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Flyers put Nolan Patrick on IR, recall 7th D-man

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Flyers put Nolan Patrick on IR, recall 7th D-man

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers' depth has certainly been tested in the early going.

On Tuesday, the team placed rookie center Nolan Patrick (upper-body injury) on IR. Patrick and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (upper-body injury) both skated Tuesday but neither player will be on the Flyers' road trip, which starts Wednesday night in Chicago.

"Status quo," general manager Ron Hextall said after practice Tuesday. "Obviously, it's good that they're on the ice. They're both day to day."

When asked if either player could be available when the team returns home Saturday against Colorado, Hextall said he "didn't want to speculate."

In a corresponding move, the Flyers have recalled Will O'Neill to serve as the seventh defenseman on the trip. O'Neill was on the ice Tuesday morning after getting the call Monday night.

"I'm excited, obviously. Little bit of a long time coming for me," O'Neill said. "It's pretty cool. Like I said, it's the first call I've received like that and I knew that someone was trying to call me so I kind of had a little bit of an idea what it was, but it was pretty cool for a few seconds there."

The 29-year-old blueliner has yet to make his NHL debut. Originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers — now the Winnipeg Jets — he spent four years in that organization's minor-league system. After playing one season with the Penguins' AHL affiliate, O'Neill signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Flyers before last season.

"Will's a solid two-way player," Hextall said. "T.J. (Brennan) has been out down there and Will's kind of picked up some of his minutes. He's done a good job for us."

In 56 games in 2016-17 with the Phantoms, O'Neill registered three goals and 28 assists. 

In other injury news, defenseman Samuel Morin was never actually recalled by the team. The 22-year-old apparently hid an injury and was more dinged up than initially thought.

"Our intention was to recall him," Hextall said. "Sam's a tough guy and didn't disclose 100 percent of his injury because he plays through things and he's got a little nick that's going to keep him out here for a bit. Not days. Maybe a couple weeks."

Coots potent on power play
Sean Couturier's offensive game has seen a huge boost since his promotion to the Flyers' first line, centering playmakers Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux.  

Now, the seventh-year centerman has accompanied his linemates on the first power-play unit. The move worked out last night as Couturier lit the lamp on the PP to get the Flyers on the board during a disappointing loss to previously winless Arizona.

"It's been nice," Couturier said. "Get a few good looks in the slot there and a good shot last night. We've only had two or three power plays the last two games so we're still trying to get some chemistry and get a feel of it but so far it's good."

Couturier has been known as a defensive stalwart in the middle for the Flyers but is already up to nine goals this season. Being surrounded by the likes of Giroux and Voracek, Couturier is well on his way to surpassing his career high of 15 goals. 

"He's a big body. He's got a good presence around the net," Giroux said. "He's pretty hot right now. Anytime it looks like he has a chance to score right now it's going in. He's playing some good hockey right now."

Provy's the man
Young defenseman Ivan Provorov has seen his time on ice increase in each of the last four games. Last night, the 20-year-old blueliner received a career-high 28:07 of ice time.

Provorov seemed up for the challenge, recording three assists and making an unbelievable play at the blue line to set up the game-tying goal with time running out in the third.

Is Hextall concerned about Provorov's workload?

"Well, you monitor everything on a day-to-day basis," Hextall said. "We're aware of it and we're keeping track of it but Ivan is geared to handle a lot of minutes the way he plays. He's in great shape. His body's built for it. In saying that, he still is a young guy and we'll stay on it on a day-to-day basis."

James van Riemsdyk can make Shayne Gostisbehere that much scarier

James van Riemsdyk can make Shayne Gostisbehere that much scarier

James van Riemsdyk sat at his practice locker Saturday and kindly asked for a moment.

After removing some gear, he threw on his Flyers shirt, pulled back his hair and put on his hat.

Then he stood up.

Right there, his presence was felt — the wide 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame, noticeable and tangible, a problem for opponents over the last five seasons.

Shayne Gostisbehere made his way to the dressing room shortly following van Riemsdyk. Asked about his new teammate, Gostisbehere looked like a youngster anxious to buy a No. 25 jersey. And his excitement was justified — a player like van Riemsdyk is what makes Gostisbehere that more daunting when darting along the blue line.

The power-play quarterback was envisioning his playing field.

The read was easy.

"Get as many pucks to the net because that's his office down there," Gostisbehere said.

He wasn't kidding.

All it took was one preseason game to feel that presence of van Riemsdyk and how he can change the Flyers. Gostisbehere, who often unselfishly works the point with perimeter passing, delivered on his promise by showing no hesitation in Monday's 3-1 preseason win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center (see observations).

In the first period on the Flyers' opening power play, a 5-on-3 man advantage, van Riemsdyk took a hefty crosscheck to the back, actually knocking him down to one knee. His size and disruptiveness completely stole the attention of an Islander in front, while also impeding goalie Thomas Greiss. Gostisbehere wasted no time, ripping a bullet into the net.

Another power play later, Gostisbehere used just 24 seconds before lacing a shot with van Riemsdyk in his precious blue paint. It was a second goal for Gostisbehere, but more so a money example of why general manager Ron Hextall brought van Riemsdyk back to Philadelphia on a five-year, $35 million deal.

The Flyers already had one of the best net-front guys in the business. Wayne Simmonds' 86 man-advantage goals since 2011-12 are second in the NHL to only Alex Ovechkin's 131. They also already had a budding net-front piece in Nolan Patrick, who led the Flyers with five power-play markers over the final 23 regular-season games of 2017-18.

All of which creates a good problem for head coach Dave Hakstol — van Riemsdyk made that problem clear Monday night, if his 36 goals last season weren't clear enough.

"I think JVR can make some sneaky plays," Gostisbehere said postgame. "We have so many weapons."

Indeed they do and Hakstol will have to spread them out and use them all.

van Riemsdyk, who knows young talent from playing with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander in Toronto, smiled after his first game with the 25-year-old Gostisbehere orchestrating the power play.

"I've got to get used to that a little bit, he's pretty dynamic up there," van Riemsdyk said of Gostisbehere, who led all NHL blueliners with 33 man-advantage points last season. "He's got a ton of skill and an unbelievable hockey sense. No play is ever out of the question for him, so you just try to get in good spots and he makes it look pretty easy up there."

The equation seems easy — van Riemsdyk knows where to go and Gostisbehere knows when to shoot.

The answer, already felt.

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Flyers 3, Islanders 1 (preseason): Flyers look more like themselves at home

Flyers 3, Islanders 1 (preseason): Flyers look more like themselves at home

BOX SCORE

What a difference a day and a few more veterans make.

After a complete dud on Long Island Sunday, the Flyers dressed 10 regulars in a 3-1 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are some observations from the Flyers’ preseason home opener Monday.

1. Earlier in the day, general manager Ron Hextall singled out Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton as the front-runners in the competition for the third-line center job. Both players were in action, with Weal having the luxury of centering Claude Giroux along with Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Weal made a real conscious effort to play a strong two-way game, winning faceoffs in the defensive zone and playing the puck below his own goal line as if he was a third defenseman.

2. Fair to say three rookies are getting a strong, hard look at making the opening-night roster. Defenseman Philippe Myers and center Mikhail Vorobyev have participated in all three games so far in the preseason, starting with the prospects game last Wednesday. That’s three games in six days for the rookies. And Aube-Kubel appears to be perfectly suited for a fourth-line role as he brings speed and a physical presence.

3. Vorobyev had an awful opening shift, losing coverage below the goal line, which nearly led to an Isles’ goal. The Flyers' center was whistled for a hooking penalty, but after that he warmed up nicely, playing with skilled linemates. He worked a perfectly executed give-and-go with Jakub Voracek to score the Flyers’ first goal of the preseason. The Flyers’ 2015 fourth-round pick is remarkably talented and if the coaching staff can trust him without the puck, especially defensively, he’s worth serious consideration as the third-line center.

4. Myers makes mistakes coughing up the puck, but with his reach and skating ability, he’s able to cover his tracks quickly. He’s a hybrid mix of Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg. In the opening period, Myers displayed impressive lateral agility with a Shaye Gostisbehere-like move in the offensive end, and he didn’t hesitate driving the opponent into the boards. With Myers, there’s very little hesitation in his game, often playing on raw instincts. Although, once the regular season starts, he’ll need to be more structured.

5. Tyrell Goulbourne is one tough cookie, but he’d probably have better luck picking on someone his own size. The 5-11, 195-pound Goulbourne elected to drop the gloves with 6-5, 235-pound tough guy Ross Johnston. Not only did Goulbourne move up in weight class, he clearly needed a few inches in reach as Johnston nailed him with some solid right hands to win the fight unanimously.

6. I expected Mike Vecchione to come into training camp and make a strong push for a job. However, midway through the second period skating with the puck along the right wall, Vecchione coughed it up. That led to the Islanders’ getting in transition and eventually scoring their first goal. Carelessness with the puck can be the quickest way back to Lehigh Valley.

7. The Flyers’ power play was clicking with the combination of Giroux, Voracek, James van Riemsdyk, Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. JVR showed he’s not afraid to take some abuse, drawing a two-minute cross-checking penalty, which led to a 5-on-3 man advantage. Like Nolan Patrick, JVR has the hands and the size to be highly effective and completely blinded Thomas Greiss on the Flyers’ 3-0 goal. Dave Hakstol will have some big decisions on how he wants to balance out his two power-play units.  

8. Carter Hart replaced Michal Neuvirth after the Islanders scored their first goal at the midway point of the second period. Hart stopped all 11 shots he faced, nothing too spectacular. Outside of some early rebound control, Hart looked much more at ease than he did in the prospects game. His movements and positioning already look NHL-caliber, he just needs some seasoning. 

Lines and pairings

Forwards
Giroux-Weal-Aube-Kubel
van Riemsdyk-Vorobyev-Voracek
Laughton-Corban Knight-Dale Weise
Isaac Ratcliffe-Vecchione-Goulbourne

Defensemen
Hagg-Gostisbehere
Provorov-Myers
Yegor Zamula-Mark Friedman

Goalies
Neuvirth
Hart

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