Flyers

Flyers-Penguins 2019 Stadium Series: Sights and sounds behind the buildup

Flyers-Penguins 2019 Stadium Series: Sights and sounds behind the buildup

A beautiful blue sky and beaming sun peered over Lincoln Financial Field ... and a makeshift rink.

Yes, outdoor hockey is nearing in Philadelphia.

In just about a week, the Linc will be lit up and the show will be on for Flyers-Penguins. Next Saturday, the two rivals meet in the 2019 Stadium Series game (8 p.m./NBC).

Many got a taste of the elements Friday afternoon when Flyers players James van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim, Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata and Wings transition player Trevor Baptiste took part in a media session.

Here are some of the sights and sounds from the day:

Different setting, same objective

The outdoor game is always a spectacle, an event much larger than your average game. For the Flyers, though, the game itself holds great importance. When next weekend rolls around, the Flyers will have 21 games remaining in their playoff push.

They enter this Saturday's action eight points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot, currently occupied by the Penguins.

"These are the sorts of games that can be a big swing," van Riemsdyk said.

The Flyers on Monday night lost to Pittsburgh, 4-1, at the Wells Fargo Center in a game with some extracurricular activity … to nobody's surprise.

"We actually joked about it after the last game there, I'm like, 'I don't know what's going to go on on the ice because it's going to be a battle out there,'" Konecny said. "It's a big event for everyone to enjoy, but it might come down to one of the biggest games for us this year."

Juicing up the rivalry

Whenever the Penguins come to town, it's anticipated.

Now the rivalry heads outside with postseason implications.

Oh, and why not add some extra spice?

Evgeni Malkin did that when he dangerously whipped his stick at Michael Raffl on Monday and then took another swing at the Flyers on Thursday (see story).

The fans will welcome Malkin appropriately.

Konecny and Sanheim aren't getting wrapped up in the drama.

Nah, I really don't pay attention to that media stuff. I just kind of mind my own business.

We know it's going to be a great game, we know everybody is going to be on edge. Going back from when [Claude Giroux] started playing here, they've had that rival from the playoffs, him and [Sidney] Crosby coming up — it's just a big rivalry that's grown and fun to play in.

— Konecny

Not really, I've heard a little bit but not that I'm looking for it. It was obviously a dangerous play and the NHL took their take on it and disciplined him. That's all I can say about it.

— Sanheim

'The fly swatter'

Mailata, a former professional rugby player from Australia, provided the quote of the day. During a photo opportunity, the 6-foot-8, 346-pounder called the lacrosse stick a "fly swatter," to the enjoyment of Baptiste and the Flyers.

Baptiste won the 2015 NCAA national championship at Lincoln Financial Field with the University of Denver.

He, Mailata and the Flyers were great sports Friday.

"It's crazy to think he's only 21 years old," Sanheim said of Mailata. "Same age as T.K."

Go play outside

The Flyers typically play in front of around 19,000 fans for home games.

The Linc can hold 69,000-plus.

"It's going to be a new challenge," Sanheim said. "When you move to the NHL, you get that excitement of playing in front of 20,000, let alone 70,000. It's definitely going to be exciting."

Konecny was a rookie when the Flyers played the Penguins at Heinz Field in 2017. He missed the game because of an injury.

"I had to watch it from TV, I didn't even get to go down to Pittsburgh, so I didn't even get the feeling of what it's all about," he said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Especially considering his previous outdoor experience ... it's been a while.

"I was 10 on my pond out back behind my house," Konecny said.

"Playing outside is something everyone does as a kid. Especially being a Canadian, growing up, this is what we do — the cold weather brings us all together."

The temperature Friday was pleasantly in the 60s, making for a perfect day to see and feel the buildup of the Stadium Series:





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If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

If Alain Vigneault can't work his magic with Flyers' roster, pressure mounts for Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher was brought in because things weren't going well enough and quickly enough for the Flyers.

The predicament he inherited required eventual change.

After all, sitting alongside team president Paul Holmgren back in November, Comcast Spectacor chairman and CEO Dave Scott said the Flyers were eyeing a general manager with a "bias for action," among other qualities.

With time and evaluation, Fletcher has begun providing the desired action.

A new head coach is on board, bringing extensive experience and outside perspective, while two new assistants with strong pedigrees have been hired.

But perhaps the most influential part in shifting the Flyers' course has remained mostly intact: the roster. That could drastically change this upcoming offseason with free agency and potential trades. However, Fletcher, facing his first offseason as the Flyers' GM, doesn't see an exodus needed with the current roster — or at least not yet.

"The Flyers are a great opportunity. You guys are in this market, for me coming in from the outside, I know when Paul Holmgren approached me about being the general manager of the Flyers, I'm like, 'Wow.' This is a premium job in the National Hockey League and we're set up where we should have an opportunity to get better quickly," Fletcher said April 18. "I know we need more good players, but we have a lot of good players. It's not like you have to gut this thing — we have cap space, we have picks. We have really good staff, really good staff. On the scouting and management side, I've added one person, I haven't subtracted anything. There's a good group here and we have the ability to get better quickly if we all do our job."

Therein lies a poignant and undeniable pressure on Fletcher in Year 1 with the Flyers under Alain Vigneault's watch.

Aside from Wayne Simmonds, who became an inevitable piece to move given the circumstances, the Flyers' core has survived. So, too, has the overall makeup of the roster.

Fletcher, Vigneault and the Flyers believe this team can win with a refined system and different guidance. They don't exactly see a team that has missed the playoffs every other season since 2012-13, a stretch consisting of three first-round exits.

Will Fletcher add this summer? Of course — the ability to do so is one of the reasons why Vigneault found the Flyers as an attractive destination. When Fletcher was hiring Vigneault, the two established a list of areas in which the Flyers can improve.

"We're looking at some options and if we can put the right things in place," Vigneault said at his introduction, "it's going to be a lot of fun."

Significant subtraction was not featured on the list.

"There's some solid youth with a lot of upside here that is coming into its own," Vigneault said. "There's great goaltending, being one of those youth pieces. There's a solid core group that, in my mind, needs the right direction. And you've got the combination, also, of some solid veteran players that have been in the league a few years, that can still contribute at a high level in this league. … After discussing it with a lot of people that I respect their opinion in the NHL, I feel that the Flyers are a very good team that with the proper direction, proper mindset, proper culture and people working together, will be a very good team in the near future."

That's why Year 1 will be so telling.

Vigneault is a coach with a tremendous track record of winning during his first season on the job. He did so at three separate stops (see story). Michel Therrien has 38 postseason victories under his belt as a head coach and took a team to the Stanley Cup Final. Mike Yeo owns three playoff series victories as a head coach and has a ring as an assistant.

If this group can't produce the results with the Flyers' roster, Fletcher will have to take a longer, much more serious look at the players in place and make his hardest decisions yet.

At that point, it may be the only action left.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule, live stream: More drama ahead for Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final?

There has been a ton of drama only three games into the Western Conference Final between the Sharks and Blues.

Game 3 was won by the Sharks, 5-4, in overtime, but not without controversy. San Jose may have gotten away with a hand pass on the game-winning goal.

The series will shift one way or the other Friday night with Game 4.

Below is the schedule for Day 37 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (SJS 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference Final
8 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here