Flyers making right move with Mikhail Vorobyev … for now

Flyers making right move with Mikhail Vorobyev … for now

This wasn't one of those times Dave Hakstol benches a young player for no particular reason and Flyers fans throw fits on social media.

In actuality, fans were somewhat receptive to Hakstol's decision to healthy scratch Mikhail Vorobyev Thursday night for Corban Knight … as long as it's for the short term.

Vorobyev knocked the Flyers' door down in training camp and won the competition as the third-line center. He was impressive in his NHL debut, scored his first goal in his second game but hasn't made much noise since. He's been ineffective in his past three games.

"I wouldn't say concerned. I think what he's going through right now is fairly normal but you've got to be better," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "He played six really good preseason games. He played two, what I thought, really good games and three out of four he hasn’t been very good. It’s not good enough. An established player, you live with stuff like that because you know what he can do.”

Sitting Vorobyev down for a couple of games isn't such a bad idea, but it will get interesting what the Flyers do with Vorobyev once Nolan Patrick returns from his "upper-body" injury, which could be as early as Saturday afternoon against the Devils.

With Patrick's return looming, the Flyers' forward depth doesn't look like a mirage anymore. They're still without James van Riemsdyk.

When Patrick returns and with Knight healthy, the Flyers' depth down the middle will be strong again, at least in numbers, but it also means lineup changes are coming.

Currently, the Flyers are carrying 14 forwards with JVR on injured reserve but 13 healthy forwards. At some point in time, Michal Neuvirth will be healthy again. It's unlikely the Flyers carry three goalies, so Calvin Pickard likely will be on the move once Neuvirth returns. If Knight remains, then a forward will have to be on the move. The Flyers did waive Dale Weise before the season, so he could be an option.

While there remains a chance Vorobyev could be sent back to Lehigh Valley, it doesn't seem likely. Vorobyev made the team and a six-game sample size will not be enough for Hextall to send him back down to the AHL.

By all indications, Hextall will allow Vorobyev the opportunity to prove himself worthy of sticking around, but the GM did leave the door open, however slightly, for a scenario in which Vorobyev ends up back with the Phantoms.

Misha has to show us that he can do it. He's got to be better, and sometimes when guys sit out — first of all, he can let his breath out. It's a lot for a young player. He comes from Russia, playing 50-60 games and all of a sudden you go to the American League and you play 76 and a couple rounds in the playoffs, it's a lot of hockey.

Now, all of a sudden, you step up a level, everything's faster and stronger, more competitive. Points mean a lot, and it's a lot. He hit a little bit of a wall and he needs to get through it.

At the very least, Thursday's healthy scratch was a message well sent by Hakstol to Vorobyev. He may be out again Saturday; we won't know until warmups. It doesn't hurt to remind Vorobyev that his spot isn't guaranteed, that he has to work on the little details to get back to the player he was in the preseason and out West.

Whether we agreed with the benchings at the time or not, it's hard to argue against this coaching tactic. Hakstol has previously sat Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, and in the long game, it worked.

Ultimately, Vorobyev should be playing … somewhere. If he doesn't work hard enough to get back in the lineup up here, then the Flyers will have no choice to send him back to Lehigh Valley.

The Flyers have a lot of problems right now, mainly team defense and goaltending. A bottom-six rookie center sitting is nowhere near the top of the mountain.

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Flyers vs. Lightning: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Lightning: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The hottest team in hockey will finally host the team that hasn’t turned down the heat all season.

With an NHL best 12-2-1 record since Jan. 12, the Flyers (28-24-7, 63 pts.) will continue their frenzied push for a playoff spot as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (45-11-4, 94 pts.) for the final time this season.

The Flyers will look to avoid their first season sweep against the Lightning since the 2013-14 season.

Let's take a look at tonight's essentials: 

• When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. 
• Where: Wells Fargo Center
• Broadcast: NBCSP
• Live stream: and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers recalled goaltender Brian Elliott from his conditioning loan with the Phantoms and have activated him from injured reserve to the active roster (see story). Elliott will back up Carter Hart for tonight’s game against the Lightning.

Hart will be the fourth different Flyers goaltender the Lightning have faced in their last four meetings with Michal Neuvirth, Cal Pickard and Petr Mrazek as the others. 

After a 2-4-1 start to his career, Hart is 11-2-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage over his last 13 appearances. 

• Tonight’s matchup is the 100th meeting between the Flyers and Lightning with the Flyers owning a 47-37-8-7 advantage.

In the first matchup at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 17, the Lightning became the sixth team in league history to cough up a four-goal lead in the third period before winning 6-5 in overtime. Ironically, the Flyers matched that same dubious feat when they lost a 5-1 lead to the Red Wings on Saturday before Travis Konecny pulled through with the game-winner in overtime.

In the Dec. 27 rematch at Amalie Arena, the Flyers battled back from a three-goal deficit in the third period, tying the game before Tampa Bay won it again in the OT period.  

• The speed of Lightning has been blinding so far this season. Tampa Bay needed just 58 games to reach the 90-point plateau. Only eight teams in NHL history have topped 90 points prior to their 60th regular-season game.

It’s a good test. If we find a way to squeak into the playoffs it’s a possible matchup for us. We’re excited about this game. The games we’ve played against them have been fun to play. I don’t see why tonight won’t be fun.

-Claude Giroux

Would you believe the 1979-80 Flyers hold the record? Pat Quinn’s team ripped off a 35-game unbeaten streak and started that season with a 39-4-13 mark for 91 points in their first 56 games.

• Tampa Bay is also the first team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins to have three 70-point scorers before the 60-game mark of the season. 

Remarkably, the NHL’s leading scorer and Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov is on pace to finish with a whopping 135 points. Even if Kucherov finishes with 101 points, he will have increased his point total every season since entering the league in 2013-14.

Kucherov comes to Philadelphia on a five-game point streak with seven goals and 11 assists, an average of 3.6 points per game.

Projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jake Voracek
Scott Laughton-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Phil Varone-Justin Bailey

Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hägg-Radko Gudas

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brian Elliott will be back in a Flyers sweater for the first time since Nov. 15. 

The 33-year-old goaltender was recalled Tuesday from his conditioning assignment with the Phantoms and is expected to back up Carter Hart for Tuesday’s game against the Lightning.

It will be interesting to see what Elliott’s future in Philadelphia is for the remainder of this season with the addition of Cam Talbot, who wasn’t with his new team for Wednesday’s morning skate in Voorhees.

Elliott could be traded to a contending team with no roster restrictions after the Feb. 25 deadline, although NHL teams still have to be compliant with the salary cap.

Once again, the Flyers have three goaltenders on the active roster with Hart, Elliott and Mike McKenna. McKenna could be placed on waivers as soon as Talbot is cleared to join the team.

Elliott played admirably in his 14 games prior to his injury with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. However, his 6-7-0 record doesn’t reflect that. He appeared in two games for the Phantoms over the weekend.

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