Andrew MacDonald set to return; Flyers could lose another player through waivers

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Andrew MacDonald set to return; Flyers could lose another player through waivers

VOORHEES, N.J. — After the Flyers laid out an initial prognosis that defenseman Andrew MacDonald would miss the first few weeks of the regular season, it turns out the Flyers defenseman will be ready for the season opener on Oct. 4 in Las Vegas.

“He’s good to go,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “I’ve been watching him for awhile. He seems to have an ability to heal quickly and he’s done it again.”

The Flyers also expect to work MacDonald into a couple of the remaining preseason games.

MacDonald’s importance to the Flyers' blue line can’t be understated. Last season, he missed games with a lower-body injury, the result of a blocked shot, and the Flyers proceeded to win just three of their next 15 games, going 3-6-6 during that stretch. 

MacDonald’s presence should also help stabilize the defensive pairings, as he’ll likely work with Robert Hägg, who has struggled recently, to start the season with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere comprising the top pairing.

After losing Martel, Flyers fear there could be more 

Organizationally, the Flyers appear stacked at the forward position, and so it didn’t come as much of a surprise to see the Tampa Bay Lightning claim 5-foot-9 forward Danick Martel off waivers Saturday (see story).

The move ensures Martel will be on the Lightning’s opening night roster, where there wasn’t much of a fit on the Flyers.

“The system is set up for guys like that,” Hextall said. “Good for Danick. It’s probably not the last time it’s going to happen to us in the next few years. We’ve got a lot of players and we’ve got a lot of good young players. We certainly would have liked to keep (Danick) in the system, but that’s the way the device is made for, to give a guy a chance.” 

If prospects Mikhail Vorobyev, Carsen Twarynski or Phil Myers make the team’s final roster, the Flyers would have to make room by placing a veteran such as, Michael Raffl, Dale Weise or Jori Lehtera on waivers to create the necessary roster space. 

Other injury updates

A day after coming off the ice prematurely, center Sean Couturier is dealing with soreness which kept him out of practice on Sunday. The Flyers still expect Couturier to play in at least one, if not two, preseason games.

Defenseman Travis Sanheim remains on track to resume skating this week. The Flyers' second-year defenseman has not practiced since sustaining an upper-body injury after he was driven into the boards by the Islanders' Matt Martin last Sunday in the Flyers' preseason opener.  

Wayne Simmonds continues to maintain his diligent preseason regimen. The Flyers' power forward says he's “pretty antsy” to get in some needed game action. Simmonds was working with the top power play unit — a group that also included Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mikhail Vorobyev. The Flyers are aiming for Simmonds to see action in at least one of the final two preseason games.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: Blues can advance to Cup Final with Game 6 win over Sharks

Craig Berube and the Blues are one win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

They can earn that victory Tuesday night when they host the Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final.

Including the playoffs, the Blues are 49-24-8 under Berube, who took over Nov. 19 as interim head coach.

For some context on the Blues' run, St. Louis visited the Wells Fargo Center Jan. 7 with the same number of points as the Flyers. The Blues were 29th in the NHL at 16-19-4 and 36 points, while the Flyers were 30th at 15-20-6 and 36 points.

St. Louis has never won a Cup, but it's on the verge of being one step closer to a title.

Below is the schedule for Day 39 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (STL 3-2)
Game 6, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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