Updated: 5:43 p.m.
If you’re not first, you’re last. That’s how the saying goes.
As far as the Flyers are concerned Monday, they don’t want to be first for the last.
The winless Arizona Coyotes, who feature former Flyers Luke Schenn, Nick Cousins and Zac Rinaldo and are coached by former Flyer Rick Tocchet, come into South Philly sporting an 0-10-1 record through the first four weeks of the season.
That’s an 11-game winless stretch to start off a new season.
But that creates a dangerous scenario for the Flyers, who will be encountering a desperate team. And the Flyers don’t want the egg on their face of being the first victim of a team with an NHL-worst minus-22 goal differential.
“It’s a dangerous game where we can’t take them lightly,” Sean Couturier said. “They’re a better team than what their record actually shows. They have some pretty good skills up front and some young legs that skate pretty well. We’re going to have to be ready to skate and compete tonight.”
Couturier is right. The Coyotes, despite their miserable record, do have plenty of talent.
Max Domi and Anthony DuClair are young stars in the making. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is as good a defenseman as there is in the league. Derek Stepan has long been a thorn in the Flyers’ side from his Rangers days (nine goals and 22 assists for 31 points in 33 games against the Flyers. The 31 points are the most he’s recorded vs. any team.). And Clayton Keller is the early season Calder Trophy favorite for rookie of the year.
The Coyotes are going to win eventually. They almost did Saturday night in New Jersey before falling, 4-3. The Flyers just don’t want it at their expense.
“They’re a desperate hockey team and they’ve been playing some pretty good hockey as of late,” Travis Sanheim said. “The results haven’t been there. But we’re going to have a good challenge. I think they’re a competitive team.”
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol on Monday morning wasn’t in the mood to talk about the Coyotes’ struggles. He was more focused on fixing the inconsistencies of his own team, which is coming off a solid 4-2 victory in Toronto on Saturday, but lost its previous two games while giving up 11 goals.
“We’ve got to really prepare to take advantage of opportunities,” Hakstol said. “Every team presents different challenges. The team we’re facing tonight deserved a better fate in its last few games.
“We’ve got our own things we’re focusing on. Like I said to the team, we have our own things we need to and want to improve on.”
Not falling to a winless team would be a good first step there.
Samuel Morin wasn’t present at Monday’s morning skate and GM Ron Hextall solved the mystery for reporters afterward.
Morin is dealing with a nagging injury and Hextall did not expect the young defenseman to suit up against the Coyotes.
“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Hextall said of Morin, who was called up from Lehigh Valley on Sunday evening. “The intent was to call him up. If he can’t play, we’ll call another defenseman up.”
Defenseman Mark Alt was later called up from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and is expected in the lineup.
Both Shayne Gostisbehere and Nolan Patrick will miss tonight’s game as they continue to nurse their respective upper-body injuries.
Gostisbehere was injured after absorbing a hit in the second period of the win in Toronto on Saturday. Patrick was injured when his head smacked against the glass after taking a check last Tuesday vs. Anaheim.
Hextall said both are considered day to day.
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