to look a few lockers down at Ivan Provorov. 

Provorov made the jump straight from the WHL (junior hockey) to the NHL last season, and early on, it wasn’t a particularly smooth transition. The then 19-year-old bottomed out at a minus-5 in an October loss to Chicago but blossomed into the team’s No. 1 defenseman in the second half of the season.

Sure, Sanheim has taken his lumps this season, but he hasn’t necessarily been bad. Hakstol even went as far as to say that he’s been happy with the 21-year-old’s play.

“I’ve been very happy with him," Hakstol said. “I’ve been happy with Travis’ play. We want him to keep growing. He’s going to continue to be a big part of our group. He’s got a great attitude and a great perspective in terms of being able to handle all the different situations that come his way.”

Sanheim said the coaching staff hasn’t ordered him to focus on any one aspect of his game, but after Tuesday’s optional morning skate, the rookie stayed on the ice for an extra 30 minutes with the staff and Jori Lehtera — who has been a healthy scratch for all five games this season — working on clearing the crease. 

It all comes down to the numbers. And right now, the Flyers have seven solid defensemen. 

“The other night (Saturday vs. Capitals), obviously I wanted to be in the lineup, but we've got seven good [defensemen] right now and obviously there’s going to be a guy sitting, and it just happened to be me the other night,” Sanheim said. “It was a learning experience. I think I can gain a lot from watching and seeing some of those guys, how they handle themselves in certain situations and I thought I gained a lot from it the other night."

Not convinced? Last season, rookie winger Travis Konecny and second-year D-man Shayne Gostisbehere both served multiple stints in Hakstol’s doghouse — the press box — and have seemingly turned things around to begin this season. This year, Gostisbehere is second on the team in points with eight, while, more importantly, he and Konecny are both a plus-2 on the year — good enough for a tie for third on the team. So, like it or not, maybe there is some good to sitting a young player for a few games. 

“Ultimately, as a young guy, I think there’s a lot of things you need to work on and for me, it's just working hard in practice and getting better every day,” Sanheim said. “I just want to try and establish myself as an everyday player. 

“I’ve been through this before. My first year of junior, I didn’t play right away and I was a healthy scratch for five games there, so I’ve been through the process before and I understand the situation that I’m in and ultimately, it’s up to me whether I want to play every night and I've got to show them that I’m deserving of that and obviously, it's going to maybe take some time but I’m willing to put in the work.”

Projected lines
With only 11 players skating, there was no line rushes or defensive pairings, but coming off an 8-2 win, it’s hard to imagine Hakstol making any changes to the lineup. However, it looks as though Michal Neuvirth will get the start in net. 

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches
Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim