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Alain Vigneault mixing things up in the bottom six for round-robin game against Capitals

Joel Farabee entering the lineup isn’t the only change for the Flyers against the Capitals.

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers are set for their second game of the round-robin tournament, and they’re going to have a new look against the Washington Capitals on Thursday afternoon.

Alain Vigneault said during training camp that he would use the round-robin games to mix and match his line combinations to determine the best lineup for Game 1 of the first round, and he is doing just that.

Michael Raffl’s apparent lower-body injury already caused one change with Joel Farabee entering the lineup in his place, but that might not be the only change the Flyers make. Vigneault and the Flyers ran two new bottom-six lines in practice on Wednesday.

Instead of Farabee simply replacing Raffl on the fourth line, Farabee practiced as the right wing on the third line with Derek Grant at center and Nicolas Aube-Kubel sliding over to left wing. That means that James van Riemsdyk is down to the fourth line with Nate Thompson and Tyler Pitlick. But that’s not all. Connor Bunnaman also practiced on the fourth line with Thompson and Pitlick.

Here’s how those lines from Wednesday’s practice look:

Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton - Kevin Hayes - Travis Konecny
Nicolas Aube-Kubel - Derek Grant - Joel Farabee
JVR/Bunnaman - Nate Thompson - Tyler Pitlick

The top six is intact while the bottom six is in flux. It’s good to see Farabee in the middle six and not on the fourth line, but it’s going to be interesting to see if Bunnaman actually plays, or if rotating him on the fourth line in practice was in an attempt to kick JVR into gear.

On Monday, Vigneault said that he is expecting more from van Riemsdyk in Toronto. This was the same day that he said he was considering other possible changes to the lineup, and apparently that meant van Riemsdyk. Hopefully this can wake up van Riemsdyk as he could be a depth weapon for the Flyers in the playoffs.

Farabee has played up and down the lineup in his rookie year with the Flyers. He found success up in the lineup and is a great on the forecheck as well.

This isn’t unusual territory for Farabee, who played various roles throughout his junior career.

“I’m just happy with whatever role I’ve been given,” Farabee said. “Obviously, I’m going to probably be playing third line tomorrow. I’m feeling pretty confident. I’m playing with two good linemates. We’ll just go from there and try to feed off each other.”

Farabee will be one player to keep an eye on against the Capitals. He’ll likely stick in the lineup at least as long as Raffl is out. He’ll need to play well to stay in the middle-six in the short term, and in the lineup in the long term.

One other thing of note is Aube-Kubel shifting to the left side and Farabee playing on the right. If NAK feels comfortable on the left side and Farabee on the right that opens up some options. A third line of JVR, Grant, and Farabee with a fourth line of NAK, Thompson, and Pitlick could be interesting.

The forward group will look different, but the defense will remain the same. Shayne Gostisbehere impressed the coaching staff during training camp, but he will not crack the lineup for the second straight game.

It’d be nice to see how Gostisbehere performs in a real game after a strong showing in the exhibition against the Penguins. One of my three questions for the Flyers during the round-robin tournament was if Gostisbehere could play himself into the lineup, and he’s not getting that chance yet. It’s not too surprising after the win on Sunday, however, the Flyers only allowed one fluky goal and played better as the game moved along.

There will be one more change to the lineup, and that is in goal. As expected, Brian Elliott will start against the Washington Capitals.

Vigneault said from the get-go that Elliott would get at least one game, and the middle game makes sense. He has had success this season against the Capitals and it will allow Hart to get another start on Saturday and be ready for Game 1 early next week.