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Lineup changes abound for Thursday’s game against Islanders

Michael Raffl is back! Andrew MacDonald is hurt! Dale Weise is benched! And more!

NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With multiple key players on the verge of returning from injury, it was obvious that the Philadelphia Flyers would be making adjustments to their regular lineup at some point this week. But the wholesale changes that the team announced just hours before tonight’s game against the New York Islanders still came as a shock due to the overwhelming amount.

The biggest news is the return of winger Michael Raffl from injured reserve. Raffl, who had missed eight straight games, will jump right into a first-line role alongside Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. In order to create roster space, the Flyers placed Boyd Gordon on IR, who is expected to be out until next week anyway with an upper-body injury.

In other injury news, Andrew MacDonald apparently suffered one of his own during last night’s contest against the Detroit Red Wings. Per the assembled media in New York, he’ll miss about a week due to the lower-body issue. As a result, Nick Schultz jumps back into the lineup to replace him after sitting for two straight games.

The return of Raffl also necessitated a forward come out of the lineup, and head coach Dave Hakstol appears to have chosen Dale Weise as that option. It’s a surprising decision, considering the four-year commitment that the Flyers made to Weise just months ago, and the fact that Weise spent a good portion of the second half of last night’s game on the top line with Giroux and Simmonds.

In addition, Brayden Schenn was dropped from his usual spot as top line wing into a center role in the bottom-six, in between Chris VandeVelde and Nick Cousins. It’s nominally the “fourth line center” role, but Hakstol distributed the minutes among the bottom-six forwards pretty evenly last night, so it’s fair to expect similar usage tonight. Still, it’s a clear demotion for Schenn, and a continuation of last night when he was dropped off the top line for Weise.

Finally, Michal Neuvirth will make his third straight start, despite tonight’s matchup with the Islanders being the second game of a home/road back-to-back. Neuvirth’s play this week has been inconsistent, but he does have two straight victories, and this could be a case of Hakstol looking to get one of his two netminders into a rhythm in an attempt to escape the poor goal prevention results that the team has posted thus far this year.