Hockey is so close, I can smell it, and I don’t even have a sense of smell. The Flyers have finally reached their bubble and hotel X in Toronto, and the released their 31 man roster. Aside from their really cool shirts, Philadelphia looks ready to rock and roll for their round-robin matchup against the Bruins this Sunday.
First, though, the Flyers have a scheduled exhibition game Tuesday night against the cross-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop is slated for 4 P.M. Tuesday afternoon up in Toronto.
Before the suspension of the season, the Flyers were dealing with injuries to Nate Thompson and James van Riemsdyk. Because of this, their lines were a bit out of sorts back in their final game against the Bruins on March 10.
During the final practice session of training camp in Voorhees, the Flyers went with the following line combinations at practice (note that the wingers rotated on the fourth line):
Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton – Kevin Hayes – Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk – Derek Grant – Tyler Pitlick
Joel Farabee/ Michael Raffl – Nate Thompson – Michael Raffl/ Nic Aube-Kubel
Ivan Provorov – Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim – Phil Myers
Robert Hägg – Justin Braun
Shayne Gostisbehere – Mark Friedman
Thanks to Bill Meltzer, we have some inside scoop to what we can expect to see in the round-robin and playoffs. The first two lines look to stay stable throughout their entire run. However, I could see the third and fourth lines flipping around a bit. With Joel Farabee and Nate Thompson back into the mix of things, the Flyers find themselves with a ton of depth. Nic Aube-Kubel and Tyler Pitlick have become forechecking staples in this lineup as well. In the exhibition game, make sure to watch how head coach Alain Vigneault mixes those bottom lines up.
For Tuesday’s exhibition game, the Flyers and Penguins will each be permitted to start 13 forwards and seven defensemen. As such, every forward who skated in Saturday’s practice will likely be in tomorrow’s lineup, along with seven of the eight defensemen (Friedman being the likely odd man out). Goaltending duties will probably be split in half for the exhibition game.
Look, it’s incredibly unlikely that Oskar Lindblom plays a single minute in the resumption of the season. However, how cool is it that we can even have that conversation?
Just seven months after a cancer diagnosis, Oskar Lindblom beat his Ewing’s Sarcoma, signed a three-year extension, and got put onto the Flyers’ extended roster moving forward. As thrilled as coach Alain Vigneault was to hear the news, he also kept it real when discussing his availability.
“Not really.” Vigneault mentioned on last Thursday. “I’ve always been of the philosophy that you work with the players that are capable at that time to play for you. Oskar, right now at this time, is not, but that doesn’t mean at some point in the future he won’t be. For right now, I’m focusing on the guys who are here that are healthy. If we feel that Oskar can step in and play well for us, we’ll make that decision. But we’re not there yet,” Vigneault said.
He won’t touch the ice, but heading into the scrimmage, make sure to see if he’s anywhere around. I mean, maybe they’ll even play with that edge simply in the exhibition game. It’s no secret that Oskar motivates this team like no other.
If you’re like many Flyers’ fans, you hear this name, and it’s sort of like a mystery. You may hear about his previous back injury, and/or his sky-high potential. The decision the Flyers made to include prospect defenseman Egor Zamula on the playoff roster was a strong vote of confidence in the youngster.
In reality, though, the Flyers would have to have some major injury problems on the blueline for Zamula to get into a game this postseason. He is basically on the “5th pair”, along with right-handed veteran Andy Welinski.
Nevertheless, the mere fact that the Flyers are bringing Zamula to the Bubble speaks to how highly they regard his potential. As Bill Metlzer notes, the combination of Zamula’s height, mobility, breakout passing ability, up-ice potential and the level of poise that he shows for such a young player is intriguing. Zamula has also begun to add some strength to his frame but that is still a work in progress.