Flyers

Flyers left scratching their heads after Jakub Voracek's 2-game suspension for interference on Johnny Boychuk

Flyers left scratching their heads after Jakub Voracek's 2-game suspension for interference on Johnny Boychuk

VOORHEES, N.J. — If you were left scratching your head (or maybe doing something worse) when the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Jakub Voracek's two-game suspension Sunday night, you weren't alone.

The Flyers, ultimately trying to deal with it but also comprehend it, seemed just as puzzled by the league's action.

They've witnessed Kurtis Gabriel ram a defenseless Nolan Patrick face first into the boards and watched Evgeni Malkin recklessly whip his stick near Michael Raffl's head.

And they've seen both Gabriel and Malkin receive one-game suspensions.

"Those are definitely the ones that you're kind of thinking about, especially since we're directly in those games, so you see it firsthand and it leaves you scratching your head a little bit," James van Riemsdyk said Monday after morning skate. "But ultimately it's a tough job for the player safety department to try to go through all that, it's a thankless job because you're always going to have one team that's upset with how things go, but certainly in this situation, I definitely feel we may have a pretty decent case for feeling the way we do."

Everyone knows the play by now (see story).

With the Flyers holding a comfortable four-goal lead 5:41 into the third period of Saturday night's 5-2 win over the Islanders, Voracek braced himself for a hit from Johnny Boychuk by throwing some weight back toward the New York defenseman.

Boychuk seemed surprised by Voracek's awareness and ended up down on the ice, never returning to the game. As he exited, he angrily pointed at Voracek and had words for the Flyers' winger (see story).

Without Voracek Monday night against the Senators, Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon will once again roll with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.

Gordon said he was "disappointed" with the two-game suspension.

Big picture of things, I think the hit on [Patrick] was a lot more severe, more intention than what Jake was trying to do. I think Jake was trying to protect himself, guy is sprinting down the boards, has no intention of slowing down, sees Jake in front of him and never slows down. Jake's not just going to stand there and absorb the hit. 

As it was, he started above the top of the hash mark and by the time the contact was done, he ended up below the hash mark, so I don't think there was a lot of force on Jake's end of it as much as the force of Boychuk going into Jake, pushing him back the other way. Jake's a lighter man, he probably would have received the worst part of the hit.

How Boychuk falls and what the actual injuries are, I don't know. ... He obviously was alert enough to yell at Jake as he was going off the ice, so I don't know if he had a concussion or not, he very well could have. I think it was more how he landed and maybe not expecting that Jake was going to be as firm on his feet as he was.

Sean Couturier admitted he was a little surprised by the two-game suspension.

Not only are the Flyers losing their third-leading scorer while five points out of a playoff spot with 14 games remaining, but there's growing confusion over what's allowed and not allowed on the ice.

"I don't know if it's just really against us. I guess all you want is maybe a little more consistency," Couturier said. "I think everyone wants that. Sometimes we're on the good side, sometimes we're on the bad side."

As for this specific incident …

"Those plays happen all the time," Couturier said. "Me, personally, I like to use my back to protect myself and brace for the hit and create separation from the player to the puck. Maybe it was just a misjudged play off the rim there, but I feel those plays happen often.

"There are starting to be a lot of questions surrounding hits, the way you protect yourself, the way you hit. I'm not going to change the way I play, those types of plays happen sometimes. It's a part of the game.

"It sucks to see someone hurt, but it's a part of the game."

According to a report by Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post, the NHLPA has filed an appeal for Voracek's suspension. Per a report by Sportsnet's Chris Johnston, the appeal will be heard Tuesday afternoon by the NHL. Still, a player can't play during the process of an appeal.

Voracek did not take part in Monday's morning skate, therefore he was unavailable for comment.

The Flyers must move forward for now.

"I guess all we can ask for as players is consistency with all this stuff," van Riemsdyk said. "That's all we can hope for, if that's the standard, then hopefully they withhold it for everything."

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Flyers sign prospect Linus Hogberg to entry-level contract

Flyers sign prospect Linus Hogberg to entry-level contract

One down, a few more to go?

The Flyers on Saturday signed prospect Linus Hogberg to an entry-level contract. The rights to Hogberg would have expired Monday if the Flyers didn't ink the 2016 fifth-round pick.

During 2019-20, Hogberg, a 21-year-old Swedish defenseman, had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) through 50 games with the Vaxjo Lakers playing against men in the SHL. The 6-foot-1, 176-pounder is regarded as a strong skater and intelligent passer.

Hogberg will start the 2020-21 season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms are gaining on the blue line with prospects Egor Zamula and Wyatte Wylie turning pro, as well.

(Joe Siville/Philadelphia Flyers)

Lehigh Valley could be gaining more with Wyatt Kalynuk and David Bernhardt, who remain unsigned. Bernhardt, another Swedish defenseman, needs to be signed by Monday or his rights will expire. It's uncertain if the Flyers will ink the 2016 seventh-round pick.

It appears Kalynuk has decided to forgo his senior season at Wisconsin as he plans to turn pro in 2020-21.

Kalynuk is an offensive-minded defenseman who has developed a ton with the Badgers. His rights were set to expire next summer. Now that he is leaving Wisconsin, it would be surprising if he's not signed soon by the Flyers.

"Philly has had lots of people here and been very instrumental in his growth as a player," Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato said. "I think when they drafted him, they recognized out of the gate that this guy could be a big part of their organization moving forward. They’ve been hands on, they’ve been here a lot, they’ve done it respectfully in a way that they’ve helped him a ton in preparing to get ready for the next step.”

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2020 NHL playoffs: Without fans, will Stanley Cup Playoff games lose authenticity?

2020 NHL playoffs: Without fans, will Stanley Cup Playoff games lose authenticity?

Hockey has been on the mind all week and even the simple discussion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs has excited fans for the return of their favorite sport — even if things are going to look different this time around. 

While the majority of new rules and procedures were laid out Tuesday thanks to commissioner Gary Bettman, there is still a lot of unknown territory. This format has never been done before, but having a plan in place is the first step to turning concepts into something tangible. 

One of the biggest changes won’t be the additional eight teams, the hub city locations or the fact the NHL has the potential to run into the late summer months, but rather the element — or lack thereof — of fan attendance. 

The safety of fans and players is without a doubt the biggest priority and as we adapt to the “new norm” for the foreseeable future, this is just one of the many things that will have to be endured. 

On the surface, it stinks. Surprisingly enough, you’re allowed to feel this way while also being excited for the hopeful return of the league and games. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are some of the most thrilling weeks in all of sports and a large portion of that is due to the atmosphere created by the fans rallying behind their favorite teams.

So without them in attendance, will games lose their authenticity and lower the overall level of interest? 

Absolutely not. 

Fans have been craving the moment they would have live sports to look forward to and even if that means they can’t physically be in the stands, it doesn’t take away the level of devotion they have.

Of course it will be different — there’s no denying that, but someone rightfully needs to be awarded the Stanley Cup for 2019-20. There are a handful of options to help fill the void, such as playing fan reaction videos on the arena vision screens during thrilling moments of a game. Hearing the “crowd” through the screen would certainly add a level of normalcy, though it wouldn’t fully replicate the atmosphere. 

There are new moments that fans could look forward to in regard to this as well — the sights and sounds that are often coated within cheers or boos. A crisp stop on skates, receiving a puck, solid check along the boards, chirps from one team to another and the celebrations following a goal. 

Also, if things are too quiet, there is a chance to get a look into life on the bench with the players. Hearing teammates interact with one another is always enjoyable when they are mic’d up for games, so imagine having that for a full 60 minutes? It’d be new for everyone, but what a fun concept it would be. 

This is a prime opportunity to view things glass half full, rather than finding negative aspects to this plan. There are still many moving parts before playoffs become a reality once again, but if things are truly done in a safe manner — I say make the most of the situation at hand and drop that puck. 

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