Injuries, illness create questions in net for Flyers

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Injuries, illness create questions in net for Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. — “You need two goalies, I don’t care who you are.”

That was Ron Hextall’s assessment prior to the All-Star break and the general manager’s philosophy will be put to the test right away with three games over the next four days.

Actually, the Flyers may need three goalies at some point over the stretch drive to the postseason after the team placed Brian Elliott on injured reserve Tuesday morning, and recalled Alex Lyon from Lehigh Valley.  

After missing his first game of the season last Thursday against the Lightning, Elliott returned to practice Monday, but left prematurely still dealing with a nagging lower-body injury. Elliott’s IR designation is retroactive to his last game played, so he could be activated at any time. The move was made solely to open up a roster spot for Lyon.  

Neuvirth is now the expected starter Wednesday in Washington, but the bigger question moving forward: How much does Hakstol and the organization trust Lyon to make his NHL debut when the team is in a dogfight for the playoffs?

“If we need him, he’ll play. Bottom line,” Hakstol said regarding Lyon. “He’s ready to play and we have confidence in him. He’s been with us before and he’s a guy that’s ready to play, and when called upon, he’ll go in and do a good job if we decide to do that.” 

Prior to the All-Star break, Hakstol tipped his hand slightly when he stated that Neuvirth would likely receive one of the two starts with back-to-back road games against the Capitals and Devils, but that was when Elliott was healthy. 

“It’s a different situation,” Hakstol said. “There’s still a strong possibility that both guys (Neuvirth and Lyon) will start one. I’m not going to make that decision right now or that distinction. I won’t even go as far as saying who’s going to start tomorrow.” 

Lyon has dressed for 10 games this season, but has not budged from the bench. Whether he plays his first NHL game in relief or as the starter remains to be seen, but his personal preference is to have the knowledge the net will be his from the morning skate.

“There’s something to be said for owning your own game, which I really like,” Lyon said. “Obviously I’ll take it however I can get it, but at the same time, I don’t envision myself as a spot guy. I want to start every game. I want to start as much as I can. I’m not going to try and speculate when that will be, or anything like that, I’m just keeping my head down and keep grinding.”

Neuvirth has also kept his head down recently but for all the wrong reasons. The Flyers' backup spent much of the past several days working his way through what Hextall described as a “stomach bug,” which forced Neuvirth to miss Monday’s practice.

“The worst is behind me,” Neuvirth said tongue-in-cheek as he returned to the Skate Zone ice on Tuesday.

When asked if he’s capable of starting on back-to-back nights, which Neuvirth hasn’t done this season, he was hesitant to commit.

“Let’s just focus on tomorrow first,” Neuvirth said. “It’s a big game against a really good team, so let’s just focus on tomorrow.”

Additionally, Hakstol will have to determine how much workload Neuvirth can handle with a history of injuries and a heavy workload of games coming up on the Flyers' schedule.

“I've definitely got to earn the playing time,” Neuvirth said. “I've got to push myself and you've got to play good to earn more games."

“We’ll gauge exactly how and where he’s at after today’s practice,” Hakstol said. “Today, he had a real strong practice and he looked great.” 

2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

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2018 NHL draft position preview — Left wingers

We began our 2018 NHL draft position previews with a look at the top draft-eligible centers. This draft is top-heavy at wing and defense. We continue our previews with a look at left wingers.

Filip Zadina, 6-0/195, Halifax (QMJHL)
Zadina, who finished as the third-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, led all QMJHL rookies and was tied for seventh among all players in 2017-18 with 82 points. He won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the league’s best professional prospect. Playing for the Czech Republic, Zadina was named to the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship All-Star team, scoring eight points in seven games. Hard-working winger with an elite shot, future top-liner.

Draft projection: Top three

Brady Tkachuk, 6-3/196, Boston University (NCAA)
The son of USA Hockey Hall of Famer Keith Tkachuk and brother of Matthew Tkachuk (Flames), Brady Tkachuk checks in as the second-best North American skater by Central Scouting. Had eight goals and 31 points in 40 games during his freshman season at Boston University and added three goals and nine points in seven games during the world juniors. He plays a physical game much like his dad and brother but has a little more finesse to it.

Draft projection: Top five

Joel Farabee, 6-0/164, USNTDP
Farabee finished as the 12th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Possesses excellent speed and a strong shot and plays an effective two-way game. A little undersized but the game has changed, so that shouldn’t be a major issue. He had 15 goals and 40 points in 26 games for Team USA in the USHL in 2017-18, and 33 goals and 76 points in 64 games for the USA U-18 team in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 10-18

Grigori Denisenko, 5-11/176, Yarolsavl Jr (Russia)
Denisenko saw a three-spot drop from the Central Scouting midterm rankings to the final, finishing as the seventh-best European skater. He’s gifted with the puck and makes plays, but he has a bit of a reputation as an inconsistent player. The Russian factor may scare teams away. Had nine goals and 22 points in 31 games in the MHL and played four games in the KHL playoffs. On talent alone, Denisenko is among the best in this year’s class.

Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round

Blake McLaughlin, 6-0/162, Chicago (USHL)
McLaughlin checks in as the 24th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Another American prospect among the top draft-eligible left wingers, McLaughlin’s best attribute is his shot, though he’s an excellent skater. He finished the 2017-18 season with the Chicago Steel as nearly a point-per-game player, scoring 23 goals and 52 points in 54 games. He’s headed to the University of Minnesota in the fall. Could squeak into late first round but probably a second-rounder.

Draft projection: Early second round

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

JustSports Photography

NBC Sports Philadelphia+ to air Lehigh Valley Phantoms Eastern Conference Finals Games

Philadelphia, PA (May 18, 2018) — NBC Sports Philadelphia announced today the network will air the American Hockey League Eastern Conference Finals games featuring the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Toronto Marlies. Games Three through Five will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ at 7 p.m.
May 23 - Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 3 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 25** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 4 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

May 26*** — Toronto Marlies at Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Game 5 – 7pm on NBC Sports Philadelphia+, *if necessary
** Philadelphia Soul will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

*** The Philadelphia Phillies game will air on NBC Sports Philadelphia, regardless if there is a Game 5 or not.

Atlantic Division Champions for the 2017-18 season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face off against the Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The winner of the best-of-seven series will then advance to the 2018 Calder Cup Finals. After posting the AHL’s second-most wins (47) and second-most standings points (105), the top-seeded Phantoms eliminated the Providence Bruins in four games (3-1) in the opening round before defeating the Charlotte Checkers in five games (4-1) in the Atlantic Division Finals — a series which included the historic longest game in AHL history.