New York Islanders

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

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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 at Islanders preseason: Storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Islanders preseason: Storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers and Islanders are back at it Tuesday night.

Alain Vigneault's team travels to New York for its second exhibition game.

Let's get into the essentials:

• When: 7 p.m. ET
• Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+

• A roster hopeful to keep an eye on will be German Rubtsov. He scored two goals in the rookie game, played well Monday night and he's right back out there Tuesday night. It appears like the Flyers could test his endurance and consistency with plenty of looks during the exhibition slate after an injury-shortened 2018-19 season.

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

Rubtsov does a lot of things that profile well for a bottom-six role.

"I liked his game," Vigneault said. "I thought we put him in penalty killing situations, I thought with his linemates he was good and I liked his pace.

"When I watched him in the rookie game, you could see the skill. … He has to continue to improve. There seems to be a lot of upside there."

• Connor Bunnaman has had an underrated camp. The 2016 fourth-round pick scored 19 goals in his first year of pro last season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. He has good size and some sneaky speed.

The 21-year-old did not play in the rookie game or the Flyers' preseason opener, so this will be our first look at him in game action.

• Many players did not partake in morning skate, so the Flyers' projected lineup is to be announced. Below is the game roster:

Forwards

Andy Andreoff
Michael Raffl
Scott Laughton
Mikhail Vorobyev
Kurtis Gabriel
Chris Stewart
German Rubtsov
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Maksim Sushko
David Kase
Matthew Strome
Carsen Twarynski
Connor Bunnaman

Defense

Travis Sanheim
Robert Hagg
Chris Bigras
Tyler Wotherspoon
Nate Prosser
T.J. Brennan
Mark Friedman

Goalies

Carter Hart
Jean-Francois Berube

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Kevin Hayes impresses, scrapping for spots, more observations from Flyers' preseason loss to Islanders

Kevin Hayes impresses, scrapping for spots, more observations from Flyers' preseason loss to Islanders

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Hockey was back in South Philadelphia as the Flyers unveiled head coach Alain Vigneault and center Kevin Hayes at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday night.

The Flyers lost their preseason opener, 3-1, to the Islanders, starting a stretch of four games in six days. They have seven exhibition games overall.

Let's get into some observations from the first one:

• On the Flyers' only goal of the game, the team saw exactly why it was drawn to Hayes. Thanks to his long reach and big frame, Hayes corralled a pass behind him and then shielded his man to eventually ignite the goal.

He found Jakub Voracek, who quickly fed James van Riemsdyk right in front to draw the Flyers even at 1-1 in the second period.

Those qualities are what make Hayes a difference-maker (see story). Maybe it's not flashy, but size and smarts can lead to possession and quality playmaking. The Flyers' front office must have loved that opening goal.

• Speaking of Hayes, he's disruptive out front on the penalty kill because of the aforementioned reach. He can be a workhorse type of player for the Flyers, similar to Sean Couturier and his responsibilities of playing both special teams units.

Both Couturier and Hayes impact the game in all areas. Ideally, the Hayes addition should lighten the load for Couturier, which could make the 26-year-old even better.

• Joel Farabee has another gear and when he changes to it, the 2018 first-round pick really stands out. During the second period, he made an explosive burst to the net with the puck on his stick and nearly scored. Moments later, he impressively took a sharp pass and wrapped it around to a streaking Cal O'Reilly for another scoring chance.

Good stuff from Farabee in his first Wells Fargo Center game action.

• Chris Stewart, with the Flyers on a pro tryout, dropped the gloves in the second period and landed some heavy punches. He's a big dude at 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, and general manager Chuck Fletcher knows him well from time together in Minnesota.

The 31-year-old will have to show more than just that to make the club but toughness doesn't hurt when you're aiming for a bottom-six job.

• Fletcher spoke highly about Egor Zamula during rookie camp. There's a lot to like with the 6-foot-3, 172-pound defenseman. He looked cool and comfortable playing alongside Philippe Myers and there's offensive upside, as well.

• German Rubtsov did some good things. The 21-year-old forward can kill penalties and has deceiving offensive abilities. Fresh off a two-goal rookie game, he didn't hurt his chances Monday.

"I saw him at the rookie game and I thought he played well," Vigneault said last week. "He had good pace to his game and good hockey sense."

• Isaac Ratcliffe, who came into camp with an outside shot at a roster spot, seems likely to spend the entire 2019-20 season in Lehigh Valley. His game stood out in junior hockey, but now everyone is bigger and faster at this level.

He's had a tough time showing off his skill because there's less time and space. Still plenty of promise with the 6-foot-6 winger. Scott Gordon and the AHL will be good for him.

• Brian Elliott allowed an early goal but settled in, making eight saves in 30 minutes. He gave way to Alex Lyon, who allowed a Luca Sbisa blast past him for the game's decisive goal. New York's third goal was an empty-netter.

• Travis Konecny has a new contract. When might we see him?

• The new scoreboard is really cool and really big.

• The Flyers and Islanders will square off again Tuesday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (7 p.m., NBCSP+).

The team's game group will skate in Voorhees, New Jersey, at 10:30 a.m., while the non-game groups hit the ice at 8:30-9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

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