We are officially one week away from hockey that counts, folks!
A week from today the Flyers will open the 2018-19 season in Sin City with a date with the Stanley Cup runner-up Golden Knights. But first, the Flyers close out the home slate of their preseason tonight against the Rangers before closing out the rest of the exhibition season with a road trip to Boston on Saturday.
The Flyers’ brass has been busy cutting down the roster in the last week, with Philippe Myers and Nicolas Aube-Kubel loaned to the Phantoms on Monday. That leaves 33 bodies —if you count the waived Tyrell Goulbourne yesterday— left in camp with a final round of cuts to come.
Among those still hoping to stick are Mikhail Vorobyev, Carsen Twarynski, Corban Knight, Taylor Leier, and Mark Friedman. There’s also a pair of netminders vying for a spot with Michal Neuvirth injured in Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart. General Manager Ron Hextall said there isn’t a definite timeline for Neuvirth’s return from his lower-body injury. With Alex Lyon also out for another few weeks, it’s a prime chance for one of the young goaltenders.
As for Brian Elliott, the veteran is still working his way into game shape or sharpening his game as Hakstol called it. That’s needed, for sure, as Elliott stopped 24 of 28 shots against a rather AHL laden Bruins lineup last time out. He didn’t look super great in his first preseason action back against these same Rangers, either, something to watch with Vegas right around the corner. With Elliott not slated to play tonight, look for Stolarz and Hart to continue to make their case for a spot on the opening night roster.
Optional practice today -- looks like only those not in the game tonight (plus backup goalie) are participating: Couturier, Simmonds, Konecny, Hägg, Friedman, Elliott and Stolarz. Would guess that Hart gets the start in goal tonight.— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) September 27, 2018
As far as the lineup that will face the Rangers tonight, Dave Hakstol indicated on Wednesday that he wasn’t expecting to field a full roster of NHL regulars. Take that as you may as the Flyers spend the final two preseason games trying to stay healthy while also hoping to get a couple guys like Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds some action before puck drop in Vegas.
It could be an important game for potential bubble guys like Friedman, Vorobyev, and Knight. Friedman has been solid and steadily improving on the blue line throughout camp and preseason though Andrew MacDonald’s swift return has made the defense much harder to crack as far as roster-wise.
Knight has been a bit of surprise, but had a strong game against Boston despite playing less than 10 minutes. It’s the second-straight game he’s posted a Corsi Relative on the plus side despite a limited role.
Vorobyev has been impressive as well, showing capable two-way play at the center ice position all camp long. He appears locked in a battle for a center spot along with Jordan Weal and Scott Laughton, who has seen plenty of time on the wing this preseason as Hakstol looks at which combination he has to use and who can play and excel where. Competition for bottom-six roles has been very strong, with most everyone involved having good camps and taking these roster decisions down the wire for the Flyers’ brass.
That doesn’t even include the Jori Lehtera situation, which could very well be a big deal, little deal, or no deal at this point with things still in the infancy stages there. Should something come up on that front, the Flyers have several options at least as good or better than the veteran at this point.
Here is the roster the Flyers released for tonight’s action:
11 - Travis Konecny
12 - Michael Raffl
19 - Nolan Patrick
20 - Taylor Leier
21 - Scott Laughton
22 - Dale Weise
25 - James van Riemsdyk
28 - Claude Giroux
34 - Corban Knight
39 - Tyrell Goulbourne
40 - Jordan Weal
46 - Mikhail Vorobyev
54 - Oskar Lindblom
81 - Carsen Twarynski
93 - Jakub Voracek
3 - Radko Gudas
6 - Travis Sanheim
8 - Robert Hagg
9 - Ivan Provorov
26 - Christian Folin
47 - Andrew MacDonald
53 - Shayne Gostisbehere
41 - Anthony Stolarz
79 - Carter Hart