Flyers

Alain Vigneault asked for something and has yet to get it in Flyers preseason

Alain Vigneault asked for something and has yet to get it in Flyers preseason

Alain Vigneault put out his hands as if he wanted a hug.

The head coach was speaking passionately about training camp competition.

He pleaded for one thing.

"You need surprises," Vigneault said last Saturday after Day 2 of Flyers training camp. "We need some of these young kids to step up and force us into some decisions. That's how your team gets better and we're going to give them an opportunity to do that."

Vigneault hasn't gotten any surprises … yet.

The Flyers could use them. They have a clear opening on their third line. They even have two when you factor in Nolan Patrick's injury. Tyler Pitlick, a projected bottom-six guy, is also hurt. Their defensive pairings are far from sacrosanct. 

Spots are everywhere.

But three exhibition games down, the Flyers have heard only knocks on the door.

Nobody has barged in.

"The battle for the bottom six is, in my mind, fully on," Vigneault said Thursday after morning skate. "It's good. We've got some decisions to make in those positions."

While Morgan Frost's preseason got off to a positive start in Thursday night's 3-1 loss (see observations), the 20-year-old playmaker failed to crack the score sheet playing between James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek.

Joel Farabee has impressed during camp and shown flashes in two games, but hasn't blown away the rest. Similar to Frost, Farabee played with high-end talent Thursday — Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier — and couldn't capitalize with production.

German Rubtsov looked a bit tired Thursday and justifiably so as he was playing his third game in four days. The 21-year-old center has done the little things well.

Mikhail Vorobyev, last year's preseason darling (six points in six games), has played not-so-glamorous minutes and on the penalty kill.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel had one of the better performances in the second preseason game but was quiet on the third line and second-unit power play Thursday.

Isaac Ratcliffe brought plenty of intrigue into camp but progression in the AHL will be first on his plate.

Connor Bunnaman has shown promise but seems destined for his second season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, as does Carsen Twarynski.

The older roster hopefuls haven't crushed the kids, either. Andy Andreoff has been inconsistent through two games, Chris Stewart fought in the opener and Kurtis Gabriel is hurt.

The Flyers' four preseason goals have come from van Riemsdyk, Matt Niskanen, Michael Raffl and Chris Bigras.

The remaining preseason slate will be amplified, growing in importance and starting Saturday night against the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center.

"One of the things I've found throughout the years is people say that we make the decisions, but we really don't make the decisions," Vigneault said Monday. "The players make the decisions for us by how they play, how they continue to improve.

"As camp moves forwards, competition is going to get better, it's going to get more demanding on everybody. They'll make the decisions for us by how they play, how they compete and how they perform."

Vigneault asked for surprises.

With four exhibition games left, who's going to give him one?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Sloppy play, surprising trends and Flyers take 2nd straight loss before running into Connor McDavid

Sloppy play, surprising trends and Flyers take 2nd straight loss before running into Connor McDavid

BOX SCORE

This time, the Flyers had the opposition take it to 'em.

Alain Vigneault's team never had the reins Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The defeat marked the first in regulation for the Flyers (2-1-1), who must shift their focus to salvaging a game on this Western Canada road trip.

The Flames (3-3-1) had their way, outshooting the Flyers, 38-22, and putting the pressure on Brian Elliott.

• The Flyers had difficulty getting the puck up ice, which gave them little chance to play Vigneault's preferred style. When you can't successfully transition the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone, there's no shot to play a possession-based game.

The issue wasn't effort. The Flyers just weren't sharp and the Flames were fast, dangerous and all over the puck.

• To make matters worse, the Flyers did not help Elliott, who was making his first start of the season. The first two goals allowed were self-inflicted products. The third was an empty-netter.

Elliott made some tough stops and finished with 35 saves. He gave the Flyers an honest chance on the road. They were problematic in front of him.

• The Flames scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the second period. Five seconds after a faceoff in the Flyers' end, Calgary made it 2-0 when Andrew Mangiapane's shot bounced off Travis Sanheim's stick and past Elliott.

• A bright spot among a not-so-bright performance from the Flyers was Matt Niskanen. He scored his first goal as a Flyer on a delayed penalty in the third period. But the 32-year-old has been even better defensively with his decisions, breaking up scoring chances and moving the puck. He has been as advertised and a major improvement on the blue line.

• Jakub Voracek opened the game on the third line with Scott Laughton and Tyler Pitlick after a third-period demotion in last Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Cannucks. Clearly Vigneault wanted to see smarter decisions — and maybe smarter effort — from Voracek, while James van Riemsdyk played on the first line following a solid performance against Vancouver.

With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, the lines were shuffled in the third period and Voracek saw time with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux but couldn't get much cooking.

Giroux (one assist), Voracek and van Riemsdyk have combined for one point during the first four games. The early drought is uncharted territory for Voracek and van Riemsdyk, who both had previously never gone scoreless through their opening four games of a season.

The good thing is the Flyers know the offense will come from those three and the team is still 2-1-1.

• The Flyers were outmatched in the opening five minutes, when the Flames were a step ahead in every phase and set the tone.

Michael Frolik beat Elliott just 1:35 into the action on an ugly sequence by the Flyers. After Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov misconnected on a pass up ice, Justin Braun failed to clear the puck and then inadvertently tripped Elliott as Frolik blasted his shot.

The Flyers were fortunate to be trailing by only one goal at first intermission. They could have done more than just weather the storm but went 0 for 3 on the power play and finished 0 for 4 overall. They were sluggish and then sloppy.

• The Flyers finish their three-game road trip with the second half of a back-to-back set when they take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Edmonton is 5-1-0 and McDavid has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in six games.

The Flyers are back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to play the Stars (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers at Flames: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Flames: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The Flyers will once again try to match a mark set by the team in 2011-12, when the club last went to the playoffs.

The last time the Flyers opened the regular season with at least a point in four straight games was 2011-12 (3-0-1). The 2019-20 Flyers (2-0-1) have a chance to do that Tuesday night when they visit the Flames (2-3-1).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 9 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers could not have asked for a better start from Travis Konecny, who signed a new six-year, $33 million contract last month.

The 22-year-old winger has three goals and three assists in three games. His six points are the most by any Flyer through the first three games of a season since 2009-10, when defenseman Matt Carle also had six on one goal and five assists.

Going back to last season, the Flyers are 17-4-2 when Konecny scores a goal.

• Keep an eye on Chris Stewart, who is playing his first NHL regular-season game since March 29, 2018. In that game, he was playing for the Flames and scored a goal. Interestingly, he has his most career points against Calgary — 22 on 12 goals and 10 assists.

Also keep an eye on Jakub Voracek, who saw a demotion in the third period of last Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks. Let's see how he responds with his normal minutes and role.

Voracek and James van Riemsdyk are scoreless through the Flyers' first three games.

• The Flames were 26-10-5 at home last season, while putting up 50 wins and 107 points overall, most in the Western Conference.

Johnny Gaudreau is as good as they get, while Sean Monahan has killed the Flyers with 10 goals in 12 career games against the orange and black.

Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Kevin Hayes-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk-Scott Laughton-Carsen Twarynski
Tyler Pitlick-Michael Raffl-Chris Stewart

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies

Brian Elliott
Carter Hart

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers