Flyers

Sam Morin sees work with Kjell Samuelsson pay off in Flyers' OT preseason win

Sam Morin sees work with Kjell Samuelsson pay off in Flyers' OT preseason win

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Since the day he was drafted in June 2013, the Sam Morin comparisons have been made to Chris Pronger, but the credit since then can be given to Kjell Samuelsson.

Samuelsson, a 14-year NHL veteran and the Flyers' director of player development, has worked extensively with Morin over the past few years to refine the rookie’s all-around game. It’s a constant work in progress, but if Morin was a piece of pottery, Samuelsson would have to admire the way it's taking shape.

“I’m really confident in my game and I really believe I can make it," Morin said following Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime preseason victory against the Rangers (see observations). “It’s not over. I just need to stay focused. Work hard. Every day, every practice I’ll earn my spot and I know it.”

In the first period, Morin was able to pick his spots. With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, late in the stanza, the defenseman joined the rush, filled the slot and wristed a shot in the top corner over the blocker side of Rangers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

“The game now is too quick for a slap shot, except for the power play. The release is everything,” Morin said after his first goal at the NHL level. “I work a lot with Kjell with that. When I came my first year, my draft year, I was taking those big slappers, and scoring big goals, but you can’t do that here. Guys are going to block it, and that’s something I learned from Kjell. I think I have a pretty good shot. I’m pretty confident with that.”

Earlier in the opening period, Morin showed some restraint after he leveled forward Gabriel Fontaine. Moments later, he answered a challenge to drop the gloves with Bobby Farnham, who came into the fight giving up eight inches to the 6-foot-6 Morin (see video).

Once again, Morin pointed to the Samuelsson effect, as well as offseason surgery, for taking a more passive approach to those five-minute majors.

“That guy jumped me and I was ready for him," Morin said. "I did my job. I pissed him off and he gets a penalty for it. I got hand surgery this summer, too. Especially earlier in camp, I didn’t want to destroy my camp by getting hurt, but I wasn’t really confident with my wrist, but I feel great and I can fight, that’s for sure.

“Kjell is real good with me for that. In juniors, I was pretty crazy for that. I was less patient and hungry for those things. I’m still learning and I try to get better every day.”

Interestingly, Morin has been engaged in a heated battle with teammate Travis Sanheim for one of the two open positions on the Flyers' blue line. The two former first-round picks have been roommates from the moment they reported to rookie camp and into training camp. Morin didn’t watch the game at Madison Square Garden in which Sanheim scored twice (see story), but said he heard about it.

Tuesday night, Morin finally heard his name called, and he’s on track to see his name with the rest of the NHL regulars. 

“He’s in a mix of eight right now. That’s the positive of it. He’s played well," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "The other seven guys are doing a good job. I know the focus is always on the young guys, but it’s a group of eight right now."

“I’m ready," Morin said. "I win those 1-on-1 battles. My game is just about that.”

Forwards discover their scoring touch
• At one point, the Flyers had played seven-plus periods of hockey and their four goals were all scored by rookie defensemen (three from Sanheim, one from Morin). The forwards finally snapped that trend when center Scott Laughton tied the game at 2-2 less than three minutes into the second period. Oskar Lindblom added his first, redirecting Andrew MacDonald’s shot from the point, and Travis Konecny answered with the game-winner in overtime off a pass from Claude Giroux.

“I always find that in the two years that I’ve played in preseason games before, the defense always steps up in preseason and gets a majority of the goals, so I wasn’t surprised," Konecny said. "But it’s definitely nice that we’re starting to get a little bit of movement and start to put pucks away.

• For the second straight night, Giroux was operating on the left wing on a line with Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. Giroux picked up the primary assists on Morin’s goal and the Konecny overtime winner as the line had more time in the offensive zone compared to Monday’s game in New York. The line generated nine shots on net while winning the possession battle with a 69 percent success rate in the faceoff circle.

“I thought it was a nice progression,” Hakstol said. “You’re not going to have a finished product overnight. I thought [Monday] was a good start. I thought tonight was a good progression from there. They created a lot tonight. They had the puck a lot, spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, and that’s what you want to see.”

• Like with Lindblom, the Flyers appear to have found another mid-round gem with center Mikhail Vorobyev, who was taken 104th overall in 2015. Vorobyev had an exceptional rookie game with a pair of assists and was called up from Lehigh Valley on Tuesday to center the Flyers' third line with Lindblom and Konecny. Vorobyev has a vision to see openings and plays that other guys would otherwise miss, which included an impressive cross-ice pass to Giroux. 

“I think he only played 10 or 11 minutes tonight. I thought he played a heck of a hockey game,” Hakstol said. “He didn’t get into much of a rhythm or flow in the first period with all the penalties. He made a couple of high-end plays offensively up and down the rink. He has a great sense of what’s around him. I thought he was reliable. It was really nice to see him come up, and he took advantage of a good opportunity.”

Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

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Wayne Simmonds issues timely reminder about Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Wayne Simmonds would make a pretty good salesman.

He speaks with conviction and knows how to convey a point.

On Monday, he was selling the 2017-18 Flyers.

None of it was fluff. In fact, the sales pitch was completely valid.

Many clamored for the Flyers to become younger, and they did. Nolan Patrick, 19, is just getting healthy again after missing nine straight games. The fourth line features two 23-year-olds (Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier) that developed last season in the AHL. And half of the current defense is made up of rookies.

That's not to mention Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov are only 20 years old, while Jordan Weal is in his first full NHL season.

After losing four straight games, the Flyers are 8-8-4 and still only five points out of first place despite sitting in last in the Metropolitan Division.

Things could be worse. Really, they're not all that bad.

"The season's not even close to being over," Simmonds said after practice at Flyers Skate Zone. "That's the way I'm thinking about it, guys. There's no need to be worried, we're a .500 hockey team right now, we've played 20 games, we have 62 games left, we've got a really young team and we're growing every single day. Yeah, we're going to have our struggles, but we're also going to have points in the season where we make huge strides. We've got to stick with it and we've got to keep going and going."

The Flyers were 9-8-3 after 20 games last season. Two games later, they were starting a 10-game winning streak. The run didn't accomplish much by season's end, but it's an example of how quickly trends can turn in the NHL.

Simmonds is experiencing his own negative trend of 12 straight games without a goal after scoring six in eight games to start the season.

"Sometimes you score 10 goals, then you don't score again for 20 games or something like that," Simmonds said. "Like I said, it's a long year, you keep going, you keep grinding, you guys want to jump to conclusions, that's your job. You guys have got to make decisions on a game-to-game basis, but for us, we just have to make sure we're coming to the rink and doing our job every single day and continuing to try and get better."

Throughout much of his drought, Simmonds has not looked himself, likely banged up from the style in which he plays and excels.

With time and patience, Simmonds is building himself up again physically.

"You think you can do some things and sometimes your body just tells you no," Simmonds said.

"I've been feeling better the last little bit. I feel like I've started to play better, things aren't coming offensively for me. I think as an individual, I've just got to keep working hard. The only way to break yourself out of a bad streak is to continue to work hard and hopefully things eventually go your way."

When does he know his game is coming to him?

"When I'm aggressive," Simmonds said. "When I'm battling in the corners, I'm hitting — I think earlier this year, I wasn't fully engaging in battles and stuff like that, and that's not me, that's not my game. I think the last little bit here, I've felt a lot better, I've been doing a lot more battling, a lot more hitting, a lot more physical things. It's nice and we've got to continue that. As a team, we've got to continue to do the same thing, to get to the front of the net and continue to put pucks in."

Aside from the first line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek, scoring struggles have permeated the middle six and secondary options. Konecny and Weal, two players the Flyers expected jumps from in production, have combined for four goals and nine assists. Konecny is without a goal over his previous 10 games, while Weal has scored one in his last 12.

"It's been a lot of hard work and not much to show for it," Weal said. "No matter what line we've been on, it seems like we've been getting three or four chances every game to put something in and nothing right now seems to be going in. It's one of those things that happens during a season.

"When it breaks open, hopefully it'll break wide open.

"When we have all four lines scoring, we're a really dangerous team."

Both Konecny and Weal are frequently the last two players off the practice ice.

Monday was no different.

"I just need to make sure I'm battling and creating more offense," Konecny said. "I feel like the opportunities are there, I'm not worried about that."

Nor is Simmonds worried about the Flyers with 62 games to go, the next coming Tuesday night at home against the Canucks.

Similar to building up strength and good health, patience is important to a season, especially with the makeup of this Flyers team.

Simmonds believes you'll buy in … just give it some time.

"You can look at the standings, you can do whatever you want, but we've played 20 games," Simmonds said. "There's still a long time to go in the season. We've got work to do.

"I'm definitely feeling better. It's up to me to get going."

When he does, the Flyers hope the rest follow.

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Gudas reacts, roster buzz, more

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Gudas reacts, roster buzz, more

VOORHEES, N.J. — Radko Gudas helped warm up the goalie before practice.
 
He was also one of the last players off the ice.
 
This will be usual for the next three weeks when the Flyers' defenseman serves the remainder of a 10-game suspension handed down Sunday night by the NHL's Department of Player Safety. The punitive actions are a result of Gudas' slash to the head of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault during last Thursday's game.
 
Gudas and the Flyers don't have to agree with the decision, but they must move past it.
 
"I don't think it was intentional by any means, but the league is going to do what it wants to do," Wayne Simmonds said Monday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I don't agree with it, I don't think anyone in here agrees with it. But what are you going to do? That's the league."
 
Despite being considered a repeat offender, Gudas was "surprised" by the suspension's length.
 
"I didn't really expect that, no," Gudas said.
 
"I don't agree with it, but I accept their decision. Not much else I can say."
 
Understandably, Gudas was not in much of a mood to discuss the incident and simply said it was accidental from his side.
 
"I'm not recapping the play, no, it is what it is," Gudas said.
 
"Before, I've never used my stick in any way like that. It was unfortunate."
 
Saturday's loss to Calgary, which Gudas missed because his hearing was not until Sunday, marked the start of the ban, meaning he'll miss the next nine games and will be eligible to return on Dec. 12 against the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
With Gudas out, the Flyers lose a contributor on the penalty kill. The burly defenseman is sixth among all Flyers in short-handed time on ice at 35:52 and second in blocked shots on the PK with nine.
 
"Gudy's really good physically, he's great on the PK, he's got some surprising hands on him, too," Simmonds said. "We've got a lot of young guys back there, they're going to fill in. And for the majority of the season, they've played really well, the young guys have done a very good job."
 
One of those young guys will be Mark Alt. The 26-year-old rookie has played five games this season and will draw into the lineup again on Tuesday night when the Flyers host the Canucks (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia). 
 
And he very well could play Wednesday in Brooklyn against the Islanders. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald practiced Monday, but took reps with Gudas, while Alt was alongside Travis Sanheim. MacDonald, out since Oct. 24 with a lower-body injury, said he's not ready to return Tuesday and doesn't believe he'll be back Wednesday, either.
 
"Everybody just has to trust the teammates, go out and do their part and know that the next guy up will do his part," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said, "and I'm confident that the guys will do that."
 
"The league's made the decision. For me, my outlook is who steps in now for Gudy and his role, who steps up and takes advantage of that opportunity and helps our hockey team? On the individual side, for Gudy, we've got three weeks of work here to do to make sure he's as ready as possible to come back in our lineup when he is eligible."
 
Roster buzz
Speaking of MacDonald, he is currently on injured reserve and a roster spot must open for when he returns.
 
Forward Matt Read was placed on waivers Monday, according to a report by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. This is presumably to clear the way for MacDonald or a call-up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. With MacDonald still out and Gudas suspended, the Flyers have only six active defensemen.

Read, 31 years old and with just four games played this season, was placed on waivers at the start of 2017-18 and went unclaimed, which sent him to the Phantoms. If he goes unclaimed again, he'll likely report back to Lehigh Valley.
 
That's Weal talk
Forward Jordan Weal practiced and is good to go after missing Saturday's game with an upper-body injury.
 
Weal last Thursday took a nasty elbow/high hit at center ice from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who was not whistled for a penalty or punished by the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
 
"I thought it was a blindside hit, to be honest with you," Simmonds said. "The league can do what they want. … We just kind of have to go with it."

Weal, tough for 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, shrugged off the blow from the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Byfuglien.
 
"I didn't really watch the full play, I was going to watch that today," Weal said. "He's a big guy, I'm a little guy, so [the hit] is always going to look a little bigger than it actually is. Throughout the game, things happen … solid check."
 
Let's play outside!

Claude Giroux and Simmonds were both excited about Sunday's announcement of next season's outdoor game against the rival Penguins.
 
The game on Feb. 23, 2019, will be part of the NHL Stadium Series. Last season, the Flyers played Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, home of the Steelers.
 
Next season, it's time for Lincoln Financial Field.
 
"It's definitely cool," Giroux said. "I've had a lot of games outdoor, they've all been pretty special. This one will be special, too, especially in Philly and that building is always fun to go to. So being able to play in it, it's going to be pretty cool."
 
Unlike NHL arenas, where attendance is around 19,000-20,000 people, the Linc can hold between 69,500 and 70,000.
 
"That's pretty cool," Simmonds said. "Obviously a really great opportunity when you get a chance to play in an outdoor game. This will be, since I've been here, our third opportunity to do that. Hopefully, we can get the win this time.
 
"Those are always fun — 60,000, 70,000 people in the stands all rooting and cheering for you. And we're on the home side this time, so it's going to be unbelievable."
 
Projected lineup
Here are the lines, pairings and goalies from Monday's practice.
 
Michal Neuvirth is expected to start in net Tuesday, the first game of a back-to-back for the Flyers.
 
Winger Dale Weise, after playing eight straight games, will likely be a healthy scratch.
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott