Flyers

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Flyers-Capitals thoughts: Can big boys change trend vs. Washington in home opener?

Updated: 11:35 a.m.

Flyers (2-2-0) vs. Capitals (3-1-1)
7 p.m. on NBCSP, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6

The Flyers are one of two NHL teams still yet to play a game in their own digs.

But that changes Saturday night.

The 2017-18 home opener is finally here as the Flyers welcome the Washington Capitals to the Wells Fargo Center after opening with four straight road games.

Let's get you set for puck drop with some thoughts before Game 5 of the season.

• Beginning with the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals have become a major thorn in the sides of the Flyers' big boys. In four games against Washington last season, Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek combined for one goal and one assist. In the first-round playoff series defeat two seasons ago, the four totaled a pair of goals and four assists in six games.

The Flyers are much deeper this season, but Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds and Voracek remain the offensive focal points. They've been neutralized and outplayed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, while goalie Braden Holtby has represented a nemesis.

Can Giroux and company start to shift the unbalance? It must happen if the Flyers want to be more competitive with the Capitals this season, starting Saturday.

• Speaking of the Capitals, following more postseason failure, they're off to another hot start and look dangerous as usual, led by who else but Ovechkin. The Russian sniper scored 33 goals last season after three straight campaigns of 50 or more. Just when you thought maybe this was the start of him slowing down, the 32-year-old rips off nine goals in his first five games this season. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Kuznetsov are the NHL's early leaders with 10 points apiece.

• One positive for the Flyers is they haven't played since Tuesday. Meanwhile, Washington played the Penguins on Wednesday (lost, 3-2) and the Devils last night (won, 5-2), making Saturday the second game of a back-to-back set for the Capitals. The Flyers should have fresh legs and shouldn't be lacking for energy provided it's the home opener coming off a frustrating 6-5 loss in Nashville.

• Although it's early, we're already starting to see the benefits of the Flyers' improved depth. Through the team's first four games last season, six players had scored goals. This season, nine Flyers have already tallied a marker. Travis Konecny and Nolan Patrick playing third-line roles? Those are first-round picks at 20 and 19 years old, respectively, giving the Flyers playmaking threats in the bottom six, something we didn't see much of at all in 2016-17 (see story). Just think about Tuesday's game. The Flyers nearly won a 6-5 slugfest against the defending Western Conference champs without a goal from Giroux, Gostisbehere, Simmonds, Voracek, Ivan Provorov, Jordan Weal and Sean Couturier. That's a good sign.

• The Flyers have lost four of their last five home openers. In order to win this one, they'll want to play with controlled aggression and puck discipline.

"Don't turn pucks over,” Simmonds said Friday of the Capitals (see story). "That's when they hurt you. They have a lot of offensive firepower on that team."

As the Flyers have seen, Washington is a team that doesn't need help to score. When it gets it, it tends to take advantage. The Flyers have already allowed five power-play goals for a 70.6 penalty-kill percentage, tied for 30th in the NHL.

• The Flyers' morning skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, was optional. Brian Elliott took the typical preparation of the starter and was the first off the ice, signaling he'll be between the pipes. Elliott is 6-5-0 with a 3.31 GAA and .888 save percentage in 13 lifetime matchups with Washington. Michal Neuvirth is 1-1-0 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in three games against his former team. He was strong against the Capitals in the 2016 playoffs.

• Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen suffered an upper-body injury Friday and was placed on long-term injured reserve.

Flyers-Islanders preseason game No. 5: Roster, highlights, live stream and more

Flyers-Islanders preseason game No. 5: Roster, highlights, live stream and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — Where else can the Flyers and Islanders play a preseason game?

The two Metropolitan Division opponents square off for the fourth time this preseason when they battle at PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In the past six days, the Flyers and Islanders have played in four different venues: Nassau Coliseum, Wells Fargo Center, Barclays Center and PPL Center.

Let the never-ending goalie drama commence. Michal Neuvirth, who was scheduled to play against the Islanders, was seen hunched over at the end of practice and stretching rather awkwardly. As Neuvirth stepped off the ice, he slammed his stick against his pad in apparent frustration. Trainer Jim McCrossin met with head coach Dave Hakstol and goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh shortly after evaluating Neuvirth, who will likely sit out as a precaution. Rookie Carter Hart will start if Neuvirth is officially ruled out.   

If injuries persist, is there a realistic chance that Hart starts his pro career with the Flyers? Head coach Dave Hakstol had this to say at morning skate:

We’re not going to skip any steps with Carter in making sure everything is done in the best long-term interest. He’s had a good, solid camp to now. You see some areas where he needs to improve and mature, yet that’s the case with any young player. I think he’s had a really good camp up until now and that’s a positive for him.

After trimming the roster to 41 on Thursday, the Flyers will dress 14 players with NHL experience — it’s the most experienced roster the Flyers have dressed this preseason. 

Although the Flyers haven’t officially made another round of cuts, eight additional players weren’t participating in Thursday’s afternoon practice. That group includes Phil Varone, Cole Bardreau, Danick Martel, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Greg Carey, Radel Fazleev, Pascal Laberge and T.J. Brennan.      

In a rare move, the Flyers will put two right-handed defensemen together as the team’s third pairing. Radko Gudas will work the left side with Mark Friedman on the right side. The last time Gudas recalls playing the left side was at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. One of Gudas' biggest adjustments will be the forehand pass to the middle of the ice. 

Here are the essentials for tonight:

When: 7 p.m.
Where: PPL Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Mikhail Vorobyev-Jakub Voracek
Carsen Twarynski-Jordan Weal-Michael Raffl
Taylor Leier-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere 
Robert Hägg-Phil Myers
Radko Gudas-Mark Friedman   

Goaltenders
Carter Hart
Anthony Stolarz

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German Rubtsov, Mike Vecchione among Flyers' 11 cuts

German Rubtsov, Mike Vecchione among Flyers' 11 cuts

As expected, the Flyers reduced their training camp roster by 11 players on Thursday.

After signing 18-year-old defenseman Yegor Zamula to an entry-level contract, the Flyers assigned him to his junior team, the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL.

Of the 10 players assigned to the Phantoms, five are forwards: Colin McDonald, David Kase, German Rubtsov, Mike Vecchione and Connor Bunnaman. Perhaps, the one surprise in this group is Rubtsov, who scored his first preseason goal against the Rangers Wednesday, and continued to impress the coaching staff with his strong two-way game and smart, responsible play with the puck.

However, the Flyers appear to be deep at the center position with Mikhail Vorobyev and Corban Knight also turning in solid performances throughout the week.

General manager Ron Hextall also sent down five defensemen: Reece Willcox, David Drake, Frank Hora, James de Haas and Zach Palmquist. No real surprises here as the Flyers continue to search for depth as they move closer to the regular season.  

The Flyers' roster has been trimmed down to 25 forwards and 11 defensemen with Philippe Myers, Mark Friedman and T.J. Brennan vying for one or two spots on the opening night roster, depending on Andrew MacDonald’s availability. 

The notable forwards still competing for a job include 2016 third-round pick Carsen Twarynski and 2014 second-round selection Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Oskar Lindblom, Vorobyev, Myers and Aube-Kubel are among the Flyers who will play Friday night against the Islanders at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Expect a good number of prospects to play in that exhibition game.

Here’s a look at the remaining roster:

Forwards (25)
Claude Giroux
Sean Couturier
Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton
Dale Weise
Jordan Weal
Travis Konecny
Wayne Simmonds
Taylor Leier
Michael Raffl
Jori Lehtera
Nolan Patrick
James van Riemsdyk
Oskar Lindblom
Tyrell Goulbourne
Phil Varone
Cole Bardreau
Danick Martel
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Greg Carey
Carsen Twarynski
Mikhail Vorobyev
Radel Fazleev
Pascal Laberge

Defensemen (11)
Ivan Provorov
Shayne Gostisbehere
Andrew MacDonald
Radko Gudas
Robert Hagg
Christian Folin
Travis Sanheim
Philippe Myers
T.J. Brennan
Mark Friedman
*Samuel Morin

Goaltenders (5)
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth
*Alex Lyon
Carter Hart
Anthony Stolarz

*Currently injured

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