I don’t know about all of you, but I am thrilled that preseason hockey is coming to an end. The Flyers wrap up their exhibition matches today against the Boston Bruins, as they look to break a losing streak heading into the regular season. After losing to the New York Rangers on Thursday, and these Bruins on Monday, it would be nice to have some momentum heading into to the real deal (not James Neal).
Since Thursday, the Flyers have made two more roster cuts in sending Carsen Twarynski and Tyrell Goulbourne to the AHL and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Both were fringe players; receiving fourth line minutes this season or serving as a 13th or 14th forward.
The main story line heading into this evening’s game is of course the possible return of Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds. Despite tearing his MCL after just three games of last year's first round series vs. Pittsburgh, Couturier netted a hat trick in game six, and was the Flyers leading point scorer in the playoffs. After re-injuring his knee over the summer, Couturier appears to be healthy yet again. As for Simmonds, it would take the rest of this preview to go through the injuries Wayne Train was playing through last year. Having a healthy Simmonds will be vital for this team as they look to establish themselves as a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
1. Travis Sanheim looks to rebound
Although he wasn’t the only one — and it was his first preseason game — Travis Sanheim did struggle against the Rangers. He posted the worst adjusted for score & venue CF% vs. New York, and considering the games that Andrew MacDonald and Christian Folin had, that’s quite a surprise! While I don’t see any reason for concern with Sanheim given the reasons listed earlier, it wouldn’t hurt to see him have a better showing in the final tune-up before the regular seasons begins in Las Vegas. According to the Flyers website, Sanheim was with Folin in practice lines yesterday, as he was in the game against the Rangers. One can only hope this isn’t a pairing that makes its way into the regular season.
2. Lehtera...might play?
So somehow this is a thing? An actual thing that could feasibly happen? After news broke earlier this week about Jori Lehtera’s possible involvement in a Finnish cocaine ring, I think many of us expected this to be the end for Lehtera’s time with the Flyers. Turns out he was with Scott Laughton and Michael Raffl in practice, which seems a whole hell of a lot like an actual line that could play. I get that it’s preseason, and it probably doesn’t matter all that much that Lehtera might play, but come on guys. The Flyers have every excuse in the book at this point to cut him from an on-ice perspective, and off-ice. Turns out the Thursday Fly By headline is right, Jori does make the lines (It’s definitely Dave, but I had to do it).
3. Misha’s final test
With the injury to Corban Knight, and all around stellar play this preseason, Mikhail Vorobyev has all but assured himself a spot on the Flyers roster come October 4. The man they call Misha has been easily one of the best Flyers forwards in the preseason, and he’s been a thrill to watch. In practice, he centered a line consisting of James van Riemsdyk and Wayne Simmonds. While this line wouldn’t be the fastest in the world by any stretch of the imagination, it would have a similar look to the Oskar Lindblom — Vorobyev — Simmonds line we expect to see against Vegas. All Vorobyev needs to do at this point is just not get hurt, as he’s done more than enough to crack the Flyers roster. Quite an impressive path for the 2015 fourth round pick.
Flyers practice lines 9/28:
Giroux — Couturier — Konecny
Lindblom — Patrick — Voracek
Van Riemsdyk — Vorobyev — Simmonds
Laughton — Lehtera — Raffl
Leier — Weal — Weise
Provorov — Gostisbehere
MacDonald — Hagg
Sanheim — Folin
Gudas — Friedman