Bill Meltzer: Flyers Preseason Game Day: 10/2/14 @ WAS, Phantoms, Prospects and More

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PRESEASON GAME 8: FLYERS @ CAPITALS

The Philadelphia Flyers conclude their eight-game preseason schedule tonight with a road game against the Washington Capitals. The Flyers enter tonight with a 3-3-1 mark in the exhibition season. Game time is 7:00 p.m. EDT. The game will be televised on Comcast Sportsnet.

The Flyers will hold a morning skate at the Skate Zone in Voorhees today before departing for tonight’s game in DC.

They will also practice tomorrow before leaving for Cape Cod on Saturday to prepare for the regular season opener in Boston. The regular season starts on Wed. Oct. 8 with the Flyers having their home opener the following evening against the New Jersey Devils.

It is customary for teams to dress most or all of their opening night regulars in the final game of the preseason. The Flyers iced a nearly complete NHL lineup (minus defenseman Andrew MacDonald) on Tuesday against the Rangers. They will probably do so again tonight against the Caps after taking an off-day yesterday.

Yesterday, the Flyers assigned two of their top prospects — defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and center Scott Laughton — to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League. Veteran enforcer Zack Stortini will be assigned to the Phantoms after he clears waivers today.

Excluding three IR-bound players with major injuries — Kimmo Timonen, Chris Pronger and Ryan White — and injured prospects who will not make the NHL roster (Konan and Goulbourne), the training camp roster now stands at 26 players:

Forwards (15): Jason Akeson, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Blair Jones, Vincent Lecavalier, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Jay Rosehill, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, R.J. Umberger, Chris VandeVelde, Jakub Voracek.

Defensemen (8): Braydon Coburn, Michael Del Zotto, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrew MacDonald, Samuel Morin, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Mark Streit.

Goaltenders (3): Ray Emery, Steve Mason, Rob Zepp.

Flyers head coach Craig Berube said he hopes to take 23 players into the regular season. The big question now is whether 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin will be kept in the NHL for a nine-game trial or if he is returned to the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic when the Flyers go to Cape Cod. Final cuts are expected before the trip.

General manager Ron Hextall has said over and over that he does not want to rush prospects to the NHL before they conclusively show they are ready. However, if Morin is returned to Rimouski after the NHL look-see, it would not burn a year off his entry level deal and he would still get in most of the QMJHL season with an opportunity to play for Canada at the World Junior Championships. He’d also acquire a few games of NHL experience to set the bar for how much further he needs to go to be ready to become an NHL regular in future seasons.

Something else to consider: Many of the Flyers’ veteran defensemen have had mediocre preseasons. This includes new acquisitions Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz.

Truth be told, if there were no salary cap and development considerations to be weighed, Gostisbehere has markedly outplayed offseason free agent Del Zotto (his closest counterpart on the roster in terms of skill set and role) during camp. Gostisbehere will go to the AHL to work on adjusting his play away from the puck from the college game to the pro level. Offensively, it is quite obvious he is NHL ready.

Morin has had a good training camp and preseason but his inexperience has also been obvious at times. While he is a different type of player than Del Zotto, if Morin enters the season on the NHL roster, it may push Del Zotto to the scratch list for awhile.

Even under NHL-trial conditions, Morin would likely need to be eased into a third-pair role and preferably on the left side (Del Zotto’s spot). It is doubtful the team would throw him to the wolves with tougher defensive matchups and extensive penalty killing responsibilities right away. With that said, it was interesting that Morin was paired on Tuesday with top-pairing defenseman Braydon Coburn.

The decision whether or not to send Morin back to the QMJHL right now will also have bearing on the opening night roster battles at forward. Chris VandeVelde is likely to be waived and returned to the Phantoms. The final roster spots would then come down to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Blair Jones and Jason Akeson.

If the Flyers carry seven defenseman for opening night (meaning Morin is sent back to Rimouski), there would actually be room for all three forwards to make the opening night roster. Two would start on opening night and one would be a healthy scratch along with enforcer Jay Rosehill.

Conversely, if Morin opens the season in the NHL, one among Bellemare, Jones and Akeson would be cut. Both Jones and Akeson would require waivers to send to the AHL. Despite being 29 years old, Bellemare would be waiver exempt as a first-year pro in North America.

With Ray Emery having played on Tuesday, the most likely reason why veteran goaltender Rob Zepp is still with the NHL squad is to back up Steve Mason tonight in Washington before going through waivers to join the Phantoms over the weekend.

********** AHL PRESEASON: PHANTOMS FALL TO HERSHEY, 3-1

Playing their first AHL preseason game at the new PPL Center in Allentown, PA, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms dropped a 3-1 decision last night to the Hershey Bears. Rookie goaltender Anthony Stolarz got the start in net for Lehigh Valley in front of a crowd of 5,232.

With Flyers general manager Ron Hextall in the building to watch the game, Phantoms forward Brett Hextall opened to scoring midway through the opening period. Kevin Goumas exited the

penalty box to go off on a breakaway. He was denied by Bears goalie Phoenix Copley, but Hextall elevated the rebound over the netmider to give the Phantoms a 1-0 lead at 10:43.

Unfortunately for the Phantoms, that tally was the only one they would get on the night.

Hershey tied the game early in the second period on a shorthanded goal by Joel Broda scored shorthanded in the second period. The 1-1 score held until the midway through the third period when Hershey pulled away to win the game.

Stanislav Galiev unleashed a spin-o-rama move to go around Phantoms defenseman Oliver Lauridsen and then beat Stolarz with a shot under the cross bar from between the circles at 11:11. A little more than two minutes later, Braden Pimm added an insurance goal for Hershey.

The Phantoms went 0-for-8 on the power play in this game. Hershey went 0-for-5.

The Phantoms did not have rookie defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hägg or Mark Alt in the lineup for this game. Likewise, center Scott Laughton did not dress after being assigned to the team yesterday along with Gostisbehere. However, Laughton participated in the morning skate.

The Phantoms and Bears will have a rematch tonight in Hershey. The Phantoms then return to the PPL Center for their preseason finale against the Albany Devils. The regular season opens on Oct. 11 with a road game against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins. Lehigh Valley has its home opener at the PPL on October 17 in the front end of a home-and-home set with the Adirondack Flames.

********** FLYERS PROSPECT UPDATES: OCTOBER 2

* SHL: Flyers 2014 fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom will be out for four weeks with an injury sustained in a game last Friday against defending Swedish Hockey League champion Skellefteå AIK.

Yesterday, Lindblom missed his second straight game for Brynäs IF Gävle. Brynäs downed Modo by a 4-3 score. Former Phantoms forward Kyle Flanagan scored a goal for Modo. Flanagan has six points (two goals, four assists) in his first seven games for the team.

* WHL: The Calgary Hitmen were unable to protect a 3-0 lead and fell to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, 4-3, via shootout in Western Hockey League action last night. Flyers 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim, who scored a pair of goal’s in Calgary’s 9-2 whipping of Lethbridge on Sunday, was a plus-one in the game. He did not register a point in this tilt and had a late first-period tripping penalty.

Flyers 2014 sixth-round pick Radel Fazleev also did not get on the scoresheet and drew a coincidental second period minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Hitmen are on the road on Friday to play Edmonton. On Saturday, Calgary returns home to the Saddledome to clash with Kootenay.

* KHL: Flyers 2012 seventh-round pick Valeri Vasiliev and former Flyers defenseman Erik Gustafsson are in action today for Avangard Omsk. The club has a road game against Yugra. Entering today, Avangard currently sits in second place in the KHL’s Eastern Conference. Gustafsson is Avangard’s top defenseman. The 20-year-old Vasiliev is sixth or seventh on the depth chart, dressing in seven of the club’s 11 games thus far and averaging 10:54 of ice time.

********* TODAY IN FLYERS HISTORY: OCTOBER 2

* Last year, the Flyers opened the regular season on this date. In what would prove to be Peter Laviolette’s final home game as Flyers head coach, the club dropped a 3-1 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Following road losses in Montreal and Carolina, the Flyers fired Laviolette and promoted Craig Berube from assistant coach to head coach.

* On October 2, 2009, the Flyers opened the 2009-10 season with a 2-0 road win in Carolina. Ray Emery earned a 28-save shutout and a pair of power play goals in the opening minute of the second period by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter provided the offense. The game also marked Chris Pronger’s regular season debut with the Flyers.

* Flyers Alum birthday: Defenseman Gordie Roberts turns 57 today. On February 9, 1988, the Flyers acquired Roberts from the Minnesota North Stars for blueline depth, sending a 1989 fourth-round pick (Jean-Francois Quintin) to the North Stars. Roberts dressed in 11 regular season games (one goal, three points, plus-seven) before being traded by the Flyers to the St. Louis Blues on March 8, 1988, in exchange for a 1989 fourth-round pick (Reid Simpson).

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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