Is this the spark Nolan Patrick needs?

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Is this the spark Nolan Patrick needs?

SUNRISE, Fla. — Jake Voracek prefers to drive the bus no matter who’s riding on his line. 

He was the driving force on that top unit with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux through the first 26 games of the season before Dave Hakstol elected to move Voracek in an attempt to balance out his lines.

Now, rookie Nolan Patrick is learning how to structure his game by adapting to Voracek’s puck possession tendencies.

“Jake has done a good job of driving his line,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Basically, there’s been three different combinations for him so far this year. For a young guy like Patrick, you got to read a little bit off of Jake. Jake’s a creative player, but I think Patty is a guy that can read that play and can get pucks to Jake at the right time and at the right areas.”

Hakstol elected to move Patrick onto a line with Voracek and Michael Raffl prior to last Saturday’s game at Columbus, following a stretch of games when Patrick showed more urgency to create plays in the offensive zone.  

While the combination of Valtteri Filppula, Raffl and Voracek exploded right away in their first game in Calgary, Voracek believes it will take time to develop with Patrick.

“One practice doesn’t make much,” Voracek said. “You have to play games. Practice is good to stay in shape, but you can’t practice the game situations. It’s hard to do. We had a couple of opportunities in Columbus. Could we do better? Sure, but it’s a process and hopefully, we’ll generate some chances and score some goals today.”

With an average size of 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, one area the line can dominate is down in the trenches with their ability to win puck battles 

“It’s always different playing with different guys,” Raffl said. “Sometimes you need a little time to adjust, but I think he (Patrick) is one of our best centermen. He’s intelligent, he’s really good with the stick and he sees the ice well. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t work.” 

Much of that depends on how long Hakstol is willing to keep that window of opportunity open.

The Ghostly confines
Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere says he occasionally gets the “stink eye” when he’s asked where he’s from and the response isn’t your typical hockey-hotbed related answer.

The South Florida native, who was born in nearby Pembroke Pines, is proud of how he’s developed into an NHL professional beginning with his days with the Florida Panthers junior hockey program. But he also understands it’s not easy in a non-traditional hockey market and a fan base that doesn’t have the commitment of sports fans like Philadelphia. 

“Florida has been bandwagon state for sports for a while, especially down south,” Gostisbehere said. “I’m pretty sure if you go to any Miami Heat games, they’re not gonna be packed. But a couple of years ago they were. Obviously, when the Panthers were making the playoffs, the rats were coming back. It goes with the even flows of the team. If they’re winning, there’s obviously going to be more fans.”

The Panthers are one of four organizations averaging under 13,000 fans through the first three months of the regular season with a building capacity of 75 percent, and perhaps even below that, as the number is based on ticket sales.  

“It bothers me a little bit,” said Gostisbehere. “I grew up with it. I’ve seen the empty seats. Obviously, I hold them close to my heart and they’re a big part of my hockey career.”

"Ghost" will do his part to fill the seats tonight with his typical ticket requests for friends and family.

Projected lines and pairings

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

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

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Flyers at Blackhawks: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Blackhawks: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

The Philadelphia Flyers (35-30-8, 78 points) will attempt to keep their slim playoff hopes alive against the Chicago Blackhawks (32-30-10, 74 points), who are just four points back of the Arizona Coyotes for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

In their only previous meeting this season, the Flyers blanked the Blackhawks, 4-0, back on Nov. 10. Sean Couturier scored two goals and Brian Elliott made 33 saves for his first shutout of the season.

Other games vital to the Flyers' playoff chances:

• Tampa Bay at Carolina, 7 p.m.
• NY Islanders at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
• Columbus at Edmonton, 9 p.m.

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

• When: 8:30 p.m. EST
• Where: United Center
• Broadcast: NBCSP
• Live stream: and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers have dropped four of the last five at the United Center and five of their last seven games here. They haven’t lost three in a row in the Windy City since the days of Chicago Stadium.

The Blackhawks enter tonight’s game with points in each of their last six games (5-0-1). Interestingly, the Hawks have scored two or more goals in their previous 51 games dating back to Nov. 18. 

• Justin Bailey has been recalled (again) from Lehigh Valley and will take Michael Raffl’s place in the lineup. Raffl did not make the trip to Chicago as the latest player impacted by the virus that has been spreading around the Flyers' locker room.

Bailey has seen action in seven games with the Flyers this season and is still looking for his first point since the trade to Philadelphia.

It’s been a crazy week going up or down almost every day. At the same time, it’s nice that they’re calling me when they’re calling somebody up every time. I take that as a positive. It’s been a lot of travel, but I’m lucky that it’s only an hour and a half away. It’s been a wild week.

— Flyers forward Justin Bailey.

• The Flyers power play snapped an 0-for-17 skid stretching their last seven games when Sean Couturier scored a power play goal Tuesday against the Canadiens.  

Since Jan. 9, Flyers center Sean Couturier is tied for the NHL lead with a plus-20 rating and is ranked ninth in scoring with 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 30 games.  

• Carter Hart will get the start tonight in Chicago. The Flyers rookie goaltender has lost four of his past five starts but has played considerably better recently allowing just three goals over his past two appearances with a .961 save percentage.

With two more points, Scott Laughton will top the 30-point mark for the first time in his career. Laughton is on pace to become the first Flyer since Joel Otto in 1996-97 to score 30 points in a season — all at even strength or short handed. 

Projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk - Nolan Patrick - Claude Giroux
Oskar Lindblom - Sean Couturier - Jake Voracek
Travis Konecny - Scott Laughton - Ryan Hartman
Phil Varone - Corban Knight - Justin Bailey 

Ivan Provorov - Travis Sanheim
Shayne Gostisbehere  - Philippe Myers
Robert Hägg- Radko Gudas

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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Flyers to play in NHL Global Series, open 2019-20 regular season in Prague

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Flyers to play in NHL Global Series, open 2019-20 regular season in Prague

CHICAGO — Hockey fans, this is the road trip you’ve been waiting for.

The Flyers will play outside North America for the first time in their 52-year existence.

The team will wrap up its 2019 training camp in Lausanne, Switzerland, with an exhibition game against Lausanne HC on Monday, Sept. 30. 

From there, the Flyers will embark some 565 miles to Prague, Czech Republic, where they will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 4 at O2 Arena for the 2019-20 regular-season opener.

It’s a chance for Czech natives Jakub Voracek and Radko Gudas, who both grew up in the Prague suburb of Kladno, to play a game in their home country.   

“Obviously, it’s something that as a kid you don’t think it’s possible,” Voracek said in a statement released by the team Thursday. “I think it’s great for us to see all the friends and family being able to attend an NHL game you can participate in. It’ll be special. It’s going to be exciting. I think everyone’s pretty pumped up for Prague.”

The city of Prague is featured in this month’s edition of Money Magazine as one of the top 10 international destinations to visit.

The average round-trip airfare is just under $1,000, while the cost of a week for two people will run around $3,500.

Switzerland and the Czech Republic are not the only international stops for the NHL this season. 

The Blackhawks will play a preseason game in Berlin, Germany, with the Lightning and Sabres playing a regular-season game in November in Stockholm, Sweden.

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