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.

Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

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Pekka Rinne notches milestone in Predators' rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pekka Rinne made 33 saves in his 300th career win and the Nashville Predators routed the San Jose Sharks 7-1 on Thursday night.

Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Hartnell, Kevin Fiala and Mattias Ekholm also scored for Nashville, which has won three straight. The Predators moved within one point of expansion Vegas for the Western Conference lead.

Nashville defensemen Roman Josi and P.K. Subban each had two assists.

All of Rinne's wins have come with Nashville. He tied former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun for 33rd place in NHL history.

Logan Couture had the San Jose goal. The loss snapped the Sharks' three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Wild use big 2nd period to top Devils
NEWARK, N.J. -- Joel Eriksson Ek and Chris Stewart scored in a 39-second span during Minnesota's three-goal second period, and the Wild rallied from two down to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night.

Wild defenseman Mike Reilly also scored in the second period and Eric Staal iced the game with an empty-net goal, his 900th NHL point. Backup goalie Alex Stalock made 38 saves as the Wild moved into third place in the Central Division after winning for the 11th time in 17 games (11-3-3).

Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen scored for the Devils, who have lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak. Eddie Lack made 21 saves.

Hall's 13-game point streak is the longest in NHL this season, one more than David Pastrnak of Boston.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau made the right moves in this one, inserting Reilly and Stewart into the lineup and electing to give No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk a night off (see full recap).

Matthews exits Maple Leafs’ SO victory with injury
TORONTO -- Tyler Bozak scored the shootout winner and the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the New York Islanders 4-3 on Thursday night.

Auston Matthews tipped in Jake Gardiner's shot to tie it 3-all with 3:29 remaining in the third period, but later left the game favoring his right side after taking a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and did not return. The 20-year-old Toronto star missed six games in December with a concussion and another four games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly had the other Maple Leafs goals, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. Toronto (38-20-5) has won eight straight at home.

Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle scored for the Islanders (29-26-7), and Jaroslav Halak turned aside 28 shots. New York, one point out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, dropped to 4-6-2 since the All-Star break and 13-15-3 on the road this season.

With his three points, Barzal has a team-leading 65 and a 14-point lead over Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL's rookie scoring race (see full recap).

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

Here comes Nolan Patrick, just in time for Flyers

BOX SCORE

When Dave Hakstol was hired on May 18, 2015, to become the 19th head coach of the Flyers, there was an underlying belief that given his collegiate pedigree, Hakstol was the perfect bench boss to handle the team's homegrown prospects.

However, as we’ve seen over the course of three seasons, the progression of a young player doesn’t always continue on an upward trajectory from the moment they start their NHL career.

As he juggles a roster that is now the youngest in the Eastern Conference following injuries to Brian Elliott and Wayne Simmonds, Hakstol appears to be pushing all of the right buttons, including those connected with the organization’s most prized prospect, Nolan Patrick.

Thursday night’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets further exemplified that as Patrick scored a power-play goal in his second straight game (see observations). With the injury to Simmonds, Hakstol believed Patrick could slide seamlessly into Simmonds' net-front role on the top unit, and the rookie has yet to disappoint his coach or teammates.

“I think there’s a little less pressure,” Patrick said. “You don’t have the puck on your stick as much. I think my shots are something I need to improve on. It’s kind of nice for me to be there and not try and beat goalies with my shots. I like it there.”

Hakstol recognized early in the opening month of the season that Patrick wasn’t quite ready to handle the role of being a top-six forward, but over the course of an 82-game season, he has gradually given the 19-year-old center more responsibility and Patrick has proved he’s deserving of the coach’s trust.

“His approach, his hockey sense and his intelligence is what gives him an opportunity to be successful in any situation,” Hakstol said. “Each time we’ve been able to give him more of an opportunity, he’s taken advantage of that. Nolan is doing a lot of those little things on a nightly basis — up and down the middle of the rink, playing a good 200-foot game, and the fact he’s taken pride in that is the foundation of his game.”

“He’s been great,” Patrick said of Hakstol. “When I first got here, they made me work for everything. They didn’t put me in situations I wasn’t ready for. Even now, when I’m not playing great, he does what’s best for the team. He’ll hold me back or not put me out there when I’m struggling on faceoffs. He notices that and he’s been huge for me.”

And Patrick has been huge for the Flyers. He’s now scored a goal in three straight games. 

You’re never quite sure when the future will eventually catch up to the present, but with the help of his head coach, it’s coming at just the right time for Nolan Patrick.