Flyers

Nolan Patrick makes it, Oskar Lindblom doesn't as Flyers have 1 more cut coming

Nolan Patrick makes it, Oskar Lindblom doesn't as Flyers have 1 more cut coming

Nolan Patrick and Robert Hagg smiled and exchanged handshakes in the Flyers' hallway Sunday after they were told they had made the team’s opening roster. Both guys described their respective meetings with management as “short and sweet.”

Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, becomes the first rookie since Sean Couturier in 2011 to make the team straight out of training camp in their draft year.

“It was pretty exciting to find that out and I’m looking forward to the first game,” Patrick said as he follows in the footsteps of his father and uncle who played in the league as well. “It was really exciting growing up. My goal is to play in the NHL, so to get that news is really exciting. I know my family is pretty excited for me.”

Patrick’s father, Steve, played 250 career games, and his uncle, James, now an assistant coach with the Dallas Stars, endured a 20-year career in the league. While Nolan Patrick has the pedigree, he likely won’t match the production of other players selected second overall. Jets winger Patrick Laine scored 36 goals and 64 points in 2016-17, his first season in Winnipeg.

“I think when I get the first one (goal), I think they’ll come," Patrick said. "It’s a tough thing for me. I always start the year slow on the goals, hopefully, I can get a bounce and get that first one out of the way. My main focus isn’t scoring. I’m just trying to hold onto pucks and make plays and be a good defensive player, so that’s what I’m focusing on.”

Patrick, who wore No. 19 with the Brandon Wheat Kings, is ready to shed the No. 64 he’s worn in the preseason. He says he has another number in mind but didn't elaborate.

Hagg’s path to the NHL wasn’t nearly as direct as Patrick’s. The Flyers' 2013 second-round pick spent three-plus seasons, 202 regular-season games, in the AHL before receiving word Sunday his hard work had finally paid off.

“Pretty happy. I was kinda nervous when I walked in there," Hagg said, "but after the meeting, I was extremely happy to make the team. I’ve just tried to simplify everything and not trying to look for the home run play. I just try to get the puck out of the D-zone as quick as I can and just making sure the puck isn't going in our nets.”   

With Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov mainstays on the left side of the ice, positioning played a major factor in how Hakstol elected to set up his defense pairings. Outside of Radko Gudas, the Flyers' left-handed heavy defensive corps doesn’t have a right-handed shot on the ride side, and that’s where Hagg’s comfortability and flexibility was a key factor in the decision-making.   

“[Hagg's] ability to play the right side or the left side in a 5-on-5 role as well as penalty kill role," Hakstol said, "that versatility is an asset.”

With Patrick and Hagg packing their bags for San Jose, general manager Ron Hextall had to be the bearer of bad news in regards to Flyers' 2014 fifth-round pick, Oskar Lindblom, who has been assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to begin the season.

“It’s not tough,” Hextall said on the move to send down Lindblom. “Oskar did a good job in camp, but right now, the best thing for you and the team is for you to go up there (Lehigh Valley) and play well. He was great. He took it very well. Oskar is a good player and American League time hasn’t hurt one player in the history of professional hockey.”

As it stands, the Flyers' roster is currently at 24, and management needs to make one more additional move prior to the 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline when the cap-compliant rosters for all 31 teams have to be submitted to the league office.

To complicate matters, Gostisbehere left Sunday’s game with 11:30 remaining in the third period and never returned (see observations). Hextall listed Gostisbehere with an upper-body injury while also saying, “We’ll know more in the next day or two.” With that, it’s believed Gostisbehere could be evaluated further for any possible concussion symptoms.

With Gostisbehere’s availability uncertain, the Flyers likely will take eight defensemen on their opening four-game road trip to start the season, including rookies Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim, who were healthy scratches in the team’s preseason finale against the Islanders.

“They’re all going to California, probably," Hextall said. "We’ll see.”

Or the Flyers could place one of the team’s veteran forwards, likely Matt Read or Jori Lehtera, on waivers with the option of sending them to Lehigh Valley in the event they clear.

Decisions. Decisions. It’s been this way for the past month. What’s one more day … or two.

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 the 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.)