Flyers

With Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev cut, Flyers' opening night roster near

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Zack Hill/Flyers

With Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev cut, Flyers' opening night roster near

The Flyers on Wednesday afternoon sent forwards Mike Vecchione and Mikhail Vorobyev to AHL Lehigh Valley as their opening night roster begins to take shape.

With Vecchione and Vorobyev cut, the Flyers' roster now stands at 28 players. Forwards Cole Bardreau and Colin McDonald and goalie Anthony Stolarz are injured. They're expected to begin the season on injured reserve.

What Vecchione and Vorobyev's demotions mean is that the Flyers now have to trim two more players to get down to their 23-man roster by Oct. 3. Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Tuesday he expects the final roster decisions to come down to the wire.

It appears Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom have shown enough in training camp and preseason to secure spots. The Flyers' current roster has 15 healthy forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

Patrick has two assists in five preseason games, while Lindblom has a goal and an assist. Lindblom scored Tuesday against the Rangers. Both have shown a commitment to a 200-foot game, which the Flyers preach.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is not expected to carry eight defensemen, so it's safe to say the final cuts will be one defenseman and one forward. Taylor Leier, Matt Read and Jori Lehtera are all competing for spots as a fourth-liner and an extra forward. Leier had another solid showing Tuesday against the Rangers.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Defensive prospects Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are competing for those two spots, and it remains possible all three could break camp with the team.

Hagg, Morin and Sanheim are still here after the latest round of cuts. Hagg has been steady all camp, Morin had a big game Tuesday with a goal one night after Sanheim sent a statement Monday with a two-goal game.

While it remains a long shot all three will be here, it's still a possibility. Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald haven't been great, and Hextall has repeatedly said he'd make room for prospects if they prove they're ready.

Some may be surprised that Vecchione didn't make the roster, or even argue that he wasn't given a fair shake in preseason. The former Hobey Baker finalist played in just two preseason games, and he was the 13th forward Tuesday.

That was another sign Vecchione wasn't going to make the team. To be fair, Vecchione was trying to make the team as a right winger, not at center, which the Flyers signed him as in March.

"Obviously when they draft Nolan, it's going to be a little tougher, but it's nothing I haven't seen before," Vecchione said recently. "They're going to take whoever is the best fit for the team. Right now, I'm on the wing, so it's a little different perspective. But, yeah, that doesn't change my mindset, what I'm going to do. I knew coming in it wasn't going to be easy, they didn't guarantee me anything and I knew I had to work for it, so, like I said, nothing new for me. I'm just looking forward to the challenge."

Vorobyev was recalled from the Phantoms for Tuesday's game after previously being sent to Lehigh Valley. He'll begin his first season in North America in the AHL, but he could be in the conversation for a roster spot next year.

On Tuesday, Vorobyev centered Lindblom and Travis Konecny. The trio clicked, and Vorobyev again showed the playmaking ability he flashed at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships with Team Russia.

"I thought he played a heck of a hockey game," Hakstol said of Vorobyev. "I thought every situation that we put him into, I thought he went out and did a good job. He went out and made a couple of high-end plays offensively, and then up and down the rink."

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

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AP Images

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

MONTREAL -- They’re watching it. They’re following it. But the Flyers don’t appear to be sweating it too much as NHL’s 3 p.m. Monday trade deadline fast approaches.

As they wrapped up an abbreviated practice Sunday afternoon at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the team had just learned that Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec had been dealt to the Maple Leafs, and the rumors are swirling regarding Montreal captain Max Pacioretty. 

“I know what’s going on,” said Jake Voracek. “It’s different. I haven’t been in this situation since my first year here (2011-12). Obviously it feels pretty good, but you never know what’s going to happen no matter what position you are in.”

It’s the first time the Flyers, sitting pretty in second in the Metropolitan Division as of Sunday morning and owners of a five-game win streak and points in their last 10 games, have been a potential buyer since Ron Hextall took over as general manager in 2014, and consequently, there’s no real threat of trading players to Cup-contending teams like we’ve seen in previous seasons. 

Still, Hextall elected to stay behind in Voorhees fielding phone calls and performing his due diligence as the Flyers prepare to face the Canadiens Monday night. He’s already given up conditional draft pick(s) to acquire goaltender Petr Mrazek from Detroit, and he may consider adding depth to a team with a solid nucleus.

And, keep in mind, they have reserves on the way when goalies Michal Nuevirth and Brian Elliott get healthy and Wayne Simmonds returns from his injury in the coming weeks.

“We have good chemistry inside that locker room,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “From my standpoint our whole focus has been finding ways to get better from within — from within our dressing room and from within our own organization. If there’s a move or a decision that has to be made that Hex feels will make us better, I’m sure he’ll look at that in every way, but our job is to take care of our own business.”

Right now, that’s the perplexity of a playoff team that could benefit from adding experience. At the same time, there’s a risk tinkering with the chemistry that has developed over the past three months — a team that has endured and bonded following a ten-game winless streak to become one of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference with a 25-8-3 record and 53 points since Dec 4. 

“We’ve done a good job of playing as a team and sticking together, especially when you lose ten in a row,” said captain Claude Giroux. “I think you see the true colors of players and we didn’t have any negative things with this group. It’s definitely a positive. We like where this team is headed. Whatever Hexy decides at the deadline, that’s his decision, but we like who we have in this room.”

Hextall has stated previously that he believes major deadline deals don’t usually yield the desired playoff results, and he’s definitely not looking to mortgage the future by giving up prized prospects.

So don’t hold your breath that Hextall joins the likes of the Penguins, who dealt for Derrick Brassard, and Bruins, who acquired Rick Nash on Sunday morning, who are taking an “all-in” approach with the postseason nearing. 

As for the Flyers, they’re breathing a little easier as well. 

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

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USA Today Images

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. — Evgenii Dadonov scored with 1:53 to play to complete a hat trick and give the Florida Panthers a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Dadonov beat goalie Matt Murray on a one-timer off Aleksander Barkov's pass for the winner. Dadonov has 18 goals this season.

Vincent Trocheck, Jamie McGinn and Derek MacKenzie also scored. Barkov had three assists, Keith Yandle added two, and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves.

Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, and Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust added goals. Tristan Jarry made 13 saves for Pittsburgh before he was replaced in the second period. Murray had 11 saves in relief.

Trocheck finished a 2-on-1 cross-ice pass from Malgin after a breakout pass from Yandle early in the first period. Trocheck tapped in the pass at 3:44 for his team-leading 24th goal (see full recap.)

Maple Leafs win ninth straight at home
TORONTO — Ron Hainsey broke a tie with 1:23 left to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their franchise record-tying ninth straight home victory, 4-3 over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

Hainsey's one-timed William Nylander's pass past goalie Tuuka Rask for his fourth goal of the season.

Toronto moved a point ahead of Boston for the second seed in the Atlantic Division.

Nazem Kadri scored twice, Mitch Marner had a goal and three assists, and Nylander had two assists. Frederik Andersen made 23 saves to improve to 10-1-0 against the Bruins.

Brad Marchand scored twice, and Jake DeBrusk also connected for Boston. Rask made 32 saves (see full recap.)

Point leads Lightning to shootout win over Canadiens
MONTREAL — Brayden Point scored in regulation and added the shootout winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning regained the top spot in the NHL with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan also scored in regulation to help the Lightning (42-17-3) win their third straight and move a point ahead of idle Vegas for the overall NHL lead.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his league-leading 36th victory of the season.

Byron Froese, Joe Morrow and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal. Antti Niemi, making his second straight start in relief of the injured Carey Price, stopped 36 shots. Price is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion (see full recap.)

Ovechkin scores twice in Capitals victory 
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin added to his NHL lead with two goals on the night he tied the Washington record for most games played, and the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Saturday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 50 seconds into the game and had two assists. Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller also had goals for Washington, which leapfrogged Pittsburgh and moved back into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals had lost two in a row and five of seven.

Ovechkin's 37th goal came on the power play with 9:47 remaining after Buffalo closed to 2-1 on Sam Reinhart's goal 14 seconds into the third period. Ovechkin redirected a shot past Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner with 1:24 left for his 38th goal.

The 32-year-old Ovechkin played in his 983rd NHL game, tying Calle Johansson for most in Capitals history. Ovechkin holds franchise records for goals (596) and points (1,105) (see full recap.)