Nolan Patrick returns for Flyers after 9-game absence

Nolan Patrick returns for Flyers after 9-game absence

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol confirmed after Thursday's morning skate that rookie Nolan Patrick will return to the lineup in his hometown when the Flyers take on the Jets at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg (8 p.m./NBCSP).

“Obviously it will be pretty exciting playing in front of a lot of family and friends,” said Patrick, who put on a pretty good poker face and never expressed any emotion or obvious enthusiasm about returning to game action just down the road from where he grew up. 

A handful of Flyers did not participate in the optional morning skate and Hakstol hasn’t put his team through line rushes over the past two days, and wouldn’t give an indication what line Patrick will be on or who he’ll skate with.

“I’m sure it’s been a learning experience for him, but he’s handled things very well,” Hakstol said. “He’s got good poise in all situations. Obviously being challenged with an injury early on isn’t ideal, but it’s another learning experience that a player has to handle well.”

Patrick has missed the previous nine games dealing with suspected concussion symptoms, dating back to the Flyers' game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24, and has gradually ramped up his practice routine over the past week. Last Thursday, Patrick skated with assistant coach Ian Laperriere and then went through a hard bag skate on consecutive days before rejoining his teammates on Monday.

“That’s something that I need to produce more when I get back," Patrick said. "My last couple of games before I got hurt I didn’t think I played really well. I’ll just try and get into a rhythm as fast I can when I get back.” 

“I thought there were a few games before the injury that he was starting to make a lot of plays in some tight areas in key situations,” Hakstol said. “Those were positives for me in the way he was growing on the offensive side of the game.”

With Patrick returning to the lineup, here’s how the Flyers' lineup might look against the Jets:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

No Mase to face
Former Flyers netminder Steve Mason will watch tonight’s game on the bench, backing up starter Connor Hellebuyck, who has clearly been Winnipeg’s better goaltender over the first month of the season. 

“I was looking forward to [this game],” Mason said. “Obviously, that’s not the case. We’ve got one more game against you guys later in the year, so maybe I’ll get the one back in Philly.”

Mason signed a two-year, $8.2 million contract with Winnipeg in the offseason and was brought in as the No. 1 goaltender, but he got off to a rocky start in his new surroundings as he surrendered 11 goals in his first two starts and has appeared in just four games since. He finally earned his first win in a Jets sweater this past Saturday when they beat the Coyotes in Arizona, 4-1.

“I played behind a team for five years and you get used to guys' tendencies and here you had to learn an entirely new group of guys," Mason said. "We have Tyler Myers, who’s just a towering defenseman and that alone is an adjustment to learn how to fight to look through him. You go from being comfortable playing behind a group of guys and you’re starting from scratch and that’s a little more difficult than I envisioned being.”

Mason’s only other opportunity to face his old teammates will come on March 10, when the Jets make their only visit to Philadelphia.

“I’m just looking forward to going back to Philly," Mason said. "I thoroughly enjoyed my time from start to finish. There were some good times and some bad times, but overall I look back on it with great memories. I always enjoyed playing in front of the fans, whether I get that start later in the year, it will be fun to go back there and play again.”

Former Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald to attend Flames training camp on professional tryout

Former Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald to attend Flames training camp on professional tryout

After being bought out by the Flyers in mid-June, Andrew MacDonald is getting his next shot.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old defenseman will try to make the Flames' roster by attending Calgary's training camp on a professional tryout.

NHL teams often take fliers on veteran players as they shape their rosters because it simply can't hurt. The Flyers are doing so this training camp with winger Chris Stewart (see story).

While he wasn't a fan favorite in Philadelphia because of his contract, MacDonald was one of the most respected players in the Flyers' dressing room. You'd think the Flames are taking into account what they've heard from others around the league about MacDonald and his impact off the ice.

MacDonald has played 586 career games and 23 in the postseason. Calgary has won just one playoff series over the past 10 seasons. During 2018-19, the Flames went 50-25-7 with 107 points during the regular season — second best in the NHL to only the Lightning — but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Calgary has a pretty strong defense, led by James Norris Memorial Trophy winner Mark Giordano, so making the roster won't be easy for MacDonald.

The Flyers bought out MacDonald for better cap flexibility and to open the door for some of their younger defensemen to take the next step. With the additions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, the Flyers have solid, accomplished guys to augment the younger group of Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, Robert Hagg and Samuel Morin.

"This guy is a consummate professional," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said of MacDonald in June. "We asked a lot of Andrew and by that I mean he was a player that played the left side, played the right side, he'd be a healthy scratch and then we'd put him back in the lineup. We asked him to play with young players and mentor them and bring stability to our back end.

"He's just a quality person and a guy that played a very effective two-way game for our team, but we are in a cap world and we made that tough decision today to try reallocate some of those dollars to maximize our chance to stay in the hunt on some players."

The Flyers will pay MacDonald $1,916,667 in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

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Little boy preciously confuses Flyers mascot Gritty for Cookie Monster

Little boy preciously confuses Flyers mascot Gritty for Cookie Monster

Gritty will take this as a compliment.

After all, who doesn't love Cookie Monster? The big, blue, furry creature eats cookies for all three meals of the day — that's living.

Gritty knows how to live, too. The Flyers' mascot was confused for the Sesame Street character by an adorable little boy admiring Cookie Mon--err, Gritty on the cover of Philadelphia Magazine.

The video was posted on Twitter Tuesday morning by @shegabstoomuch.

"Whoaaaaaa," the little boy says in awe.

"Wow, who is that?" he's asked.

"Cookie Monster!"


Gritty will not endure a sophomore slump in 2019-20. He has been working on his figure this summer, staying in shape for the upcoming season.

Does he sneak in a cookie from time to time? Of course he does.

So our little guy wasn't far off.

(Eric Hartline/USA Today Images)

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