Michael Raffl

German Rubtsov continues roster push, Carter Hart sharp, more from Flyers' OT preseason loss

German Rubtsov continues roster push, Carter Hart sharp, more from Flyers' OT preseason loss

BOX SCORE

The Flyers couldn't get one back against the Islanders.

Alain Vigneault's team dropped consecutive preseason games to New York after losing, 3-2, in overtime Tuesday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Flyers never trailed until the Islanders' OT winner.

They have five exhibition games remaining. Big names like Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen have yet to dress for the Flyers.

Let's get into some observations:

• German Rubtsov came into the action as one of the most notable roster hopefuls on Tuesday night's game roster. He has played a lot. He competed in rookie camp, scored two goals in the prospects game, performed well in Monday night's preseason opener and was back in the lineup Tuesday.

The Flyers are challenging him.

"That's one of the reasons he's playing tonight," Vigneault said after morning skate. "There are some decisions to be made and some of the things we're going to do is put some players in a tougher spot to see how they react to it."

Rubtsov once again did some positive things. During the second period, he stripped the puck in a battle along the boards and rung the post, nearly giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead. However, he lost 10 faceoffs.

But he really showed himself when he raced out of the chute with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He's healthy, strong and is looking more and more like an NHL center.

• Michael Raffl opened the game's scoring with a first period goal on a deflection. He and Scott Laughton were the only forwards in the lineup that played regularly for the Flyers last season.

Raffl will be a quietly reliable guy for the Flyers in 2019-20. Expect to see him on the fourth line and the penalty kill. The 30-year-old played a career-low 11:25 per game in 2018-19 and his minutes should be in that ballpark this season. Those lesser minutes are important, though, when they come on the PK and against the opposition's better lines to give the Flyers' top-six guys a blow.

• Carter Hart made his preseason debut and stopped all 14 shots he faced in 30 minutes.

He has been sharp in camp and the anticipation is there for his first full NHL season.

"For me, I'm here and I'm ready to play," Hart said last weekend. "I put in a lot of work this summer, on and off the ice. I added some muscle, added some durability and I feel really healthy in net, really strong."

Jean-Francois Berube allowed three goals in relief, including the OT winner, when he couldn't locate the puck after making the initial save.

• After a recent camp practice, Maksim Sushko spent a lot of time deflecting pucks at the net. He did about four or five rounds of redirecting shots.

The practice paid off as Sushko screened the goalie on a Chris Bigras goal in the third period. Sushko may have gotten a piece of it. Those role forwards understand that scoring chances will come from effort in limited minutes. Sushko is a 2017 fourth-round pick with speed and entering his first season with the Phantoms.

• Kurtis Gabriel got involved in the action. Flyers fans may recall the name. He's a big guy that likes to be physical and the former Devil is trying to get in the conversation for the Flyers' bottom six. Emotions boiled over between Gabriel and Ross Johnston during the second. In the third, captain Anders Lee laid a big hit on Gabriel, who was banged up and forced to leave momentarily.

Gabriel returned to the game for a short stint, but if anything lingers, it will obviously impact his roster chances with five exhibition games left.

• Bigras was signed on July 1 to a two-way deal. The 2012 second-round pick has 46 NHL games under his belt and enjoyed a career year in the AHL last season, scoring 22 points in 52 games. He had a nice game Tuesday night with two points and a plus-1 rating. The 24-year-old will be good for Lehigh Valley.

Nate Prosser, another defenseman, had an assist but was beat on the Islanders' second goal and was slow to react on New York's first goal. He played under general manager Chuck Fletcher from 2009 to 2018.

• Roster hopeful Andy Andreoff, who has shown a blend of toughness and skill in camp, was not very noticeable during his 15 minutes.

• The Flyers are off from practice Wednesday before welcoming the Bruins Thursday for the their third preseason game (7 p.m./NBCSP).

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Flyers vs. Maple Leafs: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers vs. Maple Leafs: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers (36-32-8) will try to fend off elimination Wednesday night when they host the Maple Leafs (45-25-6).

Here are the essentials:

When: 7 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• By virtue of tiebreakers, the Flyers can be eliminated from playoff contention tonight with a regulation loss.

The Flyers are 10 points back of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot with six games remaining. After a 2-5-0 stretch, they would need an absolute miracle to qualify for the postseason. In fact, both Hockey-Reference.com and SportsClubStats.com give the Flyers a 0.0 percent chance to make the playoffs.

Regardless, interim head coach Scott Gordon expects his team to play hard.

I think they're all pros and they know the right way and the wrong way to play the game.

I don't have any doubts that our guys will play well.

• Samuel Morin hasn't played in a competitive hockey game since May 9, 2018, when he suffered a torn ACL during the Phantoms' five-overtime playoff victory. His last NHL game was Nov. 24, 2017.

That will all change tonight as the 6-foot-7 defenseman enters the lineup. Not only has Morin completed a lengthy recovery from an ACL injury, but he also played just 15 regular-season games last season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley because of several lower-body injuries.

"My road to recovery has been pretty weird," Morin said Wednesday after morning skate. "It'll be a story to tell later. Just don't give up."

Morin, the Flyers' 2013 first-round pick, said this game feels more meaningful than his NHL debut on April 4, 2017 (see story).

"I think it's bigger, to be honest," he said. "My first NHL game, big hype obviously, but I played all year and had a good year. This is crazy, just playing a game."

With Morin making his season debut, the Flyers will play seven defensemen and 11 forwards, which they've done plenty under Gordon.

• Michael Raffl took the ice knowing he's back in the Flyers' picture for two more years. The pending unrestricted free agent wasn't traded at the Feb. 25 deadline and was re-signed to a two-year extension Tuesday, a deal worth less than his current contract (see story).

The 30-year-old forward has played only for the Flyers in his career and didn't want to leave. However, the decision wasn't just about being comfortable.

It's not always good to be in a comfort zone in your life. As I said, though, I love it here and at this point in my career, you look to go somewhere where you have a chance to have success and a chance to win. I feel very confident in this group and things that are coming up. I think it's going to be a bright future for the Flyers and I'm happy that I can be a part of it for two more years.

• Since beating the Flyers, 7-6, in a wild game March 15, the Maple Leafs have lost three of their last five games, with two of those defeats coming against the Senators and Rangers.

Projected lineup

Forwards
James van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Claude Giroux
Oskar Lindblom-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Travis Konecny-Scott Laughton-Ryan Hartman
Michael Raffl-Corban Knight

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Shayne Gostisbehere-Philippe Myers
Robert Hagg-Radko Gudas
Samuel Morin

Goalies
Carter Hart
Cam Talbot

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Michael Raffl signs 2-year extension with Flyers

Michael Raffl signs 2-year extension with Flyers

Chuck Fletcher is in the process of identifying which players will be part of the Flyers' future moving forward, and those who aren’t. 

Versatile winger Michael Raffl is one of the Flyers the new executive VP and GM wants to keep around.

The Flyers and Raffl agreed on a two-year, $3.2 million extension Tuesday, roughly a 32 percent pay cut from the three-year, $7.05 million contract that expires at the end of this season.

Why isn't Raffl worth more?

For starters, Raffl has played the full 82-game slate only once in his six seasons with the Flyers. He has also seen a significant dip in ice time this season, averaging 11:38 through 61 games played and has been utilized primarily in a bottom-six role.

When Raffl signed his current three-year contract in February of 2016, he was more of an offensive contributor coming off a career-high 21 goals playing alongside Claude Giroux.

In the proceeding three years, Raffl, now 30, has scored just 27 goals, including a career-low six this season.

You can also argue that Raffl doesn’t always play with a high motor consistently.

Flyers still get a bargain

However, you won’t find many veterans who bring the versatility of Raffl, capable of playing both left and right wing while contributing on the penalty kill, and he doesn’t hurt a team with undisciplined penalties. 

He’s also a big-body forward with a penchant for playing physically, winning board battles, while using his size to carve out space in front of the net. For a player listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds, Raffl plays bigger than his size at times.

Raffl is also a good locker room presence known to have a loose sense of humor, bringing a lighthearted approach. His signing fills a depth role, and according to Cap Friendly, the Flyers now have 14 players under contract with roughly $31 million in cap space to work with.

If the Flyers plan on being active in free agency, they also need some lower-tiered salaries to provide the necessary space. Give Fletcher credit for ridding the organization of Dale Weise’s lengthy contract, while signing Raffl to a modest two-year deal through 2021.

Clearly, there was a comfort level with Raffl, who chose comfortability with the organization, as opposed to testing his value on the market.

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