Flyers

Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Hello, Shayne Gostisbehere

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Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Hello, Shayne Gostisbehere

VOORHEES, N.J. — With 13 points, Shayne Gostisbehere is tied for the NHL lead among all defensemen.
 
And he's even missed the last three games recovering from an upper-body injury.
 
That goes to show the impact he makes on the Flyers when healthy and himself, which he appears to be again ahead of Saturday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia).
 
Gostisbehere took full part in the morning skate and sounds ready to rejoin the Flyers' lineup. However, he is considered a game-time decision, according to head coach Dave Hakstol. The Flyers will dress seven defensemen during pregame warmups and then make a decision on the six to play.
 
Barring some unforeseen setback, though, expect to see Gostisbehere's return.
 
"I'm good," Gostisbehere said. "I feel great.
 
"I believe it's going to be a game-time sort of thing. I feel like I'm ready and we'll see where it's at."
 
If Gostisbehere does play, Hakstol didn't believe he would have to strictly watch the blueliner's minutes. The 24-year-old has been out with an upper-body injury after he was boarded by Maple Leafs center Leo Komarov last Saturday in Toronto.
 
Since then, the Flyers have scored just five goals in three games, including an overtime loss to the NHL-worst Coyotes and a shutout to the Blackhawks. The power play, which Gostisbehere dynamically quarterbacks, is 1 for 6 without him. And despite the defense's gritty effort Thursday in St. Louis, resulting in a 2-0 win over the red-hot Blues, the Flyers desperately need Gostisbehere's presence.
 
Not only for his offense and improved defensive approach, but also for the experience in just his third season. The Flyers suited up four rookies Thursday because of injuries decimating the blue line. With Andrew MacDonald (injured reserve, lower body) and Radko Gudas (day to day, upper body) out, Gostisbehere suddenly becomes the Flyers' defenseman with the most NHL games under his belt at 153, a few more than Brandon Manning's 151.
 
Now, the Flyers should have a critical piece back — baby steps to getting healthy again.
 
Injury updates
Gudas did not partake in the morning skate and it looks like he'll miss his second straight game.
 
Rookie center Nolan Patrick, on the other hand, participated, albeit in a yellow jersey while the rest of the team did so in the usual orange and black practice getups. Patrick, out since Oct. 26 with an upper-body injury and now on IR, did not do much during the skate and departed before it finished.
 
Get the Weal rollin'
Forward Jordan Weal, a true rink rat, was one of the last off the ice, as usual.
 
He prides himself on preparation.
 
"It's the mindset of making sure everything is fine-tuned for when you get to the game, the little plays that you need to make out there, making sure coming off the wall, taking pucks off the boards, that you're feeling comfortable with everything," Weal said. "I've been doing that for a long time. I guess it's a part of the DNA, as well, because I think the more time you put into something, it becomes habit, you don't have to think about it as much. When you don't have to think about the little things out there as much, you can worry about making plays and creating chances for yourself and your line."
 
His line now consists of Jori Lehtera and Dale Weise, the team's third unit.
 
Weal likes the group and will be counted on to make plays.
 
"Both big bodies, both guys that have had a lot of success in the NHL," Weal said. "We're really moving our feet together well and creating chances and opportunities for ourselves. That's what we've got to do."
 
After putting up four points in his first five games, Weal has only one in the past seven. His secondary scoring is important to the Flyers. If he can get things going alongside Lehtera and Weise, two players that have been healthy scratches this season, the Flyers will take it.
 
Quotables
"I knew playing with him down there, I think our whole D core, we had such a good D core that I don't even know if you could tell who was the first pairing and the third pairing, that's just how deep we were. I think anyone could have easily been up here or got called up. I'm not surprised at all that he's up here and doing well."
 
- Travis Sanheim on Mark Alt, teammates at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season
 
"He's got the scoring touch, he's always had it. The puck is just going in for him now. He's a really smart player, so he's good at finding ways to get open, finding the open area … make sure you don't tell him I said he's smart."
 
- Claude Giroux on Sean Couturier

"It's amazing some of the things that he's able to do at that young of an age, yet he's wired in that way."
 
- Hakstol on 20-year-old Ivan Provorov
 
Here is the projected lineup for the Flyers:
 
Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Jordan Weal-Jori Lehtera-Dale Weise
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl
 
Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere 
Travis Sanheim-Mark Alt
 
Goalies
Michal Neuvirth
Brian Elliott
 
Scratches: Forward Matt Read (healthy), and defensemen Radko Gudas (upper body) and Will O'Neill (healthy).

Blackhawks expect Joel Quenneville to coach next season

Blackhawks expect Joel Quenneville to coach next season

It won’t be long before Joel Quenneville is trending on Twitter, and not just in Philadelphia.

Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios was in Chicago for Thursday night’s Flyers-Blackhawks game, but it was his appearance earlier in the week on WGN Morning News where he opened up about the 60-year-old head coach.

Chelios is hoping the Maple Leafs get bounced in the first round of the playoffs, and with that, the organization elects to part ways with Mike Babcock, currently the league’s highest-paid coach after signing an eight-year, $50 million contract in the summer of 2015. 

Chelios and others in Chicago see growing tension between Babcock and the Leafs organization, and the former Blackhawks defenseman prefers to see Quenneville land in Toronto or with the future expansion team in Seattle that doesn’t start play until the 2021-22 season.

Unquestionably, Babcock’s style can wear on players, and with the probability of facing the Boston Bruins again in the first round, Babcock and the Leafs are looking at the possibility of another first-round exit. 

As for Quenneville, even his former players believe the three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach is ready to jump at another chance, whether that’s in Philadelphia or somewhere else.

“It would be pretty weird if he’s coaching somewhere else next season and not with the Blackhawks,” Patrick Kane said. “I think we all know that Joel has a big passion for hockey and a fire and a desire to win. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s coaching somewhere else next season.”

“I would be surprised if he’s not coaching,” Duncan Keith. “He never really changed [this season]. I think it’s just that competitive nature inside him. That’s what made him a great coach. The competition of winning games. There’s never anybody who loves winning more than him.”

Even Quenneville recently admitted during his first television interview since his firing, “There’s an appetite to get back into the game.” Quenneville spoke to Chicago’s WGN-TV on St. Patrick’s Day and said that he’s in “no hurry right now” to accept a head coaching position while also adding, “We’ll see how things transpire in the offseason. We’ll have to think about it, and we’ll see.”

Several Blackhawks insiders believe Quenneville’s relationship with the general manager and input regarding personnel decisions will go a long way toward determining where he eventually coaches again, pointing to the trades of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and forward Artemi Panarin, which created organizational strife the past few years in Chicago, and eventually led to Quenneville’s firing in early November.

There could be as many as nine teams looking for a permanent head coach heading into the 2019-20 season.

Quenneville admitted he still watches a lot of NHL games, but not as many Blackhawks games.

Perhaps he’s evaluating what he sees on the ice and which organization might be a good fit.

When it comes to the Flyers, there’s a lot to like.

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More on the Flyers

NHL playoff picture: Flyers still knocking on the door

NHL playoff picture: Flyers still knocking on the door

The Flyers aren’t riding on the rims just yet. They pumped a little air in their tires Thursday night after completing a season sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite earning two points, the Flyers actually gained a point on the second wild-card team as the Canadiens leapfrogged the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have lost three straight games.

Wild-card standings

Carolina: 40-26-7, 87 pts, 9 GR
Montreal: 39-28-7, 85 pts, 8 GR
———
Columbus: 40-30-4, 84 pts, 8 GR
Philadelphia: 35-29-8, 80 pts, 8 GR

Thursday’s games

PHI: W 3-1 at Chicago
CAR: L 6-3 vs. Tampa Bay
MTL: W 4-0 vs. NY Islanders
CBJ: L 4-1 at Edmonton

• James van Riemsdyk continued his red-hot play with the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift the Flyers over the Blackhawks. Van Riemsdyk is tied with Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl with the most goals (20) in the NHL since Jan. 7. It was also his fourth game-winner over that span.

• The storm surge in Carolina was the Lightning’s high-powered offense as Tampa Bay scored four unanswered third-period goals. Forward Nikita Kucherov became the first player since Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby in 2006-07 to top 120 points in a single season.

• Goaltender Carey Price stopped all 28 Islanders shots for his 44th career shutout while former Flyer Jordan Weal added a goal and an assist as the Canadiens blanked the Islanders. Montreal now sits in the playoff driver’s seat.

• The Oilers broke open a 1-1 game in the third period with three unanswered goals as the NHL’s hottest player, Draisaitl, continued his torrid pace with his 300th career point, adding three assists.

What are the odds?

According to Sports Club Stats, the Flyers saw a slight climb in their playoff percentage up to 1.6 percent. The closer they inch to Montreal, the greater that number will jump as the Canadiens moved up 20 percentage points after overtaking Columbus in the standings.

The website Money Puck has the Flyers' odds at 1.7 percent.

What lies ahead?

The Flyers have the first of two weekend back-to-backs as they host the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon, looking to beat the Isles for the third time this month, with another meeting against the Washington Capitals Sunday afternoon in D.C.

The Canadiens have a back-to-back as well, hosting the Sabres Saturday with a game at Carolina on Sunday.

On the verge of being swept, the Blue Jackets can’t wait to wrap up their Western Canadian road swing with two full days off between games.

Strength of schedule

According to PlayoffStatus.com, with eight games remaining, the Flyers' schedule isn’t nearly as grinding. The Flyers now have the 13th-toughest schedule but will play five games over the final nine days in March.

Blue Jackets: 9th
Canadiens: 10th
Hurricanes: 21st

Interestingly, the Flyers can pull within a tie of the Blue Jackets with a weekend sweep of the Islanders and Capitals before the Jackets' next game in Vancouver Sunday night.

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