Flyers

Flyers Notes: MacDonald's injury putting Flyers in tough spot

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Flyers Notes: MacDonald's injury putting Flyers in tough spot

TORONTO — This can’t be the Andrew MacDonald effect, can it?

Eleven goals surrendered over the past two games.

Prior to MacDonald’s injury, head coach Dave Hakstol had his defense pairings configured to specifications. Ivan Provorov with MacDonald, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg along with Travis Sanheim and Brandon Manning splitting time with Radko Gudas.

Whether it's MacDonald's absence or just poor play, something has gone awry. Ever since Tuesday’s game against the Ducks, Hakstol has been furiously trying to find the right combinations so the Flyers can resume normalcy on their blue line.

“As soon as Mac goes out, jumble, jumble” general manager Ron Hextall said. “We always go through preseason trying to figure out what our lines are and what our defense pairings are, and it’s hard. It’s hard, you only have eight games, and you don’t get a great feel. Two games ago, we didn’t have a very good game. Was it your pairs or was it one of those games? 

“You hope we correct it right away, and guys get familiar with each other, but a lot of these guys haven’t played together much and that’s the reality. There’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no excuses, that’s for damn sure, but Thursday night toward the end, they looked like they felt comfortable together so we’ll see.”  

One of the biggest changes that came out of Thursday’s game in Ottawa was the Provorov-Gostisbehere pairing, where the two players switched sides periodically to take advantage of their offensive instincts and awareness.

“I think Ghost and I see the game similar, definitely on the offensive side,” Provorov said. “It was easy to play with the puck to do all those switches and passes, finding each other in the neutral zone and in the offensive zone. We’ll try and continue to get better and see what happens.”  

Losing the shield
For tonight’s game in Toronto, Wayne Simmonds will finally ditch the extended face shield that has protected the lower part of his face, most notably his dental work after losing teeth after taking a stick to the face in a game against the Predators. Simmonds says breathing had been an issue and the shield has a tendency to fog up, which has impaired his vision when looking down at the puck. 

Simmonds is hoping it will improve his concentration and focus as the Flyers' second line was arguably one of the team’s worst in Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Senators in Ottawa. 

“We’ve got to be better,” Simmonds said. “I think over the past few games, (Jordan) Weal was out for a couple and he got back in and our chemistry was a little bit off. We just got to find a way to get it back. We’ve got to figure it out quick.”

No suspension for Gudas
As expected, the NHL did not hand down supplemental discipline Friday against Gudas for his check on Ottawa defenseman Chris Wideman. Gudas was slapped with a five-minute major for charging, and with that, a 10-minute misconduct for a hit that appeared to be rather routine.

“Radko hits hard. He hits as hard as anybody in the league,” Hextall said. “His hits are impact hits. If one of our other 17 skaters makes that hit (Thursday) night nothing comes of it. Exact same hit, exact same body position, everything. It’s just that Radko is so strong that his hits make an impact, and at times, it’s not fair.” 

Knowing Babcock
A typical Maple Leafs practice day doesn’t usually make headlines within the Toronto media, but Friday’s intense but abbreviated workout was unusual coming off a lethargic 6-3 loss Thursday night to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite the Leafs' 7-3-0 record, Babcock put his team through an intense, hard-skating 24-minute session and then ordered every player off the ice in a move to help them conserve their energy for tonight’s game against the Flyers. No Flyer is more familiar with Babcock’s motivations than center Valtteri Filppula, a 2002 third-round pick who played in Detroit under Babcock from 2005-13.

“I think he’s really good with details,” Filppula said. “He gets the guys to play the system really well. Obviously, he’s had some good players too, and you always need that to be a good coach, but I think he prepares the team really well and I think that’s his strongest suit.”

Projected lines & pairings
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Filppula-Simmonds
Matt Read-Jori Lehtera-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Provorov-Gostisbehere
Sanheim-Gudas
Manning-Hagg

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth 

Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

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Full breakdown of Flyers' 2018-19 schedule

The NHL released the 2018-19 82-game regular-season schedule for all 31 teams Thursday night as the Flyers will open up in Las Vegas Oct. 4 before continuing on to Colorado Oct. 6 and then hosting the San Jose Sharks Oct. 9.

The Flyers' entire schedule can be found here.

Month-by-month breakdown

• October —12 (six home, six away, one back-to-back)
• November — 12 (seven home, five away, one back-to-back)
• December — 14 (four home, 10 away, three back-to-backs)
• January —13 (seven home, six away, two back-to-backs)
• February —13 (nine home, four away, two back-to-backs)
• March — 15 (seven home, eight away, three back-to-backs)
• April — 3 (one home, two away, no back-to-backs)

The Flyers have just 12 games on back-to-back nights, which is typically on the low end of a team’s schedule — they’ve had at least 15 back-to-backs in each of the past three seasons. Last season, the Edmonton Oilers had the fewest back-to-backs with just nine. 

Home-and-homes

The Flyers have a pair of home-and-home dates on their schedule — Nov. 5-8 against the Arizona Coyotes and a true home-and-home with the Detroit Red Wings Feb. 16-17.

December road tripping

The Flyers have two separate five-game road trips within the month of December. Last season, the Flyers' longest road trip was four games to begin their 82-game schedule. From Dec. 8-15, the Flyers will hit all four time zones starting in Buffalo before wrapping up the trip in Vancouver.  

Much less travel over second half

The midway point of the Flyers' season comes after Jan. 5 at home against the Calgary Flames. Over their final 41 games, they will leave the Eastern time zone just three times in a span of four games (Feb. 12 at Minnesota, March 21 at Chicago, April 2-4 at Dallas and St. Louis).

Waiting for the champs

Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals come to South Broad for the first time on March 6 and again eight days later on March 14 in their only two games at the Wells Fargo Center.

The rival Pittsburgh Penguins don’t come to Philadelphia until Feb. 11 and the Flyers will host them one final time just 12 days later when they face off at Lincoln Financial Field as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series.

November is easiest

The Flyers' easiest month comes in November with just 12 games over 30 days, including a five-game homestand from Nov. 8-17. Of their 12 opponents, only five made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

A kind finish?

The Flyers close out the regular season with eight non-playoff contenders over their final 10 games, including their last five games.  

Other games of interest

• Friday after Thanksgiving — vs. New York Rangers at 1 p.m. 

• New Year's Day — at Nashville Predators at 8:30 p.m. 

Flyers' full 2018-19 schedule released

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Flyers' full 2018-19 schedule released

The Flyers’ full 2018-19 schedule is finally here.

We already knew the orange and the black would open their season in Vegas on Thursday, Oct. 4, with the home opener coming vs. the Sharks on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

But there are some juicy new tidbits here, including the previously announced Stadium Series game vs. the Penguins at the Linc on Saturday, Feb. 23. Some dates to circle: 

• The Flyers' annual holiday road trip is from Dec. 23-Jan. 1. It features five games coming against the Rangers, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Predators.

• As we've seen with the Flyers, the final few games of the regular season tend to have massive importance. This year, the team has a pair of Western Conference road games against the Stars and Blues before the regular-season finale at home against the Hurricanes (see full breakdown).

• You always want to know when you can first get a taste of the Flyers-Penguins rivalry. The team's first game against Pittsburgh comes on the road Dec. 1. Flyers fans will have to wait until Feb. 11 for the Penguins to visit the Wells Fargo Center.

• The Flyers don't see the defending champions until Jan. 8 when they visit the Capitals. Washington doesn't come to the Wells Fargo Center until March 6.

• Looking for a lengthy stretch of home games? The Flyers' longest homestand is five games — there are two of them from Nov. 8-17 and Feb. 2-11.

Check out the full schedule here.