Flyers

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's message, Wayne Simmonds' professionalism, more

Flyers weekly observations: Chuck Fletcher's message, Wayne Simmonds' professionalism, more

The Flyers' win streak came to an end this past week.

However, the point streak is still alive, the team made a trade, a few prospects have arrived and the Flyers are lurking in the playoff chase.

Let's get into some observations:

• Would Philippe Myers be here right now if Ron Hextall was still in the general manager seat for the Flyers? 

It's a fair question to ask.

Hextall wasn't exactly the type of GM to call up a 22-year-old prospect with no NHL experience during a postseason race that has just 27 games remaining. Hextall was well-known for his staunch approach with prospects and their development. Former head coach Dave Hakstol's decisions often jived with Hextall's patience.

Current general manager Chuck Fletcher changed the Flyers' course in a few ways with the promotion of Myers from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. 

For one, Fletcher has no problems if the defenseman gets his number called, despite the magnitude of a playoff push and the team playing its best hockey.

"That's how you have to learn," Fletcher said. "He's earned the right. … I believe he can help us up here."

He also doesn't mind if Myers sits a few games and soaks everything in.

"If we can get him some experience, practice seems great, being around the team is great," Fletcher said. "If he can get some games, that'll only help him as he prepares for next year."

Hextall did recall then-21-year-old defenseman Travis Sanheim in March of last season, but that was under emergency conditions. Sanheim, who had already played earlier in the year, ended up being so good that he had to stay, helping the Flyers sneak into the postseason.

Fletcher was not brought in to practice patience. He's ready to see what Myers can do now.

• There's probably nobody out there envious of Fletcher's spot with Wayne Simmonds.

The decision gets tougher by the day.

Now wouldn't be an ideal time to move on from a player who is considered the heart and soul of the Flyers, beloved for truly embodying the city's spirit. The Flyers are the hottest team in hockey and showing life in the postseason hunt, exactly what upper management envisioned and desired when it summoned Fletcher.

What kind of message does it send to all parties — team, management, fans — if Simmonds is traded when there's actual hope?

Still, Fletcher understands the importance of not only this season, but also the next — a difficult and delicate balance to make, especially right now. Ironically, the Flyers going on a tear has made his job harder.

One thing is certain: Simmonds has been a true pro. Remember, he has seen a number of teammates rewarded with contract extensions.

As his situation has lingered, he hasn't changed.

That isn't lost on Fletcher ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

Wayne has played hard, he's been very good of late and I can't commend him enough on his professionalism, his attitude. You watch him in celebrations after we win a game, he’s pretty much the first guy out there to congratulate Carter [Hart] or Anthony [Stolarz], as the case may be. He's just a great teammate and has done a lot for this franchise.

• Goalies really can be the backbone of a team's confidence.

You have to marvel at how Hart, a 20-year-old kid, has been that for a team with a veteran core. It just shows you how vital the position is in this sport.

The Flyers are no longer fighting for confidence. Sean Couturier's quote on Saturday encapsulated Hart's impact.

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Flyers vs. Lightning: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Lightning: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The hottest team in hockey will finally host the team that hasn’t turned down the heat all season.

With an NHL best 12-2-1 record since Jan. 12, the Flyers (28-24-7, 63 pts.) will continue their frenzied push for a playoff spot as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (45-11-4, 94 pts.) for the final time this season.

The Flyers will look to avoid their first season sweep against the Lightning since the 2013-14 season.

Let's take a look at tonight's essentials: 

• When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. 
• Where: Wells Fargo Center
• Broadcast: NBCSP
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers recalled goaltender Brian Elliott from his conditioning loan with the Phantoms and have activated him from injured reserve to the active roster (see story). Elliott will back up Carter Hart for tonight’s game against the Lightning.

Hart will be the fourth different Flyers goaltender the Lightning have faced in their last four meetings with Michal Neuvirth, Cal Pickard and Petr Mrazek as the others. 

After a 2-4-1 start to his career, Hart is 11-2-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage over his last 13 appearances. 

• Tonight’s matchup is the 100th meeting between the Flyers and Lightning with the Flyers owning a 47-37-8-7 advantage.

In the first matchup at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 17, the Lightning became the sixth team in league history to cough up a four-goal lead in the third period before winning 6-5 in overtime. Ironically, the Flyers matched that same dubious feat when they lost a 5-1 lead to the Red Wings on Saturday before Travis Konecny pulled through with the game-winner in overtime.

In the Dec. 27 rematch at Amalie Arena, the Flyers battled back from a three-goal deficit in the third period, tying the game before Tampa Bay won it again in the OT period.  

• The speed of Lightning has been blinding so far this season. Tampa Bay needed just 58 games to reach the 90-point plateau. Only eight teams in NHL history have topped 90 points prior to their 60th regular-season game.

It’s a good test. If we find a way to squeak into the playoffs it’s a possible matchup for us. We’re excited about this game. The games we’ve played against them have been fun to play. I don’t see why tonight won’t be fun.

-Claude Giroux

Would you believe the 1979-80 Flyers hold the record? Pat Quinn’s team ripped off a 35-game unbeaten streak and started that season with a 39-4-13 mark for 91 points in their first 56 games.

• Tampa Bay is also the first team since the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins to have three 70-point scorers before the 60-game mark of the season. 

Remarkably, the NHL’s leading scorer and Hart Trophy favorite Nikita Kucherov is on pace to finish with a whopping 135 points. Even if Kucherov finishes with 101 points, he will have increased his point total every season since entering the league in 2013-14.

Kucherov comes to Philadelphia on a five-game point streak with seven goals and 11 assists, an average of 3.6 points per game.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jake Voracek
Scott Laughton-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Phil Varone-Justin Bailey

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Andrew MacDonald-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hägg-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

Flyers recall Brian Elliott from conditioning assignment with Phantoms

VOORHEES, N.J. — Brian Elliott will be back in a Flyers sweater for the first time since Nov. 15. 

The 33-year-old goaltender was recalled Tuesday from his conditioning assignment with the Phantoms and is expected to back up Carter Hart for Tuesday’s game against the Lightning.

It will be interesting to see what Elliott’s future in Philadelphia is for the remainder of this season with the addition of Cam Talbot, who wasn’t with his new team for Wednesday’s morning skate in Voorhees.

Elliott could be traded to a contending team with no roster restrictions after the Feb. 25 deadline, although NHL teams still have to be compliant with the salary cap.

Once again, the Flyers have three goaltenders on the active roster with Hart, Elliott and Mike McKenna. McKenna could be placed on waivers as soon as Talbot is cleared to join the team.

Elliott played admirably in his 14 games prior to his injury with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. However, his 6-7-0 record doesn’t reflect that. He appeared in two games for the Phantoms over the weekend.

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