Flyers

Flyers use a sick day in return from All-Star break

Flyers use a sick day in return from All-Star break

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WASHINGTON — Michal Neuvirth wasn’t quite himself. 

Then again, Neuvirth hasn’t been quite right for the past several days. Fighting a stomach bug over the All-Star break, Neuvirth started feeling uneasy once again after a solid opening period in Washington.

“I was trying to hydrate myself as [best] I could,” Neuvirth said. “I felt energy in the first and then I sat down after 20 minutes and I was just getting tired every minute. I haven’t really eaten much lately, so I was drinking a lot of water. I had one practice before the pregame skate. It is what it is.”

Head coach Dave Hakstol was not aware of his goaltender’s condition and elected to make a change after the Capitals scored five unanswered goals on their way to a 5-3 victory Wednesday (see observations).

“I’m not going to make too many comments on that,” Hakstol said. “I’ll talk to Neuvy first and that’s where it will stay. It’s the start that changed the complexion of the hockey game, the start of that [second] period. Obviously, the first goal against, that’s a tough bounce for us.”

Not just a tough bounce, but Neuvirth appeared to be completely shocked that a shot would be angled in his direction as he clearly wasn’t prepared to make a save. He was able to keep the initial shot out of the net, but wasn’t quick to react to Chandler Stephenson, who raced in and pushed the puck across the goal line at the 2:14 mark of the second period.

“I got surprised. It was a bad goal,” Neuvirth said. “It gave them life and the rest is history.” 

Neuvirth’s admission of feeling light-headed conjured up flashbacks from a game last April 1 against the Devils when he suddenly collapsed on the ice, left the game on a stretcher and was hospitalized for precautionary reasons. 

Without a healthy Brian Elliott, who has provided stability throughout the first half of the season, this Flyers team may be staring at a goaltending dilemma. For just the second time this season, it allowed at least five regulation goals in back-to-back games — both losses to the first-place Lightning and first-place Capitals.

Alex Lyon made his NHL debut with 10 minutes and 54 seconds remaining in the third period and stopped all five shots he faced.

“It was a good day,” the 25-year-old rookie said. “I got a little stain on my suit this morning. I was pretty pissed about that, but other than that, it turned out to be a pretty good day. I’m sure on the train up to Jersey tonight I’ll take a moment and be happy.”   

With Neuvirth not feeling quite right, all signs are now pointing to Lyon making his first NHL start Thursday night against the Devils at the Prudential Center.

“I think it will really help. I’ve been taking the same approach every day,” Lyon said.

“He went in and battled as we thought he would,” Hakstol said. “He’s got a very good demeanor about him and he’s got a nice confidence to him, and he’s very comfortable in and around our players. I wasn’t too worried about what that might do down the road.”

The Flyers’ problems extended well beyond goaltending. The team’s third defense pairing of Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas was burned for a breakaway just 47 seconds after the Capitals scored their first goal. Manning then allowed Andre Burakovsky to gain position for an easy redirected power play that allowed the Capitals to take their first lead of the game. 

“The second goal, you can’t let that happen,” Hakstol said. “That’s a sleepy play for us, a quick transition play that gets in behind our defensemen.”

“They’re two warriors for us,” Hakstol said of Manning and Gudas. “And they’ve been that for our team. I’m not going to start nitpicking on the one goal tonight. We’ll talk about it behind closed doors as we always do. We need them to be at the top of their game.”

Wednesday’s defeat was also the Flyers’ first regulation loss in which they held a lead after the first period. The Flyers raced out to an early advantage when rookie Nolan Patrick, on a newly-formed line with Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, scored a beautiful backhand goal just 78 seconds into the game (see highlights). Patrick added an assist for his first multi-point game of his career. 

“I might have put that puck over the net two months ago,” Patrick said about his goal. “Yeah, I’m feeling confident and I feel better every game. It’s a great opportunity for me to play with both guys.”

Now comes Round 3 against Devils rookie Nico Hischier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft.

The Flyers just need a steady presence in net.

2018 NHL draft position preview — Right wingers

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Terry Wilson/OHL Images

2018 NHL draft position preview — Right wingers

We’ve looked at the top draft-eligible centers and left wingers. Up next, right wingers. On Sunday, we’ll look at the top defensemen before moving into the best fits for the Flyers.

Andrei Svechnikov, 6-2/188, Barrie (OHL)
Svechnikov is head and shoulders atop the forward prospects in this year’s draft class. He began the year as the No. 1 North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and ended there as well. Finished with 40 goals and 72 points in 44 games this season with Barrie, tops among rookie OHLers. His 1.64 points per game average was best among rookies and fifth in all of the OHL. His brother, Evgeny Svechnikov, was the 19th overall pick by the Red Wings in 2015.

Draft projection: No. 2 overall

Oliver Wahlstrom, 6-1/205, USNTDP
Wahlstrom finished as the seventh-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. The American can play both center and right wing but projects to at least begin his career on the wing. He plays a power forward game with impressive puck skills. He registered 40 goals and 83 points in 54 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, and 22 goals and 45 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL. The 17-year-old is committed to play college hockey at Harvard University in the fall.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 4-9

Vitali Kravtsov, 6-2/170, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Kravtsov, who models his game after Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov, finished as the third-best European skater by Central Scouting, a seven-spot climb from the midterm rankings. Had a strong postseason for Chelyabinsk, recording six goals and 11 points in 16 games and was named the best rookie for each of the first three rounds. He’s a shifty forward with high-end speed.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Serron Noel, 6-5/205, Oshawa (OHL)
The Generals winger took an enormous leap in his second OHL campaign, going from 21 points in 63 games in 2016-17 to 53 points in 62 games in 2017-18. Noel finished as the 10th-rated North American skater by Central Skating, a one-spot drop from the midterm rankings. He has a lot of raw talent and has natural size and strength. He’s improved his skating, which has helped his case throughout his draft year. Has drawn comparisons to Jets captain Blake Wheeler. A high-upside prospect with top-line potential.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Martin Kaut, 6-2/170, Pardubice (Czech)
Kaut’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships performance helped put the winger on the radar. The Czech winger jumped from the 11th-rated European skater by Central Scouting in the midterm rankings to the fourth-best in the final rankings. Had seven points in seven games playing for the Czech Republic at the world juniors. Had nine goals and 16 points in 38 games for Pardubice in 2017-18. An effective two-way player with good playmaking ability.

Draft projection: Late first, early second round

A Flyers fan's guide for watching Phantoms' home playoff games

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JustSports Photography

A Flyers fan's guide for watching Phantoms' home playoff games

Flyers fans still have some hockey to watch.

Some of the organization's brightest prospects will be competing in Allentown, Pennsylvania, from Wednesday into the weekend as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms continue their AHL playoff run in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Phantoms trail the Toronto Marlies, 2-0, with the series now shifting to the PPL Center for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary).

What should Flyers fans know?

Let's get into it:

1. When to watch
Game 3 is tonight at 7:05 p.m. Game 4 follows Friday at 7:05 p.m. with Game 5 (if needed) Saturday at 7:05 p.m.

2. Where to watch
All three games will be broadcast on NBC Sports Philadelphia+. For which channel in your area, click here.

3. Who to watch
• Defenseman Travis Sanheim returned from a four-game absence (knee injury) to play in the first two games of this series. The 2014 first-round pick had 16 points in 18 regular-season games with Lehigh Valley. When he rejoined the Flyers on March 10, he was a plus-4 over 14 games to help the big club clinch a playoff berth. "When Sanny got back up, I thought Sanny was unbelievable," Wayne Simmonds said last month.

• Winger Oskar Lindblom went scoreless in Games 1 and 2 but has seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games. He played 23 games with the Flyers this season and impressed alongside Nolan Patrick. The 21-year-old is a building block and the goal will be to make the Flyers out of training camp in the fall.

• Everybody knows Alex Lyon now after his Herculean effort during the semifinals in which he made 94 saves for a five-overtime victory. He's been superb through the postseason, recording a 1.84 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in nine games. It's been a timely stretch for him ahead of an important offseason

• Defenseman Philippe Myers is another exciting piece to the Flyers' future on the blue line. The 21-year-old is 6-foot-5 and developing but fought through injuries in 2017-18. He's making up for some of those tough times with seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 postseason games.

• Don't forget about Mike Vecchione, a hard-working forward who will be in the picture next season. The 25-year-old put up 40 points in his first year pro and has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 playoff games.

4. However …
You won't see touted prospects Morgan Frost and Carter Hart.

With their junior campaigns coming to an end recently, both have joined the Phantoms but are not expected to play; they're simply there for the exposure.

5. This and that
• Lehigh Valley won an AHL-most 27 games at home during the regular season, losing just six times in regulation.

• Toronto is 2-2-0 on the road in the postseason compared to 7-0-0 at home.

• Chris Conner, 34, leads the Phantoms in the playoffs with five goals and nine points.

• Lehigh Valley has allowed a league-high 43 power-play opportunities during the postseason, while Toronto has gone on a league-high 55 man advantages.

• Defenseman Samuel Morin is out for the rest of the playoffs with a knee injury that is requiring surgery, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi.