Bye comes at wrong time for Flyers

Bye comes at wrong time for Flyers


Brian Elliott is headed to the Bahamas for vacation.

Sean Couturier is making his way back to Quebec to work on a home he’s having built.

Brandon Manning and Valtteri Filppula will be dogsledding in Vermont.

And Claude Giroux is boarding a plane to Ottawa to see family and friends.

The Flyers' five-day bye week is here and they can relax a little bit easier riding a three-game winning streak and having played some of their best hockey recently with a record of 11-4-1 since Dec. 4.

“I think anytime you have that much time off you want to feel good about your game,” defenseman Brandon Manning said. “I think something we need to focus on is staying even keel.”

“We’re very close to the playoffs right now,” Jakub Voracek said. “I was reading some articles and listening to some people that this team should get blown up during that 10-game losing streak. We didn’t. We stayed patient. We’re in the playoff right now, so that’s good for us.”

The 4-1 win Sunday over the Sabres was vitally important for backup Michal Neuvirth, who saw action for just the fifth time since his last victory Nov. 2 against the Blues (see observations).

“It’s a huge win for me,” said Neuvirth, who was on his way to board a flight for Mexico. “I haven’t been feeling good about myself lately. It’s frustrating when you get injured and you can’t help your teammates, but I feel good about myself right now. Kind of a shame that we’ve won three in a row and leaving for the break, but it’s the schedule.”

The Flyers leaned on Neuvirth heavily in the first six minutes of the game, as they were forced to kill off Voracek’s hooking penalty and then Wayne Simmonds' slashing call just 47 seconds after successfully killing off the Sabres' first power play.

Neuvirth’s signature stop was a highlight reel glove save on Sabres forward Sam Reinhart on Buffalo’s second power-play opportunity. Overall, Neuvirth turned aside 30 of the Sabres' 31 shots on net.

“I had a good warmup and I was feeling good all morning,” Neuvirth said. “Playing the third period against Pittsburgh helped me a lot, so I was more relaxed coming into the game.”

“I think it’s a great way for him to go into the break and to come back into our lineup,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s been a long time since he’s had the opportunity to start a game. For him to come in, and I think back to that (Reinhart) save he had in the first period. I thought that was a great way to say I’m ready to step in and help this team.”

After Buffalo beat Neuvirth in the opening minutes of the second period for a 1-0 lead, the Flyers had an immediate response less than two minutes later. Shayne Gostisbehere forced a neutral zone turnover and then converted his ninth goal of the season in the same sequence to tie the game.

 “It’s kind of a risky play there coming down and I backed off,” said Gostisbehere, who has 32 points in 39 games. “Thankfully, he pushed it. I was trying to push it to him and I just followed up the play.”

Minutes later, Couturier answered with a power-play goal for a 2-1 lead and the Flyers never looked back.

Impressively, the Flyers also improved to 4-2-2 in the second game of a back-to-back, and with a pair of victories in a span of 24 hours, the Flyers temporarily pushed their way past the Islanders and the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division, where 10 points separate the eight divisional teams.

When the Flyers collectively return from their bye week destinations, they’ll be facing a crucial stretch of hockey with six of their next nine games coming against divisional opponents with the All-Star break sandwiched in between.

“I don’t know if we need any recovery time,” Hakstol said. “We’ve got it now in front of us, so we’ll try and take advantage of it and come back. We’ve gone one real hard work day and right back into games. That’s going to be a real hard turnaround.“

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

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2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

We began our 2018 NHL draft position previews with a look at the top draft-eligible centers. This draft is top-heavy at wing and defense. We continue our previews with a look at left wingers.

Filip Zadina, 6-0/195, Halifax (QMJHL)
Zadina, who finished as the third-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, led all QMJHL rookies and was tied for seventh among all players in 2017-18 with 82 points. He won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best professional prospect. Playing for the Czech Republic, Zadina was named to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship All-Star team, scoring eight points in seven games. Hard-working winger with an elite shot, future top-liner.

Draft projection: Top three

Brady Tkachuk, 6-3/196, Boston University (NCAA)
The son of USA Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and brother of Matthew Tkachuk (Flames), Brady Tkachuk checks in as the second-best North American skater by Central Scouting. Had eight goals and 31 points in 40 games during his freshman season at Boston University and added three goals and nine points in seven games during the world juniors. He plays a physical game much like his dad and brother but has a little more finesse to it.

Draft projection: Top five

Joel Farabee, 6-0/164, USNTDP
Farabee finished as the 12th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Possesses excellent speed and a strong shot and plays an effective two-way game. A little undersized but the game has changed, so that shouldn’t be a major issue. He had 15 goals and 40 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL in 2017-18, and 33 goals and 76 points in 64 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 10-18

Grigori Denisenko, 5-11/176, Yarolsavl Jr (Russia)
Denisenko saw a three-spot drop from the Central Scouting midterm rankings to the final, finishing as the seventh-best European skater. He’s gifted with the puck and makes plays, but he has a bit of a reputation as an inconsistent player. The Russian factor may scare teams away. Had nine goals and 22 points in 31 games in the MHL and played four games in the KHL playoffs. On talent alone, Denisenko is among the best in this year’s class.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Blake McLaughlin, 6-0/162, Chicago (USHL)
McLaughlin checks in as the 24th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Another American prospect among the top draft-eligible left wingers, McLaughlin’s best attribute is his shot, though he’s an excellent skater. He finished the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Steel as nearly a point-per-game player, scoring 23 goals and 52 points in 54 games. He’s headed to the University of Minnesota in the fall. Could squeak into late first round but probably a second-rounder.

Draft projection: Early second round

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

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NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

Philadelphia, PA (May 18, 2018) — NBC Sports Philadelphia announced today the network will air the American Hockey League Eastern Conference Finals games featuring the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Toronto Marlies. Games Three through Five will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7 p.m.
May 23 - Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 3 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 25** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 4 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 26*** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 5 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, *if necessary
** Philadelphia Soul will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

*** The Philadelphia Phillies game will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia, regardless if there is a Game 5 or not.

Atlantic Division Champions for the 2017-18 season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face off against the Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The winner of the best-of-seven series will then advance to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals. After posting the AHL’s second-most wins (47) and second-most standings points (105), the top-seeded Phantoms eliminated the Providence Bruins in four games (3-1) in the opening round before defeating the Charlotte Checkers in five games (4-1) in the Atlantic Division Finals — a series which included the historic longest game in AHL history.