Flyers

Flyers' lineup could look a whole lot different as Capitals come to town

Flyers' lineup could look a whole lot different as Capitals come to town

VOORHEES, N.J. — With the defending Stanley Cup champions coming to the Wells Fargo Center for the first time, the Flyers are suddenly dealing with a whole other set of issues they haven’t experienced this season.

Perhaps for the first time the Flyers could be without two of their top six forwards. 

Nolan Patrick missed Tuesday’s practice after taking a shot to the back of the head in the first period of last Sunday’s game against the Islanders and Jakub Voracek (lower-body injury) will be reevaluated Wednesday but has already been ruled out for the game against the Capitals. 

Voracek has been playing some of his best hockey, at least offensively, with nine points in his last four games, while helping solidify the team’s second line with Sean Couturier and Oskar Lindblom.

Patrick hasn’t been ruled out after skating in a separate group with injured goaltenders Carter Hart and Michal Neuvirth. The Flyers' center will be reevaluated after the morning skate Wednesday.

“Practice today was kind of weird missing a lot of players,” Claude Giroux said. “We know the position we’re in right now. These two points [Wednesday] are going to be huge for us. We need to find chemistry and find it fast.”

Finding chemistry wasn’t much of an issue Sunday against the Islanders. After losing Patrick just five minutes into the game, the Flyers responded with two first-period goals with interim head coach Scott Gordon mixing and matching his lines with just 10 forwards.

“Guys have to step up and play more minutes,” Scott Laughton said. “It’s a good challenge for a lot of our guys and to step up into a role you’re not necessarily thrown into in a normal game.”

Such was the case Sunday for Corban Knight, playing in just his fourth game back from injury, who was called upon to play over 17 minutes, the most ice time he had ever seen in an NHL game, which could be a similar situation once again if Patrick can’t play Wednesday.

In that event, Gordon will go with his combination of 11 forwards and seven defensemen for a fourth time this season. The Flyers are 3-0-0 in those games in which Gordon has used the extra defenseman. 

“It keeps [Andrew MacDonald] in the mix because at some point you've got to keep everybody involved, because there are going to be injuries, so I think that’s a better option for us,” Gordon said. “If everybody’s in the right position, it shouldn’t matter who’s on the ice.”

Under Gordon recently, learning to play with anyone at any time has been a big key for the Flyers, now 16-3-2 since Jan. 14. That’s why line combinations have become almost meaningless at times as forwards have adapted to taking shifts with teammates with little or no practice time together.

“I showed the guys this morning a clip from the third period [Sunday] where all three forwards change one at a time and throughout that we maintained our neutral-zone forecheck,” Gordon said. “Part of that recognition is that we don’t want to change wholesale. We want to make sure we’re changing one at a time in the right situation.” 

It’s a go-with-the-flow mentality, and right now, there’s a lot of flow to the Flyers' system.

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Sorry NHL trade buzz, sorry Flyers' playoff push — Oskar Lindblom's smile wins the day

Sorry NHL trade buzz, sorry Flyers' playoff push — Oskar Lindblom's smile wins the day

All the trade fodder and debate took a backseat.

Gaining ground in the playoff race and smelling first place felt inconsequential.

Quite frankly, nothing compares to Oskar Lindblom's smile.

Just ask the Flyers.

“Oh, it’s awesome. His smile, you know, he’s just a great guy to have around — he brightens your day," Justin Braun said. "The fact that he’s doing well and he’s able to come to the rink and see the boys is just fantastic.”

Lindblom, the Flyers’ 23-year-old forward who is battling Ewing’s sarcoma, surprised the team Saturday by greeting it after a 4-2 win over the Jets at the Wells Fargo Center.

Lindblom visited the entire team and staff in early-to-mid January, when he had begun his cancer treatment.

Once again Saturday, the Swedish native's vibrant smile uplifted everyone. It always does.

“Really good, really good to see him," Scott Laughton said, trying to put his emotions into words. "Just really good to see him.”

"It’s great to see him, I haven’t seen him in a couple weeks," Carter Hart added. "I'm sure he was happy to come to the rink and see the boys. All of us are happy to see him and he’s looking great."

The Flyers had a lot to be happy about Saturday. They strengthened their playoff chances, crept to within three points of the Penguins and Capitals in the Metropolitan Division race and general manager Chuck Fletcher watched his team further cement its status as a contender ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline (see observations).

But head coach Alain Vigneault's first postgame comments were about Lindblom.

“He was smiling," Vigneault said. "Great smile, looked beautiful.

“Makes everybody feel good. There’s no doubt that we’re all behind him, his teammates are obviously checking up on him on a regular basis and so is the whole staff.

"But to see him live, it’s just beautiful.”

For the the Flyers, it doesn't get better than that.

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Ahead of NHL trade deadline, Flyers give general manager Chuck Fletcher another win

Ahead of NHL trade deadline, Flyers give general manager Chuck Fletcher another win

BOX SCORE

The Flyers gave their general manager one more quality show before Monday's 3 p.m. ET NHL trade deadline.

Chuck Fletcher watched his club beat the Jets, 4-2, Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers (35-20-7), who won their third straight, came into the action with a 79.6 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com. They sit in third place of the Metropolitan Division and are only three points back of the Penguins and Capitals (see standings).

Game 62 is the quickest the Flyers have recorded 35 wins since 2010-11, when the club got there at Game 53. The Flyers finished with 47 wins, 106 points and a playoff series victory that season.

The Jets (32-26-5), who entered holding the Western Conference's first wild-card spot, had their three-game winning streak snapped.

• Saturday marked the Flyers' final outing ahead of the trading period.

Alain Vigneault's club is looking more and more like a contender. The Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals since Jan. 8. Over that stretch, only two teams have more points than their 27 — the Lightning (31) and Bruins (29). Overall, they're a top-seven team in the league.

Does the Flyers' standing give Fletcher more incentive to add to his roster? Or do the Flyers have enough to make a run?

“I like my team," Vigneault said before the game. "And for me, this is no different as any other day during the regular season. I know that Chuck looks at any option that can improve our team, he’s been doing that since the first day that I was hired. Now we’re into the final stretch. If there’s something that he feels can improve our team, he’ll definitely look at it. But I’m very happy moving forward with the players that we have here.”

Does Vigneault have a voice in the matters?

“I’ve got a nice French voice," the head coach said with a laugh. "So I’ll throw my two cents in there, it’ll be fine.”

• The Flyers didn't play their best game, but good teams win when they're not at their best.

They did enough and a solid first period made up for a subpar second period in which the Flyers were outshot 15-4.

• For all the talk about the Flyers needing to add depth at forward, Scott Laughton has given the club plenty of it.

He scored a pair of goals to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead at first intermission. In 40 fewer games this season, Laughton has matched his career of 12 goals set in 2018-19.

If the Flyers get Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) back or acquire a center at the deadline, Laughton would likely be pegged as the team's fourth-line center. Not bad at all.

Tyler Pitlick, another depth piece, scored a clutch third-period goal to extend the Flyers' lead to 4-2. Sean Couturier was the Flyers' other goal scorer. The team's role guys continued to play well.

• Flyers defensemen Ivan Provorov, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun and Robert Hagg were very good against a big, skilled offensive team.

Braun finished with three assists.

• Carter Hart gave up a power play blast off the stick of Patrik Laine and a goal to Josh Morrissey.

Outside of that, he was stout again, improving to 16-2-2 with a 1.64 goals-against average at home.

He's a huge reason why the Flyers are 21-5-4 with a plus-45 goal differential in 30 home games.

• Shayne Gostisbehere (left knee) will wrap up his two-game conditioning stint tonight with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

Vigneault said pregame that he expects Gostisbehere to return to the big club Sunday. The Flyers will have decisions to make heading into Monday (see story).

• Stick tap to Flyers director of sports medicine Jim McCrossin.

• The team is off from practice Sunday as the Flyers Wives Carnival will be held at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers practice Monday at 11:30 a.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, before hosting the Sharks Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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