Flyers

Wayne Simmonds selected to play in first NHL All-Star Game

Wayne Simmonds selected to play in first NHL All-Star Game

Updated: 3:35 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Wayne Simmonds is heading back to Los Angeles, this time as an All-Star.

Simmonds on Tuesday was named as the Flyers’ lone representative to the Metropolitan Division team for the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday, Jan. 29, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Simmonds said upon learning of his selection following the Flyers’ morning skate at KeyBank Center. “It makes me think when I was a young kid, watching the All-Star Games and watching all the great players who played in it. To even be mentioned in the same breath as All-Stars in the NHL, it’s pretty special and it’s a great accomplishment."

This marks Simmonds’ first selection to the All-Star Game in his nine-year career.

The 28-year-old winger has been exceptional for the Flyers this season with a team-leading 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points in 42 games heading into Tuesday night’s contest with the Sabres (see game notes).

“He’s a guy that kind of epitomizes what it is to be a Philadelphia Flyer,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “And obviously, he has had a great season to this point.”

The All-Star selection means Simmonds will head back to where his career began in L.A. A second-round pick of the Kings in 2007, Simmonds was dealt to the Flyers along with Brayden Schenn in exchange for Mike Richards in June 2011 after playing three seasons in Southern California.

“It makes it that much more special,” Simmonds said. “I know Jakey (Jake Voracek) got a chance to play in the All-Star Game when it was in Columbus and I know that was pretty special to him. I think it goes the same for me.”

Simmonds has been Mr. Do-It-All for the Flyers as he’s an important piece of the league’s ninth-ranked power play with eight goals. This season, he’s become a key contributor in a new role on the penalty kill and even has a short-handed goal.

“Back [in L.A.] I was more of a defensive guy,” Simmonds said. “After my third year, I come to Philly and I completely switch roles to an offensive guy. Everything is kind of coming full circle now. I’ve got a chance to play on the PK. I’ve gotten better in my defensive zone over the years that I’ve been here. Just trying to put everything together and become a complete player.”

Simmonds has 149 goals and 134 assists for 283 points in his five-plus seasons with the Flyers.

“I think it’s terrific,” said general manager Ron Hextall, who was an assistant GM for the Kings when Simmonds was drafted. “He deserves it and sometimes players like him aren’t recognized and they should be because he’s a very good player. He’s one of those guys that just can grab the puck and muscle his way to the net. He’s got good hands in front of the net, he’s got speed, he’s good on the forecheck. He does a lot of good things.”

The NHL All-Star Game matches up the best from all four divisions and uses the league’s wildly popular 3-on-3 OT format. A skills competition will be held on Sat. Jan. 28 and Simmonds will participate, but the event he will participate in will be announced later.

“I don’t think I am the greatest at 3-on-3 but I think I can adjust a little bit,” said Simmonds, who has played often in overtime for the Flyers this season. “I’ll probably fly under the radar. It’s my first time going to the All-Star Game. I’m not trying to put on too big of a show or show anybody up. I’m just grateful.”

Mason in net
Steve Mason will be the Flyers’ goaltender for the second game in a row.

Michal Neuvirth returned for Saturday’s victory over the Lightning after missing 24 games with a knee injury, but Hakstol said he does not plan to rotate the goalies going forward.

“These guys are going to remain a tandem, they are going to work together, but no, I don’t have plan right now to go back and forth into a rotation,” Hakstol said. “[Mason] will go tonight and we play another three games in five days after that, so I’m sure somewhere along the way, we’ll use both of them.”

Power move
The Flyers are hoping to get their power play going again. Once ranked No. 1 in the NHL, the unit has scored in just 3 of its last 32 chances.

Tonight’s matchup should help the Flyers. Buffalo’s penalty kill ranks last in the league at 74.3 percent.

Projected lineup
F: Michael Raffl-Claude Giroux-Matt Read

Dale Weise-Brayden Schenn-Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek

Chris VandeVelde-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Roman Lyubimov

D: Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald

Michael Del Zotto-Radko Gudas

Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere

G: Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Defenseman Mark Streit (shoulder)

Scratches: Forwards Nick Cousins (healthy) and Boyd Gordon (healthy), and defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy)

- CSNPhilly.com's Greg Paone contributed to this story.

Travis Sanheim likely to sit again vs. Panthers

Travis Sanheim likely to sit again vs. Panthers

It looks as though Travis Sanheim will sit for the second straight game vs. the Panthers tonight (see Flyers-Panthers thoughts)

Now, before you get angry — and fire off a hot take about Andrew MacDonald or Brandon Manning — understand this isn’t a death sentence for Sanheim.

The Flyers have played all of five games this season. Sanheim has played in three, and after a bumpy NHL debut vs. the Kings, the talented rookie showed growth to round out the Flyers’ season-opening road trip (see Flyers Rookie Report)

“I think that the L.A. game was a bit of a wash, with it being my first game and it not going the way I wanted it to,” Sanheim said. “But I thought the other two games, you started to see some more of the way I want to play. I thought even into the Nashville game, I got better that night, as well. I think that’s what you want to see with a young guy, is getting better every night and I’ll continue to do that.”

And after watching from the press box during Saturday’s blowout win vs. the Capitals, the Flyers’ top defensive prospect will get his chances ... at some point. 

“I don’t have a number for you, there,” Hakstol said of when we could see Sanheim crack the lineup. “But your players have to play. That doesn’t mean they have to play every game, but certainly they have to learn, both off the ice, on the ice, practice, game-wise and continue to grow.”

So Sanheim — who is a minus-two with zero points — has to learn the NHL game. It’s not uncommon for rookie defensemen to struggle with the speed and skill of the NHL in the early parts of their careers.

“The position is a hard position to make the adjustment to and to learn,” Hakstol said. “That being said, I think your players can be successful in making the jump and making the transition.”

If Sanheim needs any inspiration, he simply needs to look a few lockers down at Ivan Provorov. 

Provorov made the jump straight from the WHL (junior hockey) to the NHL last season, and early on, it wasn’t a particularly smooth transition. The then 19-year-old bottomed out at a minus-five in an October loss to Chicago but blossomed into the team’s No. 1 defenseman in the second half of the season.

Sure, Sanheim has taken his lumps this season, but he hasn’t necessarily been bad. Hakstol even went as far as to say that he’s been happy with the 21-year-old’s play.

“I’ve been very happy with him, Hakstol said. “I’ve been happy with Travis’ play. We want him to keep growing. He’s going to continue to be a big part of our group. He’s got a great attitude and a great perspective in terms of being able to handle all the different situations that come his way.”

Sanheim says the coaching staff hasn’t ordered him to focus on any one aspect of his game, but after Tuesday’s optional morning skate, the rookie stayed on the ice for an extra 30 minutes with the staff and Jori Lehtera — who has been a healthy scratch for all five games this season — working on clearing the crease. 

It all comes down to the numbers. And right now, the Flyers have seven solid defensemen. 

“The other night (Saturday vs. Capitals), obviously I wanted to be in the lineup, but we've got seven good D right now and obviously there’s going to be a guy sitting, and it just happened to be me the other night,” Sanheim said. “It was a learning experience. I think I can gain a lot from watching and seeing some of those guys, how they handle themselves in certain situations and I thought I gained a lot from it the other night.

Not convinced? Last season, rookie winger Travis Konecny and second-year D-man Shayne Gostisbehere both served multiple stints in Hakstol’s doghouse — the press box — and have seemingly turned things around to begin this season. This year, Gostisbehere is second on the team in points with eight, while, more importantly, he and Konecny are both a plus-two on the year — good enough for a tie for third on the team. So, like it or not, maybe there is some good to sitting a young player for a few games. 

“Ultimately, as a young guy, I think there’s a lot of things you need to work on and for me, its just working hard in practice and getting better every day,” Sanheim said. “I just want to try and establish myself as an everyday player. 

“I’ve been through this before. My first year of junior, I didn’t play right away and I was a healthy scratch for five games there, so I’ve been through the process before and I understand the situation that I’m in and ultimately, it’s up to me whether I want to play every night and I gotta show them that I’m deserving of that and obviously, its going to maybe take some time but I’m willing to pout in the work.”

Projected lines
With only 11 players skating, there was no line rushes or defensive pairings, but coming off an 8-2 win, it’s hard to imagine Hakstol making any changes to the lineup. However, it looks as though Michal Nuevirth will get the start in net. 

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches
Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim

Flyers-Panthers thoughts: Top line scary good; Manning-Sanheim big deal?

usa-ap-flyers-panthers-game-notes-slide.jpg
USA Today Images/AP Images/CSN

Flyers-Panthers thoughts: Top line scary good; Manning-Sanheim big deal?

Flyers (3-2-0) vs. Panthers (2-2-0)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30
 
Did the Flyers save any goals for the rest of the five-game homestand?
 
That's probably what many are asking after watching the 8-2 demolition they put on the Washington Capitals in Saturday night's home opener.
 
The Flyers will try to keep things rolling Tuesday night when they welcome the Florida Panthers to the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Here are some thoughts before Game 6 of the season:
 
• You couldn't ask for much more from the Flyers' top line against the Capitals. Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek downright manhandled Washington. When Giroux moved to the left wing and Sean Couturier bumped up to first-line center, Saturday's performance was likely the dream scenario in the minds of the Flyers' coaching staff and front office.
 
It seemed like Voracek was making a play every time he touched the puck, Couturier did yeoman's work in all phases, and Giroux looked like his old self, showing a little bit of everything in his arsenal. The trio combined for 10 points on four goals and six assists. No one is expecting such production on a game-by-game basis, but let's see if this group can sustain these positive vibes and turn itself into a staple up top. As evidenced by Saturday, the Flyers go to a different level when those three are on.
 
• No one wants to see Travis Sanheim sitting. He's a first-round pick the fan base has been eager to see. He has great size and offensive upside for a defenseman. It will be exciting to watch him become a pillar of the Flyers' blue line.
 
But is it really the end of the world if Brandon Manning plays a couple games here in the early going? Manning will suit up Tuesday for his second straight game in place of Sanheim. The 21-year-old rookie won't be in the press box for long, though, because that doesn't jive with general manager Ron Hextall's development plan. So Sanheim will sit for a few, watch and learn. That's not too terrible.
 
And, the two games Manning has played so far (season opener and home opener), the Flyers won both by a combined score of 13-5. Was he the most critical reason why? No, but he didn't hurt the Flyers, either. Keeping your projected seventh defenseman somewhat active is a good idea for when/if he is needed.
 
Sanheim will be fine and he will play.
 
We're about to be only six games in here … let's just give this some time.
 
• Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said he planned on using both of his goalies over this homestand. Michal Neuvirth will get the call against the Panthers after Brian Elliott started four of the first five games. Neuvirth looks like the clear backup, but it's important to get him starts, and that's what Hakstol plans on doing.
 
Neuvirth didn't see Florida last season. However, he did see the Panthers in 2015-16 and was terrific, delivering a shutout, 1.59 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in two games. He hasn't seen game action since Oct. 5.
 
• Wayne Simmonds, who has been a stud so far with five goals in five games, did work against Florida last season, posting three goals and an assist in three games.
 
• The Panthers are good. They've scored 16 goals through their first four games, all tough tests against the Lightning twice, the Blues and the Penguins. Florida boasts some nice, young talent in center Jonathan Huberdeau (three goals, two assists), center Aleksander Barkov (three assists) and defenseman Aaron Ekblad (two goals, two assists), just to name some.
 
To add to it, Florida's first-round pick at 10th overall this past summer, Owen Tippett, will make his NHL debut tonight. The 18-year-old scored 44 goals in 60 junior games last season for the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads.
 
• Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Radko Gudas
 
Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott

Scratches: Forward Jori Lehtera and defenseman Travis Sanheim.