Flyers

Ron Hextall has a reminder about Jordan Weal

Ron Hextall has a reminder about Jordan Weal

Last offseason, Ron Hextall steered clear of the market for free-agent forwards.

A build-from-within fundamentalist liked what he had internally.

"We felt really strongly about Jordan Weal," the Flyers' general manager said in June 2017. "If we didn't sign Jordan Weal, we might've looked for one more forward to try and upgrade our skill level."

This offseason, Hextall hasn't lost belief — in his method or the player. While he went out and reeled in James van Riemsdyk, Hextall has refrained from inking an external option to fill a void at third-line center.

"We're not willing to commit on term for someone that is maybe not an upgrade from the guys that we have in-house," Hextall said July 1.

It sounds like he's ready to put his faith in Weal again. In 2017-18, that faith wasn't rewarded as the forward scored 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 69 games, had a minus-10 rating and became a healthy scratch late in the season. The production was considered a disappointment after the Flyers signed Weal to a two-year extension following an eye-opening 23-game sample in 2016-17.

What's important to note is that Weal started just one game at center last season — Nov. 14 against the Wild. With the Flyers, he has transitioned to the wing out of necessity, away from his natural position. Maybe it's why he's been forgotten as a possible third-line center fit in 2018-19, against the competition such as Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost, Mike Vecchione and Mikhail Vorobyev.

"Jordan Weal, too, is a guy that I've mentioned," Hextall said Wednesday. "Nobody else seems to want to, but he's played center. He's a good centerman. He's good on faceoffs. He's good defensively. He makes plays. I suspect Jordan's going to bounce back. I don't think he had a terrific year last year, so he's certainly a candidate.

"But if we can upgrade in the meantime, we will. We're pretty comfortable, also, with what we have from within. You're always looking to upgrade every position. If we can upgrade, we're going to try and do it. We have internal candidates we feel comfortable with."

Weal, 26, will have to prove he can play both ends as an NHL third-line center, because it's clear he has the playmaking ability to provide the Flyers with secondary scoring. Put his skill and speed between a pair of finishers like Wayne Simmonds and Oskar Lindblom, and you see the potential. During last season's home-opening rout of the Capitals, Weal showed it in a play with Simmonds.

Hextall wants Weal, a well-known rink rat, to play a pressure-free game in 2018-19.

"Jordan cares so much," Hextall said. "Sometimes he can be his worst enemy. He's the last guy on the ice every day. He works his tail off. Sometimes you just want to go, 'Jordan, get off the ice and relax a little bit.' He's so driven to be the best he can be. It's something he can get better at, in terms of the mental part of it where sometimes you've got to let things go. 

"When he gets on a roll, he's a good player. I suspect Jordan's going to come in really ready to play and focused and ready to show us what he showed us two years ago."

Once again, the GM is looking inside and so is Weal.

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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

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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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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