Flyers

Changes may be looming for Nick Cousins, Matt Read in Flyers' lineup

Changes may be looming for Nick Cousins, Matt Read in Flyers' lineup

CHICAGO — Despite a shortage of players because of injuries and suspensions, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol is still trying to exert pressure so none of his players get too comfortable.
 
Nick Cousins has two assists in two games. Matt Read has a goal.
 
The forwards switched lines during Monday’s practice at Johnny’s Icehouse West in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Blackhawks.
 
It also appears Roman Lyubimov will enter the lineup for the first time this season. He took some of Cousins’ shifts in practice.
 
Hakstol seldom changes his lineup when the Flyers win. Given Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss in Arizona, he now has an excuse to make lineup changes.
 
“We’re going to consider different things,” Hakstol said of Tuesday's lineup. “Nothing is set in stone yet, but we’re looking at a couple different things.”
 
Read, who scored a goal and came within an eyelash of winning the game in OT — Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made a spectacular save — moved into Cousins’ spot on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line with Dale Weise.
 
Cousins dropped to Boyd Gordon’s fourth line with Chris VandeVelde. However, Lyubimov took some of his shifts, too.
 
“Yeah, he went on the right side a couple of times today on Gordo’s line,” said Hakstol, who mentioned over the weekend he wanted to get Lyubimov into a game on this trip.
 
“We’ll give it some thought and decide final choices in the morning.”
 
Lyubimov thinks he is playing.
 
“I think so, yes, I will play,” said Lyubimov, who speaks limited English. “It’s my chance to start to play.”
 
It’s entirely possible all three are in the lineup Tuesday and someone else — perhaps VandeVelde — comes out.
 
Hakstol lauded Read for his effort in training camp and said he’s had “an impact” on the team’s first couple games. This is a reward.
 
“I played maybe four, five shifts with Bellemare last game,” Read said. “We had some good offensive chances. I don’t know how, but our chemistry was there on the first shift with some scoring chances.
 
“Bellemare is a great centerman, always on the puck and in great position. Weise is kind of the same thing — a hard-nosed player who has an offensive side, as well.”  
 
Cousins played an excellent game against Los Angeles but struggled against Arizona. He wasn’t alone in the struggle department, either. Scores of teammates joined him.
 
“He does little things that go unnoticed and he contributes,” Hakstol said.
 
That Hakstol didn’t find criticism in Cousins’ play could imply that the 23-year-old is remaining in the lineup, but moving down.
 
Cousins himself wasn’t sure. He also lost his spot on the top power play in practice to Michael Raffl.
 
“There’s competition right now,” Cousins said. “Schenner (Brayden Schenn) is coming back. Someone will have to come out. If you’re not playing your best every night, you’re going to get taken out. That’s how it works.”
 
That’s the competition angle Hakstol is working here with his players.
 
“It’s healthy,” Cousins said. “That’s what you want. A healthy competition that brings out the best in everyone. It’s good.”
 
Cousins said he feels he’s done a “pretty good job” through two games, which Hakstol didn’t deny. Asked about sliding down a line, Cousins admitted he wasn’t sure what to read into that.
 
“What happens now is out of my hands,” he said. "That’s the way it is right now and what Hak sees. I think Reader played well last game.
 
“If guys are playing well, they’re going to move up in the lineup. I think that’s what happened here today.”

Flyers sign prospect Linus Hogberg to entry-level contract

Flyers sign prospect Linus Hogberg to entry-level contract

One down, a few more to go?

The Flyers on Saturday signed prospect Linus Hogberg to an entry-level contract. The rights to Hogberg would have expired Monday if the Flyers didn't ink the 2016 fifth-round pick.

During 2019-20, Hogberg, a 21-year-old Swedish defenseman, had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) through 50 games with the Vaxjo Lakers playing against men in the SHL. The 6-foot-1, 176-pounder is regarded as a strong skater and intelligent passer.

Hogberg will start the 2020-21 season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms are gaining on the blue line with prospects Egor Zamula and Wyatte Wylie turning pro, as well.

(Joe Siville/Philadelphia Flyers)

Lehigh Valley could be gaining more with Wyatt Kalynuk and David Bernhardt, who remain unsigned. Bernhardt, another Swedish defenseman, needs to be signed by Monday or his rights will expire. It's uncertain if the Flyers will ink the 2016 seventh-round pick.

It appears Kalynuk has decided to forgo his senior season at Wisconsin as he plans to turn pro in 2020-21.

Kalynuk is an offensive-minded defenseman who has developed a ton with the Badgers. His rights were set to expire next summer. Now that he is leaving Wisconsin, it would be surprising if he's not signed soon by the Flyers.

"Philly has had lots of people here and been very instrumental in his growth as a player," Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato said. "I think when they drafted him, they recognized out of the gate that this guy could be a big part of their organization moving forward. They’ve been hands on, they’ve been here a lot, they’ve done it respectfully in a way that they’ve helped him a ton in preparing to get ready for the next step.”

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2020 NHL playoffs: Without fans, will Stanley Cup Playoff games lose authenticity?

2020 NHL playoffs: Without fans, will Stanley Cup Playoff games lose authenticity?

Hockey has been on the mind all week and even the simple discussion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs has excited fans for the return of their favorite sport — even if things are going to look different this time around. 

While the majority of new rules and procedures were laid out Tuesday thanks to commissioner Gary Bettman, there is still a lot of unknown territory. This format has never been done before, but having a plan in place is the first step to turning concepts into something tangible. 

One of the biggest changes won’t be the additional eight teams, the hub city locations or the fact the NHL has the potential to run into the late summer months, but rather the element — or lack thereof — of fan attendance. 

The safety of fans and players is without a doubt the biggest priority and as we adapt to the “new norm” for the foreseeable future, this is just one of the many things that will have to be endured. 

On the surface, it stinks. Surprisingly enough, you’re allowed to feel this way while also being excited for the hopeful return of the league and games. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are some of the most thrilling weeks in all of sports and a large portion of that is due to the atmosphere created by the fans rallying behind their favorite teams.

So without them in attendance, will games lose their authenticity and lower the overall level of interest? 

Absolutely not. 

Fans have been craving the moment they would have live sports to look forward to and even if that means they can’t physically be in the stands, it doesn’t take away the level of devotion they have.

Of course it will be different — there’s no denying that, but someone rightfully needs to be awarded the Stanley Cup for 2019-20. There are a handful of options to help fill the void, such as playing fan reaction videos on the arena vision screens during thrilling moments of a game. Hearing the “crowd” through the screen would certainly add a level of normalcy, though it wouldn’t fully replicate the atmosphere. 

There are new moments that fans could look forward to in regard to this as well — the sights and sounds that are often coated within cheers or boos. A crisp stop on skates, receiving a puck, solid check along the boards, chirps from one team to another and the celebrations following a goal. 

Also, if things are too quiet, there is a chance to get a look into life on the bench with the players. Hearing teammates interact with one another is always enjoyable when they are mic’d up for games, so imagine having that for a full 60 minutes? It’d be new for everyone, but what a fun concept it would be. 

This is a prime opportunity to view things glass half full, rather than finding negative aspects to this plan. There are still many moving parts before playoffs become a reality once again, but if things are truly done in a safe manner — I say make the most of the situation at hand and drop that puck. 

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