Flyers

Travis Konecny defends Nolan Patrick, shows Flyers won't be picked on without Wayne Simmonds

Travis Konecny defends Nolan Patrick, shows Flyers won't be picked on without Wayne Simmonds

NEWARK, N.J. — It was just a matter of time before this new-look Flyers team was forced to take matters into the hands of someone else not named Wayne Simmonds.

To have the fortitude to serve and protect in a way Simmonds was called upon to do so many times before.

Friday night's 6-3 win over the Devils proved to be that first game in which the team’s mettle would be tested (see observations)

“Simmer is one of those guys you don’t want to mess with,” Travis Konecny said. “Teams probably look at us differently. We’re still the same team in that we stick together. I think Simmer left a lot of that with us and taught us young guys to stick up for your teammates.”

You’ll have to forgive the Devils, more notably fourth-line winger Kurtis Gabriel, if he somehow mistook the Prudential Center for one of Newark’s poorly lit alleyways. 

Five minutes into the game, Gabriel unloaded an all-out assault into Nolan Patrick, checking from behind and launching him face-first into the glass. NBC Sports Philadelphia Flyers analyst Chris Therien called it "the dumbest hit I’ve seen all year."

It was certainly one of the most irresponsible ones.

A hit so flagrant that it resulted in a five-minute major, forcing Patrick to leave the game and head into the dressing room as part of the NHL’s concussion protocol.  

“That’s obviously the way that guy plays," Patrick said. "He’s in the lineup for that reason, to do that I guess. The best way to respond is to beat them, which we did."

One could make the convincing argument that Gabriel should have received a match penalty and been immediately ejected from the game, but he was allowed to return after serving the five minutes.

Once the Flyers scored two quick goals in the third period, it was time to settle another score, and that’s when Patrick went into retaliation mode and delivered an open-ice shoulder-to-chest hit that leveled Gabriel, but didn’t appear to be contact directed at the head.

Of course, as you might expect, Devils coach John Hynes saw Patrick’s retaliatory hit differently than the guys on the other bench. 

“I’m sure it’s going to get reviewed," Hynes said. "Blindside hit to the head."

Not long after Patrick’s third-period hit, the tension grew and erupted in Patrick, Gabriel, Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson getting hauled off for roughing penalties, the fallout of a Konecny crosscheck.

“If you look at tonight, there were a few scrums. Guys stuck up for one another,” Sean Couturier said. “There were five-man units in there as battles. It’s good to see and it’s what good teams do. We've got to keep doing that.”

From a crosscheck to a gut-check moment for the Flyers, who were tested for the first time since trading their emotional and spirited leader Simmonds, who would have cleaned up the mess by dropping the gloves or doing what he needed to do to ensure order was restored.

Teams may look at the Flyers differently, but Friday night, they showed there's still a price to be paid (see highlights).

“It was just a matter of trying to protect ourselves,” Konecny said. “Patty is one of my good buddies and I’m going to stick up for him any time someone is messing with him. That’s what it is. Everyone’s just sticking together and we’re a close team. It’s not going to fly with us.”

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Flyers trade T.J. Brennan to Blackhawks for Nathan Noel

Flyers trade T.J. Brennan to Blackhawks for Nathan Noel

The Flyers made a minor trade to wrap up their deadline work Monday.

The team sent Phantoms defenseman T.J. Brennan to the Blackhawks in exchange for forward Nathan Noel.

Brennan, a South Jersey native, had apparently fallen out of favor with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. Brennan hadn't played a game for the Phantoms since Jan. 10, his fourth season with Lehigh Valley. In only 28 games this season, the 30-year-old blueliner had one goal and seven assists.

During his career, Brennan never appeared in a game for the Flyers. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Noel, who will report to ECHL affiliate Reading, was a 2016 fourth-round draft pick of Chicago. The 22-year-old center had six goals and 11 assists for the ECHL's Indy Fuel this season and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

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NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

NHL trade deadline: Flyers acquire Derek Grant in trade with Ducks

Updated: 1:37 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — General manager Chuck Fletcher has put a focus on adding to his group of forwards to augment the Flyers' playoff push.

Shortly after acquiring Nate Thompson (see story), the Flyers made a much more notable depth acquisition ahead of Monday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Fletcher acquired Derek Grant from the Ducks in exchange for Phantoms forward Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick. The pick will be the better of the two fourth-round selections the Flyers have — their own pick and the one they acquired from the Predators last deadline.

Grant, a well-traveled forward with positional versatility, already owns a personal-best 14 goals and is five points away from breaking his career high of 24 set in 2017-18.

Head coach Alain Vigneault mentioned how Grant, who can play center or winger, could open on the wing with the Flyers, while Thompson appears to be a fourth-line center type.

The 29-year-old Grant checked a lot of boxes for the Flyers (see story). His cap hit is only $700,000 and he can become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so he doesn't block the club's future down the middle or on the wing.

"We’ll have to figure out where he fits in best with our team," Vigneault said Monday after practice. "In doing our homework, the feedback that we got back was that he’s a very versatile player who can play all the positions. I felt that was important. It gives me a little bit more leeway as far as certain nights when some guys are on top of their game or some other guys are a little bit off. We’ll see. We’ll have some decisions to make."

Grant was playing fourth-line center for the Ducks, his sixth NHL team, and was one of their best penalty killers. The move made Connor Bunnaman an odd man out of the lineup as the rookie was loaned to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after practice. He played well as a rookie, but Grant gives the Flyers experience, size, a boost on special teams and some secondary scoring potential.

"This was obviously the whole staff getting together — pro scouts, management and coaches — analyzing our team, analyzing where we are," Vigneault said. "I think it was an easy conclusion to make that if we could improve our depth, we would do that. So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman that’s going to help us in Thompson on the PK. Grant’s got a little bit more versatility, he can play all three positions, he’s been used in a PK and power play role.

"So we felt that we needed a little bit more depth in this final push here moving forward, and so far that’s what we’ve added."

The Flyers have relied on younger forwards Bunnaman, Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, all of whom have held their own during the playoff race. Since Jan. 8, the Flyers are 13-5-1 with an NHL-high 68 goals.

However, the Flyers had only 12 healthy forwards with 20 games remaining and competing in the NHL's deepest division (see story). Farabee was also loaned to the Phantoms, but there's a good chance he'll be back with the big club at some point.

"We're pretty comfortable with the group we have, but bringing in some experience always helps. You can't have enough experience down the road," Sean Couturier said. "It's nice to see the confidence from the management. It's just up to us now to go out there and keep doing our job, keep winning games."

Grant is expected to be in the Flyers' lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

"Remembering him, he's a big guy, pretty strong out there, tough to play against," Couturier said. "It's nice to see some addition. I think he's having a great year, too, so we'll definitely need him down the road."

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