The injury bug has hit the Flyers yet again, this time in the shape of Michael Raffl missing the next four to six weeks with a lower body injury. He left the game with close to four minutes remaining in the second period after taking this hit from Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth.
It could be a multitude of things, but what we know for sure is that he’ll be out at least a month, and that’s a lot of time. So, who will replace him? The first player that comes to mind is Mikhail Vorobyev, although he has primarily played center and hadn’t been used on the team’s penalty kill through the regular season. Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol has said that he’s wanted to get Vorobyev back in the lineup soon, but would that be at wing, in a fourth line role that’s oft saved for a penalty killer?
That brings us to Corban Knight. Knight, 28, made his Flyers debut just a few days ago against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he also did not see time on the team’s penalty kill. The difference here is that Knight has shown the ability to play any forward position in Lehigh Valley, namely center and right wing, and he made his debut on the wing. Knight may not have been a part of the kill in his first game, but he made the team as a penalty killer. It would not be that surprising to see him enter back into the lineup, and this time get an opportunity to kill penalties.
The wild card here would be a call-up, likely being Taylor Leier. Since being waived and sent down to the AHL, Leier has played in fives games and picked up two assists. He’s been the team’s top penalty killer and while the team’s success rate won’t show it, he’s looked very good in that role. Leier may also have an edge up as he’s actually played on the Flyers’ penalty kill in the past, most notably last season when he and Scott Laughton acted as the first unit for a bit of time. The knocks on Leier is that he clearly lost Hakstol’s trust last season, so much so that he played in just four games from January on, and that he was seemingly outplayed by Knight in camp and in the preseason.
Whatever they decide to do it’s just another injury to add to a quickly growing list just nine games into the season, and Raffl’s defensive game will sorely be missed.