Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Jori Lehtera claims his innocence

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Flyers notes, quotes and tidbits: Jori Lehtera claims his innocence

VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers center Jori Lehtera returned to practice Friday after sitting out the previous two days. Lehtera’s absence Wednesday stemmed from a story in a Finnish publication that reported he was questioned by police and named as a suspect in a cocaine ring back in his native Finland. Authorities also raided Lehtera’s summer cottage home, but he was not there at the time, according to the report.

Lehtera reaffirmed his innocence on Friday.

“I just want to say that you guys are going to see that I haven’t done anything wrong,” Lehtera said.

The NHL has also intervened as the league has started its own investigation into the situation, but "will have no further comment pending the completion of that process."

The 30-year-old Lehtera was centering the Flyers' fourth line Friday with Scott Laughton on the left and Michael Raffl on the right, an indication that he will play Saturday in Boston. So far, Lehtera has seen action in three preseason games, scoring one goal while earning valuable time on the Flyers' penalty-kill unit.

“I knew more of what the team is expecting of me and about my role here,” Lehtera said. “It’s easier to come here this year, than last year.”

Roster trimmed to 31
Carsen Twarynski and Tyrell Goulbourne were sent down to Lehigh Valley Friday, bringing the Flyers' roster to 31 players, a number that includes five injured players: Pascal Laberge, Samuel Morin, Alex Lyon, Michal Neuvirth and Corban Knight. Knight sustained an upper-body injury in Thursday’s game against the Rangers. 

The 20-year-old Twarynski was one of the more impressive prospects through the preseason and training camp (see story), but the move makes sense moving forward. Twarynski will see more valuable time with the Phantoms than a possible fourth-line role with the Flyers, where his minutes would be limited.

“There’s nothing but positives out of Carsen’s camp,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s a lot of areas he can improve and raise the level of several areas of his game, but he showed us he’s not far away from the National Hockey League.”

The Flyers also announced Laberge underwent successful hip surgery. The Flyers' second-round selection in 2016 posted a photo of himself on Instagram resting at the Vincera Institute at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard.  

Opening night lines?
Typically, a head coach wants to see his opening night lines play in the preseason finale, so it was interesting to see James van Riemsdyk work with Mikhail Vorobyev and Wayne Simmonds on a third line during Friday’s practice. 

Against the Rangers Thursday, van Riemsdyk found his jump by scoring a goal and adding an assist in the third period after Hakstol made changes to his lines.

“I’m not reading too much into anything,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s a long season, so there’s always times when things get a little stale and things get switched around.”

For now, Hakstol wants to see Oskar Lindblom with Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek.

“Last year, they were right on the cusp of breaking through," Hakstol said. "Oskar had a really good stretch where he couldn’t get one to go into the net and go his way. So, I wanted to see them together.”

Here are the lines the Flyers are expected to go with Saturday in Boston:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek
James van Riemsdyk-Mikhail Vorobyev-Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera-Michael Raffl

Extras: Taylor Leier, Jordan Weal, Dale Weise.

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Flyers send Carsen Twarynski, Tyrell Goulbourne to Phantoms

Flyers send Carsen Twarynski, Tyrell Goulbourne to Phantoms

Carsen Twarynski's run in training camp has come to an end.

He left an impression, though. 

Twarynski and Tyrell Goulbourne were loaned back to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley on Friday as the Flyers continue to shape their roster ahead of next Thursday's regular-season opener.

Twarynski, a 20-year-old winger, left a mark with his size (6-2/198), ability around the net and strength in puck battles. He put up a goal and an assist over five preseason contests after scoring 45 markers and 72 points in 68 regular-season games with the WHL's Kelowna Rockets in 2017-18, his final junior campaign.

Set for his first AHL season, Twarynski lasted longer in camp than just about anyone anticipated.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol had a lengthy take on Twarynski last Saturday. It's worth dropping here in its entirety:

I don't think it surprises. He's a player that didn't get a lot of fanfare coming into camp, but he's one of those guys that … I think the organization knows him very well. He's just earned everything day by day. Is he a guy that was circled two weeks ago that was a sure thing to be here or an odds-on favorite to be here? Maybe not, but he's earned it day by day. That's why he's still here — he earned that game [Friday] night and he went out and did a pretty good job again. I like that he continues to do the simple things that have given him success so far. I've really liked his versatility going from right side to left side and not changing his game, not looking out of place playing his off wing, when you get into defensive situations or tight spots on the walls. There's a bunch of little things there that he's done that have earned him getting this far in camp.

Goulbourne, a 24-year-old winger with tenaciousness and penalty-kill experience, cleared waivers Thursday. He made his NHL debut last season to provide a spark and some energy to the bottom six and ended up playing nine games.

The 2013 third-round draft pick was a plus-15 in 2017-18 with the Phantoms and will be a recall option yet again for the Flyers if the circumstances call for it.

The Flyers' roster is now down to 31 players and must be trimmed to 23 before the Oct. 4 season opener.

Forwards (17)
Travis Konecny, RW, No. 11
Michael Raffl, RW, No. 12
Sean Couturier, C, No. 14
Jori Lehtera, C, No. 15
Wayne Simmonds, RW, No. 17
Nolan Patrick, C, No. 19
Taylor Leier, LW, No. 20
Scott Laughton, C, No. 21
Dale Weise, RW, No. 22
James van Riemsdyk, LW, No. 25
Claude Giroux, RW, No. 28
Corban Knight, C, No. 38
Jordan Weal, C, No. 40
Mikhail Vorobyev, C, No. 46
Oskar Lindblom, LW, No. 54
Pascal Laberge, C, No. 75 (injured)
Jakub Voracek, RW, No. 93

Defensemen (9)
Radko Gudas, No. 3
Samuel Morin, No. 5 (injured)
Travis Sanheim, No. 6
Robert Hagg, No. 8
Ivan Provorov, No. 9
Christian Folin, No. 26
Andrew MacDonald, No. 47
Shayne Gostisbehere, No. 53
Mark Friedman, No. 59

Goaltenders (5)
Michal Neuvirth, No. 30 (injured)
Alex Lyon, No. 34 (injured)
Brian Elliott, No. 37
Anthony Stolarz, No. 41
Carter Hart, No. 79

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Why the Flyers need to rid themselves of Jori Lehtera

Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers/AP Images

Why the Flyers need to rid themselves of Jori Lehtera

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers have enough groin strains and knee pains to worry about, that they certainly don’t need a Jori Lehtera headache.

Lehtera was held out of Wednesday’s practice, and consequently not available to the media, after the website reported that the Flyers forward had been questioned by Finnish authorities as a suspect in a large cocaine ring back in his home country (see story). Police had raided Lehtera’s cottage earlier this summer and he, in turn, has denied any wrongdoing. 

The Flyers elected to send out a statement just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, saying, “We have spoken with Jori Lehtera and the league office regarding the reports out of Finland and will reserve any further comment on the matter at this time.”

General manager Ron Hextall addressed the media a short time later and said, “I don’t have details, so there’s nothing to comment on.”

The underlying question as it pertains to the Flyers: Was the organization aware of any of this prior to training camp or did it find out like the rest of us? Hextall’s comments would suggest that the team was blindsided and unaware of these events, Lehtera’s questioning by authorities or anything pertaining to an investigation.

If indeed Lehtera provided any type information to the Flyers prior to the start of preseason, then certainly the organization knew of a potential fallout. 

Interestingly, Hextall was asked about cutting ties with Lehtera and buying out the remaining year on his contract back in May, but the GM saw value in Lehtera outside of his play on the ice. 

“There’s a lot of reasons you don’t just buy a guy out because he makes a little bit more than that type of role should make,” Hextall said. “Jori was a good role player for us. He’s a terrific human being. He works hard. He’s really good with our young kids. There’s a lot more to it than just saying, ‘OK, Jori Lehtera was playing center and playing 8-10 minutes.’”

So how should the Flyers proceed moving forward?

It’s simple — place Lehtera on waivers, and if he clears, bury him in the AHL. The front office may have been considering waivers prior to this new revelation, and if you didn’t think Lehtera was worth a roster spot before, he certainly isn’t worth it now. His preseason hasn’t been any different than his regular season a year ago. The Flyers would still be responsible for Lehtera’s $5 million salary for this season, but cap space isn’t an issue at this point.

We’re not talking about Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek or Nolan Patrick. 

Lehtera is a fringe player on this Flyers team and his presence or absence won’t make a difference regardless of how good he is with the young players. Certainly, there’s enough leadership to go around to compensate for Lehtera’s loss. In fact, the Flyers are scheduled for team bonding activities in Vail, Colorado, next week before they travel to Las Vegas for the season opener.

If the Flyers continue to roster Lehtera, they would be subjecting themselves to a lingering off-ice distraction, with more line of media questioning and an ongoing investigation that could lead to possible charges.

Some dark clouds are worth looking up at. This isn’t one of them.

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