Flyers

Scott Hartnell: Firing Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol should 'wake guys up' for Flyers

Scott Hartnell: Firing Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol should 'wake guys up' for Flyers

Scott Hartnell smiled as he joked about his game.

Nothing to it was pretty or pleasant.

He had a work-for-everything, grind-it-out style that Philly endears itself to because the city can relate. Hartnell couldn't get by on pure talent, so getting up for every game and outworking the opposition became paramount.

"The people of Philadelphia, they appreciate hard work, they love the guys that grind, that go to the hard areas and I made a living in front of the net, taking whacks and crosschecks and making hits, fights, things like that," Hartnell said. "I know that they love those guys and the guys love them right back."

You can say it worked out well as Hartnell, now retired, turned into a player worth being honored, which the Flyers' organization did wonderfully Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Which brings us to the 2018-19 club.

As speed and skill take over the league, Hartnell's type of game seems to be dying off in today's NHL. However, Hartnell's effort and energy should be as prevalent as ever to the Flyers, trying to make something of this season.

There wasn't nearly enough consistent effort and production through the first two and a half months of 2018-19. Now, Ron Hextall and Dave Hakstol are out of jobs, while the Flyers are hoping new life under general manager Chuck Fletcher and interim head coach Scott Gordon can be a cure.

For the first time since Nov. 5-10, the Flyers have won consecutive games. They've done so by looking like a different team in front of 20-year-old Carter Hart, who won his NHL debut Tuesday and followed it up with a 2-1 victory Thursday over the Predators.

"For me, it's all about competing," Hartnell said Thursday when asked to assess the 2018-19 Flyers. "You look at [Tuesday's] game. It looks like the guys wanted to defend and they wanted to play hard. Obviously, the new goalie Hart was in net as a reason for them to do it, but they shouldn't need a reason to play hard defensively, and that's going to correlate into the neutral zone, into the offense.

"So hopefully they figured it out and they got the right way to play, and unfortunately a couple guys lost their job, but sometimes it takes that much to wake guys up."

The Flyers have turned in complete games their last two times out. They've played with great exertion and execution. They've jumped out to leads and have responded well to goals against. They look like they've reset and are feeding off each other again.

Hartnell loves to see it.

"If I was emotionally involved in the game and I was playing angry or got somebody mad at us, it kind of fueled the whole bench and fueled the team," he said. "You definitely need some guys that have that kind of energy that filters throughout the team, through a building. One play in a game rises everyone out of their seats, 20,000 people screaming for you, good or bad, whatever. It just gets people involved and that's one thing, too, that successful teams do every night — they're involved, they're emotional and they get things done."

Once again, the fun-loving Hartnell can laugh about himself.

"The game is so fast and so skilled and I guess I wasn't fast or wasn't that skilled," he said. 

But …

"Playing 17 years ain't bad," he said.

"The game has changed and it's always going to change. Who knows where it's going to be, the next big change, but it's sure fun to watch on TV, it's fun to be here live watching these guys skate around and hopefully the Flyers can get things going."

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Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers' depth at forward is being seriously tested.

The team is without Travis Konecny (concussion, out indefinitely), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger, out approximately four weeks) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder, out indefinitely).

Going into their three-game road trip, the Flyers have only 12 healthy forwards. In his fifth stint with the big club since the beginning of 2018-19, Mikhail Vorobyev is centering the Flyers' fourth line. The 22-year-old is in audition mode yet again with the Flyers and will have to be noticeable in limited minutes to stick.

How Vorobyev performs moving forward and the Flyers' depth concerns could open the door for Connor Bunnaman. The 21-year-old forward made the Flyers' season-opening roster. He's healthy again with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after missing nearly a full month because of a lower-body injury.

Bunnaman brings size and positional versatility as the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder can player either center or winger. This past week, Bunnaman scored a goal and had eight shots in three games.

The Flyers may want to have him play more games with the Phantoms before calling him up. However, they may need him soon. Bunnaman has Raffl-like potential and ability.

On Sept. 26, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke highly of the 2016 fourth-round pick who scored 19 goals in 62 games with Lehigh Valley last season and two goals this preseason.

He’s been the best player in training camp. He was outstanding in the practices. ... By best player, I mean in terms of expectations. He’s come in and blown them away.

He honestly seems twice as fast this year to last year. I know we make a habit of saying players are quicker and faster but this guy is legitimately much faster than last year and he scored 19 goals last year, had a heck of a year in the American League.

There’s no reason to doubt that he can play some games for us this year.

The Phantoms play Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Flyers play Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Keep an eye on Bunnaman and the big club's bottom-six depth.

Quick hits

• Noah Cates is continuing to turn heads.

As a sophomore, the 2017 fifth-round pick leads defending national champion Minnesota Duluth with nine goals and is a point-per-game player (16 points in 16 contests).

The 20-year-old winger is coming off a four-point weekend (three goals, one assist) in the Bulldogs' two-game sweep of Omaha.

The Flyers couldn't stop bragging about Cates this summer and are probably bragging some more to each other this week.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development," Cates said in June. "They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

He's doing just that.

• Cam York, the Flyers' 2019 first-round pick, recorded a goal and an assist in Michigan's 4-1 win over Penn State last Friday.

The mobile and skilled puck-moving defenseman owns nine points (four goals, five assists) in 14 games as a freshman.

• Egor Zamula enjoyed a three-point weekend for the Calgary Hitmen.

The 19-year-old is third among WHL defensemen with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 28 games and has a plus-19 rating.

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Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

Flyers' Travis Konecny out indefinitely with concussion after hit from Mark Borowiecki

VOORHEES, N.J. — Monday started with bad news for the Flyers.

Travis Konecny, their 22-year-old leading scorer, is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Konecny was leveled in open ice by Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki during the first period of the Flyers' 4-3 win Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center. He left the game and never returned.

The 2015 first-round pick is on pace to shatter his career highs. He's been arguably the Flyers’ most important piece to their turnaround through 30 games of 2019-20.

He has 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) after having 28 points through the team's first 50 games last season. The Flyers are 2-4-4 in games that he hasn't scored.

I didn’t know a ton about him. I knew he competed like hell, fiery player," Matt Niskanen, in his first year with the Flyers, said Monday. "Playing with him, that’s reinforced that thought — hungry on the puck, good quickness, really good at creating turnovers. He’s shown a pretty good scoring touch, too, so far this year. A lot of good tools and he’s been a really important player for us.

Philippe Myers left the Flyers' skill practice Monday with back spasms. With Konecny out and Myers potentially out for Wednesday's game in Colorado against the Avalanche (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN), the Flyers will most likely have only 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen to open a three-game road trip.

Niskanen, who has 125 career postseason games on his résumé and a Stanley Cup title, said this can be a good challenge for the Flyers. The team is 12-3-4 and tied with the Capitals for the most points in the NHL at 28 since Nov. 1 (see weekly observations).

"Both guys have played really well for us," he said. "Hopefully they come back, we've been on a pretty good run here. But it gives somebody an opportunity and it tests us a little bit — and that's OK, early in the year, you're going to have to learn to deal with things."

As of Monday morning, the Flyers did not have plans to make a call-up. Forward Chris Stewart will enter the lineup and defenseman Robert Hagg will, as well, if Myers is unable to go in Colorado.

Head coach Alain Vigneault said it's uncertain if Konecny will or can travel with the Flyers. The team flies to Denver Tuesday afternoon.

"At this time, I would say no," Vigneault said, "but you never know how things change."

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