Flyers

Yandle has intriguing opportunity to build off of his best start

Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — Take a quick peek at his ironman streak and one can safely surmise that Keith Yandle treats every game with the same importance.

The 35-year-old defenseman has played in 925 consecutive games, the league's longest active run. He's climbing toward the NHL record, having not missed a game since March 2009.

Clearly, he doesn't take a game for granted.

But if he needed just the merest drip of extra fuel for Saturday's showdown against the Panthers, he'll have it. Florida bought out the final two years of his contract during the summer, putting him on the free-agent market. Yandle signed a one-year deal with the Flyers fewer than two weeks later.

So far, so good on the deal. From a scoring standpoint, Yandle is off to the best three-game start in his 16-year career. He has five assists in the Flyers' 2-0-1 homestand, the most points he's had through his first three games of any season.

And here come his old mates.

Yandle's hot start clashes with the 4-0-0 Panthers on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Every game in this league, you've got to get up for and be ready for your opponent," Yandle said Friday. "They've been playing well, so it's another one of those things where it's a good test for us. A little added motivation for myself, but I wouldn't say anything too much more than any regular game."

 

The Panthers have wins over the Penguins, Islanders, Lightning and Avalanche by a combined score of 18-7. The Flyers have a chance to punctuate their season-opening four-game homestand. They've earned at least one point in all three of their games and have outscored the opposition 16-8.

The Flyers haven't played Florida since Feb. 13, 2020. If Alain Vigneault and his assistant coaches needed any help with their scouting report, they had a good source for the scoop. Yandle spent the last five seasons with the Panthers as they developed into a playoff team over the final two.

"They've got some high-end skill, some unbelievable players. They also work hard," Yandle said. "It's a team where the third and fourth line, they're going to come at you hard, they're going to pressure you. And then they've got some big guys that can make some plays on the top two lines. For us, we've got to be ready line one through four and all six D. Be ready for the challenge."

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General manager Chuck Fletcher signed Yandle at a bargain $900,000. The Flyers were an attractive destination for Yandle. He's best friends with Kevin Hayes and had previously played for Vigneault.

"Keith Yandle, teams have been really trying to recruit him since he was bought out from Florida," Fletcher said in late July. "There was a lot of interest in Keith. Certainly, Kevin was an important part of selling the virtues of coming to the Philadelphia Flyers. We're very pleased that Keith chose to come here over many other competitive offers and teams."

Yandle was an alternate captain last season with the Panthers. Four of the Flyers' other offseason acquisitions were also alternate captains on their respective former teams: Ryan Ellis, Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen and Derick Brassard.

It's all part of a new dynamic for the Flyers as they try to bury the letdown of last season.

"Yands has got experience, comes to play," Vigneault said.

"He sees the ice well, he's playing well and we need him. That's one of the reasons why we brought him here."

Yandle is of the Hayes mold. He loves being at the rink and does his best to make sure everyone else does, too. He probably would fit in with any team, but he credited his early offensive success to those around him.

"Ever since I got here, just the way the guys have treated me and all the other new guys, it's been an easy transition where you're not second-guessing yourself," Yandle said. "The coaches give you a good game plan and they also give us good confidence out there to go out and play. To have that from the coaching staff and the other players is a huge help."

 

He'll continue his ironman streak on Saturday night against his former club.

Like his previous 925 games, he'll be good to go. But "a little added motivation" can't hurt.

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