Flyers

Flyers expecting big things from Voracek

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Flyers expecting big things from Voracek

Another stranger from Europe showed up Wednesday at Skate Zone as Flyer imports continue to file in with training camp expected to open on Sunday.

Jacob Voracek was all smiles.

He just got back from his native Kladno, Czech Republic, where he was living with his mother and, apparently, living quite well.

The 23-year-old says he wanted to focus on hockey. She wanted to focus on trying to fatten him up from his 205 pounds.

Mom, Im leaving right now, stop cooking, Voracek told his mother last weekend when the lockout ended. Leave me alone ... I never played professional hockey and lived at home, so it was kind of an adjustment. It was different. I enjoyed it, but its great to be back.

Voracek seems fit after spending the lockout playing for the KHLs HC Lev Praha.

The big concern, of course, is his left knee. He suffered a severe medial collateral ligament sprain Oct. 6 and missed several weeks.

I was trying to jump through the D and he just hit me with his ass, hip, Voracek said, pointing to his left side. Right here. Im fine. I was struggling right after that. Its fine, great to be back. Two, three weeks, I was feeling like myself again, so that was good.

More than that, it was a huge relief to the Flyers back here.

General manager Paul Holmgren expects big things from Voracek in this, his second season in Philadelphia -- shortened though it might be.

The wily right wing had a career-high 18 goals last year, coming over as part of the Jeff Carter trade with Columbus. His 49 points were one point shy of his best ever as a Blue Jacket in 2009-10.

Voracek uses his speed and cunning to generate chances. What coach Peter Laviolette and his staff want to see this year is for Voracek to finish more of those opportunities.

Hell be given a chance to play on the Flyers top line with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell now that Jaromir Jagr has moved on, signing with Dallas over the summer.

I played there a couple games last year when Jags was hurt, Voracek said. A couple games. I think we worked pretty well. Its going to be very exciting. G, everybody knows what kind of player he is. The last few years hes shown it. Im going to be very excited about it.

Voracek appeared with Girouxs unit six times, including twice in the playoffs.

Jagr was his closest friend. Both of them were born in Kladno. Jagr owns and manages that club. Plus, Jagr mentored Voracek all of last season, trying to help him adjust to a new environment and to be comfortable with a team where expectations are much higher.

Of course, Jags is a top-five player to ever play the hockey game, Voracek said. We were neighbors in Old City, we were going to practice with each other. He helped me a lot.

I saw what kind of person he is, how he acted to other people, the way he practices, the way he works out. Im thankful I had a chance to play with him.

Much like Ilya Bryzgalov, management expects that Voracek will relax and achieve more easily now that hes had a year here.

I think there was a little more pressure on Bryz than there was on me, Voracek said of last season. I was coming in from Columbus, played these guys basically once a year. There wasnt much knowing those two teams.

Bryz was under a lot of pressure last year. I think hes going to be more ready, he said so himself. Im fine. Im the same way as last year. I didnt feel pressure, Im just going to play my game. Im sure Im going to be fine.

Loose pucks
Voraceks injury was originally reported as a right knee sprain not left Tommy Sesisto is not here. He has the mumps. Honest Wednesdays additions to the Flyers player-only workouts included Luke Schenn, Bruno Gervais, and Nick Grossmann Wayne Simmonds is still not here Sean Couturier is here, but cant skate until the AHL players are released to rejoining the NHLers after the CBA gets done ... Ruslan Fedotenko is here, but did not skate, either.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Voracek has mixed feelings on Chia Pet giveaway

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USA TODAY

Voracek has mixed feelings on Chia Pet giveaway

Jake Voracek fully expected his own bobblehead as part a promotional giveaway at some point this season.

But using his likeness in the form of a Chia Pet? 

“I had no idea what it was,” Voracek said. “I just knew that something was coming out of that thing. That’s all I knew. What is that grass?”

The Chia Pet is a 1970s phenomenon that has been kept alive for over 40 years now. Chia owners plant seeds on a terra-cotta figurine and over time the chia sprout resembles hair or fur. Over the years, Chia Pets have branched out into cartoon characters and even real people, most notably politicians. 

The trend of Chia hockey players started in March 2016 when the San Jose Sharks unveiled Chia Burns, a promotional giveaway of defenseman Brent Burns noted for his long and scraggly beard.

The Flyers marketing department decided a promotional campaign centered around a Chia Pet and Voracek’s hairy qualities would be ideal. Fans attending Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers will receive their very own Voracek Chia Pet when they walk through the doors. 

“I was looking at it saying ‘Alright, we’ll see how it goes,’" said Voracek.

However, the Flyers star winger has limitations.

“I’m not going to have one at home, that’s for sure,” Voracek said. “I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate that.”

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Flyers' forward depth being tested early

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Flyers' forward depth being tested early

Did the Flyers run into a red hot Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday, or was it worth reading between the lines — as in Dave Hakstol’s lines? 

The significance of Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Golden Knights was this: It marked the first time in 61 regular season games the Flyers had been shut out dating back to a 3-0 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 2, 2017.

It was after that game that Dave Hakstol resorted to breaking up the most productive line in hockey when Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek had accounted for a whopping 43 percent of the Flyers’ offensive production at even strength, including an NHL-leading 25 goals between them.  

Hakstol at that time was desperate for change. He had heard the “Fire Hakstol” chants raining down from the Wells Fargo Center as his team had just dropped their tenth straight game and were shutout for the sixth time in their first 26 games. The Flyers' record stood at 8-11-7 while sitting in last place in the Metropolitan Division.

Despite the ten-game winless stretch, the message from the coach and general manager Ron Hextall was the Flyers weren’t playing that poorly, but they also weren’t receiving the necessary breaks needed to win a game.  

Still, Saturday’s shutout to Vegas was a glimpse into what we saw a year ago, which raises a very important and vital question: Can the Flyers survive offensively when the big three of Giroux, Couturier and Voracek doesn’t crack the scoresheet playing on the same line? 

Prior to last season’s split, the answer was a definitive "no." The Flyers managed to win just one game, a 2-1 home victory against Edmonton, when that top line failed to produce an even strength goal. However, it was Giroux who opened the scoring with a power play goal.

“I don’t think we feel more pressure, but we’re just kinda the guys that need to step up offensively and the team relies on us to produce,” Couturier said. “I think it’s just more confidence than anything and that we’ll create chances every night.”

I agree with Couturier’s assertion that those superstars don’t feel additional pressure, but I sense there’s pressure placed on the secondary players when that top line is having an off night. 

Coming into this season with the addition of James van Riemsdyk and the emergence of players like Mikhail Vorobyev and Oskar Lindblom, the Flyers appeared stacked within their forward group. 

But it’s not until a team is faced with injuries that they’re forced to find out exactly what that depth looks like. Right now, no lines changes are expected for Tuesday’s game against the Panthers. Jordan Weal is the Flyers’ second-line center until Nolan Patrick returns, with Vorobyev centering the third line. The 21-year-old rookie has hit a wall with no points and no shots on net over his last three games.

“It can help us grow under stress,” Hakstol said. “It can help guys get in the lineup and play a little different role, play a little larger role and prove they can help us win games. Those individuals have to get in and be part of a lineup, that wins hockey games.”

Hakstol believes the Flyers could have executed better and shot a little more, but overall, the team played a much more complete and structured game in a 1-0 loss to the Golden Knights than they did in a 5-2 victory in Vegas.

As Hakstol knows, eventually the process has to yield results, or the first two months of this season will start to look eerily similar to last year.

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