Flyers

Injury forces challenge for Travis Konecny, Flyers

Injury forces challenge for Travis Konecny, Flyers

Travis Konecny’s left ankle and knee injury could not have occurred at a worst time.

Not just for the Flyers, but for himself.

The announcement Tuesday that he will miss four to six weeks is devastating news for the 19-year-old to swallow (see story), given he had just come off a two-game benching and his confidence was already rattled.

Now he’ll fall far behind teammates in terms of conditioning and on-the-job learning as a rookie, which places even greater pressure on him when he returns sometime in March to get his game ironed out.

In 51 games this season, Konecny has seven goals, 22 points and a minus-4 rating.

The price the Flyers pay is the loss of young blood in a lineup already lacking speed and creativity, not to mention the enthusiasm that rookies bring to the dressing room.

The Flyers have been shut out in succession at home — something that last happened in October 1999, when Konecny wasn’t even 2 years old — and are in the midst of a crucial five-game homestand, during a time in which their hold on the second wild card is a very tenuous single point over the Bruins, who fired coach Claude Julien this morning.

Obviously, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol has no choice but to reinsert Matt Read, who was benched for the 2-0 Blues loss (see game story). Read lacks the dynamics that Konecny brings.

General manager Ron Hextall did not announce any immediate roster move but an ideal call-up from the Phantoms would be Jordan Weal, who is very similar in both size and attributes to Konecny.

Weal didn’t make the final roster cut this season based on numbers. If ever were a time for him to shine, this is it. He leads the Phantoms by a large margin in points — 45 — even though Greg Carey has more goals (22 vs. 15).

Carey is a left wing, whereas Weal is a center. Konecny was a natural center playing the wing.

If Weal doesn’t get the call-up and someone else does, then it says quite a bit about just how the organization feels about him.

If you recall, Weal was acquired from Los Angeles in January of 2016 as part of the deal that sent Luke Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier to the Kings.

Weal spent 13 games as a healthy scratch, then injured his shoulder during a morning skate in mid-February at New Jersey. He missed 26 games, re-entering the lineup on the final day of the regular season (April 10), even though he was actually fully recovered nearly a month earlier.

All that said, given the defensive posture the Flyers have taken recently, Boyd Gordon could be the call-up or even two-way forward Taylor Leier, although he's currently recovering from an injury.

The Flyers return to practice Wednesday at Skate Zone. At the moment, they don’t have any extra forwards on the roster.

On Thursday, the Islanders visit town. By then we’ll know whether they’re going to recall a forward.

This much is certain. They will need one more body here before they travel to Western Canada next week to take on Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

With new identity, Flyers need to use Leafs win as home turning point

With new identity, Flyers need to use Leafs win as home turning point

When the Flyers last skated off the ice at the Wells Fargo Center 11 days ago, they did so while being serenaded with boos from above, after losing their 10th straight game. This time, to the Bruins with another lethargic effort. The game prior, on Nov. 28 against the Sharks, the fans, like the angry mob from The Simpsons, were calling for the firing of the head coach with “Fire Hakstol” chants. The only thing missing were the pitchforks. (Public service announcement: Leave the pitchforks at home.)

On Tuesday night, the Flyers returned home from a three-game Western Canada road gauntlet with their fortunes changed and beginning a five-game homestand. They had won their previous three games and entered Tuesday’s showdown with the NHL’s hottest team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, six points behind the New York Rangers for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.

For a team in a competitive rebuild that, at times, looked like one waiting for its coach to get fired, the Flyers returned home having stopped the bleeding away from their own building. Now, they had to bandage it there.

The Flyers did just that, with one of their most complete, 60-minute efforts of the season (see story). They dispatched the Maple Leafs, 4-2, to win their fourth straight and end a six-game home losing streak. It was their first home win since Nov. 9.

They took one penalty, albeit a costly one that would have sunk this team 11 days ago.

They outshot Toronto, 39-22, and threw 32 shots on net in the final 40 minutes.

They dominated puck possession and every metric proves it.

“We were playing some good hockey and I think our identity changed a little bit with that road trip,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “We’re excited right now in the room. We played a lot of good hockey games when we lost, but we didn’t get the results and now we're playing some good hockey and we’re getting the results so we gotta keep building on this."

Now they’re getting the results.

The Flyers are on their longest winning streak of the season. They twice faced adversity Tuesday against the Maple Leafs and didn’t buckle.

Giroux scored the game’s first goal at 9:21 of the first period, but Patrick Marleau answered back for the Leafs just 27 seconds later. Eleven days ago, that would be game over.

Instead, the Flyers kept playing and closed out the period strong. Then, after dominating the second period, Jakub Voracek was whistled for a tripping penalty at 16:11, and James van Riemsdyk tallied his 15th goal of the season to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead. It was a potential killer goal, one that would have deflated the Flyers 11 days ago, no questions asked. It came late in a period that they dominated. It felt like typical Flyers.

But the Flyers survived it. They escaped the period, went into the locker room and came back out in the third period right where they left off. Travis Konecny, who played just 7:20 through two periods, tied it at 2-2 at 5:36. The Flyers kept pushing and pushing. They were rewarded too. Sean Couturier tied his career-high with his 15th goal at 17:05 for the game-winner and then Scott Laughton iced it with an empty-netter at 19:44. It was the Flyers’ first third-period comeback of the season.

“We’re working hard and we haven’t stopped working hard,” Konecny, who scored his second goal in his last 20 games, said, “even through [that] tough stretch of games and it’s finally paying off.”

This Flyers team is a lot looser right now. Winning does that. During their 10-game freefall into irrelevance, they swore they weren't playing poorly.

And once more, they echoed that Tuesday night, even after a win. Now, they're just taking advantage of the breaks, getting the bounces, insert tired cliché here.

“I don’t think there’s much difference at all,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “If you want to look back, I thought there were one or two nights where we looked tight. I thought on the last night here at home, I thought we looked like a tired and a little bit tight hockey team.

“We've taken advantage of a break or two, but I think most importantly, guys just kept their foot on the gas and found ways to win games here over the past few games."

Credit goes to the Flyers, the coaching staff and general manager Ron Hextall. They didn't panic when things were falling apart. Hakstol remained positive, harped on the positives. He promised they would get through it.

Hextall did the same. The GM, on several occasions, praised the way the Flyers were playing during their losing streak. For as much heat as Hakstol and Hextall caught at the time, they deserve recognition for their managing styles in times of dismay.

The Flyers' win Tuesday kicked off a five-game homestand that features three games against Eastern Conference opponents, and perhaps set the tone for the home swing.

The homestand continues Thursday when the Buffalo Sabres visit. If the Flyers play with the same effort they did Tuesday, the winning streak will reach five.

They’re taking fewer penalties, averaging 1.75 penalties during their current four-game winning streak. That’s a good thing for a team that’s penalty kill ranks 29th.

But what might matters most, is they're not chasing the game anymore. They're owning the puck and they're spending more time on the attack, and that’s a recipe for success.

“We’ve had the puck a little bit more,” Hakstol said,” and that’s probably the first place to look. We had a stretch there where stick penalties were getting us.

“Those kinds of penalties happen when you’re chasing a game when you’re defending a little bit too much. It’s not necessarily the discipline side of it. We’ve had the puck a little bit more. We haven’t had to defend as much in our own zone.”

Former Flyers defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

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Former Flyers defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

CALGARY, Alberta — Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and the Flyers from 1987 to 2000.

He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

"We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family," Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

"This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family."

Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League's Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.