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.