VOORHEES – There’s certainly a stark contrast from the lines that were trotted out for Monday’s split squad game compared to the lineup that will skate out onto the Wells Fargo Center ice on Tuesday night against the New York Islanders.
The game is at 7 p.m. and will be televised locally on The Comcast Network.
At first glance, the bottom six looks similar to what it could be come opening night once Pierre-Edouard Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey. The top six that will suit up tonight features minimally four regulars on the roster. Add to that Steve Mason in net and Tuesday’s contest should be a good measuring stick for where the team currently stands.
- Schenn - Weal - Simmonds
- Raffl - Miele - Read
- Laughton - Cousins – Weise
- VandeVelde - Gordon – Lyubimov
- Del Zotto-Myers
The most notable takeaway is that Ivan Provorov, Phillippe Myers and Travis Sanheim are going back-to-back nights. Coach Dave Hakstol added some fuel to the Provorov hype train, speaking pretty highly of the Russian defender.
“We wanted to get him in different situations and he did a good job in those situations,” Hakstol said. “The minutes didn’t seem to wear on him. It’ll be a challenge tonight for him to turn around and playing back-to-back, but that’s for him and a few other guys, they have to meet the challenge.”
Likewise, Myers receive some praise from the second-year coach after putting together an impressive performance on Monday. The defenseman came into last year’s camp as a roster invite and has worked his way up to earning back-to-back minutes over Robert Hagg and Sam Morin.
“Every time he goes out, he keeps making small steps forward,” Hakstol said. “He wasn’t penciled in to play in tonight’s game. He’s a guy that took an open spot by his performance last night. That’s a positive thing for a young guy.”
The three youngsters will all be paired with a veteran Flyers defenseman. This was a strategic move executed by Hakstol ,believing the best way for these young guys to learn is by playing alongside an experienced player.
“It’s fun when you’re playing with somebody of his ability and you try and help him out and work together,” said Nick Schultz, who will work Sanheim.
That being said, don’t be surprised to see any combination of Provorov, Myers and Sanheim playing together at any point in the game. Hakstol said there’s a good chance of it happening.
Another newcomer looking to earn his way onto the Flyers is Russian forward, Roman Lyubimov. A potential candidate to push Chris VandeVelde out of the lineup, Lyubimov has done nothing but good things since training camp opened.
Hakstol specifically pointed to his work on 50-50 pucks off draws, as well as his willingness (and success) when it comes to battles along the boards.
“That’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s a real important trait, it’s an opportunity to start with the puck,” said Hakstol, who added Lyubimov has gotten better and better every day.
For guys like Matt Read and Jordan Weal, the opportunity of working in the top six is something they have to take advantage of. Both Read and Weal are fighting for spots in the lineup with Weal having the hardest path among the two.
“You have to turn the switch pretty quickly here,” Read said. “It doesn’t matter what line you’re on, you have to give your full effort.”
Weal is in an ideal situation working between Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. He says as long as he keeps up the pressure, the trio should be able to produce.
One final note: Hakstol said Andy Miele worked his way into the lineup just as Myers did. While Miele is destined for Lehigh Valley, Hakstol made a note of how his play has been nothing short of memorable.
“He’s had a good camp,” Hakstol said. “He’s earned his way into tonight’s game. He’s a smart, competitive player. He’s good offensively. He has an opportunity tonight to be a part of a good line.”