Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Flyers Head for Cape Cod, Prospect Updates, Quick Hits

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FLYERS TO CARRY 22 PLAYERS ON OPENING NIGHT ROSTER

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Flyers made their final four cuts to get down to the 22-man roster they plan to carry into opening night. The club will have 22 players — 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders — on its opening night active roster. Prior to opening night in Boston on Wednesday, the team is going on a retreat to Cape Cod for practices and team-bonding activities.

In order to trim the roster to 22, the Flyers waived forwards Jay Rosehill and Chris VandeVelde as well as goaltender Rob Zepp for purposes of assigning them the American Hockey League’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The team also returned 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin to the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

Additionally, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said after yesterday’s practice that Wayne Simmonds’ availability for opening night is up in the air. Hextall confirmed that Simmonds’ injury was sustained in Tuesday’s game against the Rangers. According to Hextall, if Blair Jones did not have the versatility and experience to play right wing as well as center, the team might have looked at carrying an extra winger for opening night in the event that Simmonds is unable to play.

Throughout the summer, Hextall frequently stressed that he would not rush prospects to the NHL — especially the corps of promising young defensemen in the system — at the risk of hurting their development. Ultimately, the risks with having Morin in the NHL outweighed the benefits. The team was not going to keep him beyond a nine-game trial, anyway.

Said Hextall, “It gets a little tempting [to enter the season with him in the NHL] and then you kind of hit refresh and think about reality, which is these are preseason games and there’s a lot of young players in the lineup and a lot of the older players in the lineup aren’t necessarily bringing their good stuff. There are two more levels that the play goes up between the preseason and the regular season 15 games in. So, in the end, we felt like it was the right thing to do.”

Flyers head coach Craig Berube was supportive of Hextall’s decision.

“I had input, but it’s more of a philosophy that Ron Hextall talked about and has,” said Berube. “I believe it’s the right thing too. I think that Sam played really well, as close to cracking the lineup as you can get, I think. But for his development, the player that we think he’s going to become and he thinks he’s going to become, going back to junior’s the best thing for him.”

Hextall said Morin, who undoubtedly knew of all the speculation that he would break camp with the big club, took the news well.

“The kid had a great attitude. I probably sat with him for a half-hour or so there but he had a great attitude. His first question was ‘Can I get to Rimouski tonight to play?’ So it’s a credit to the kid that he wanted to get right up and play with his junior team. They’re the No. 1 rated junior team in the Canadian Hockey League right now. So he’s going to a good situation,” said Hextall.

Morin was not able to be in the Rimouski lineup last night. However, he is expected to play tonight when the team takes on Blainville-Boisbriand.

The decision to return VandeVelde to the Phantoms was expected all along, along with veteran goaltender Zepp. The latter had a strong camp, especially a magnificent performance in a 3-1 loss to Devils last Sunday, but there was no way the club was going to carry three goaltenders. VandeVelde’s chances at an opening night NHL roster spot were hurt by the offseason additions of Blair Jones and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

Waiving and sending Rosehill to the AHL was a two-fold decision, according to Hextall. First of all, carrying 22 instead of 23 players provides a bit of much-needed salary cap relief. Secondly, the GM said there is less and less need with each passing year to carry an enforcer on the roster. Nevertheless, the GM said that sending down the veteran enforcer was a tough and unpleasant decision.

Said Hextall, “Jay was a hard one. He works extremely hard, he did a good job for us. He does maybe the hardest job in pro sports and he did it very well. So that was a tough one for me. Again, he works hard and does everything for the team; he fights for the team and when he sits out he has a good attitude.”

As is often the case with enforcers, Rosehill was well-liked around the dressing room and among the hardest-working players in practice. There is still a chance he could recalled once the Flyers work out their long-term injured reserve allowance, but it did not sound from the pronouncements of Hextall and head coach Craig Berube like that was the plan.

Berube, who performed the enforcer role himself for over 1,000 games in the NHL, agreed with Hextall that today’s game makes it tough to have a player designated mainly for that job.

Said the coach, “I think everybody knows that right. You look at the rules, look at the game, look everything.”

Hextall said that Chris Pronger will be placed on long-term injured reserve ahead of the season, leaving the Flyers with about $55,000 of cap space. Kimmo Timonen will be on the opening night roster and then placed on LTIR, which will push the team’s available cap space slightly north of $2 million. Adding Ryan White to the list would make the team’s LTIR allowance about $2.5 million.

The Flyers will likely designate injured Phantoms defenseman Matt Konan for inclusion on the non-roster injured reserve list. He cannot be sent to the AHL until he is medically cleared.

On Thursday, the Flyers returned unsigned 2013 third-round pick Tyrell Goulbourne to the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Goulbourne missed all of rookie camp and NHL training camp with an upper-body injury (suspected to be a concussion) sustained during the WHL preseason. He will be assessed by doctors in Kelowna to see when he may be able to return to play.

The Flyers opening night roster will be as follows:

Forwards (13): Jason Akeson, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Blair Jones, Vincent Lecavalier, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, R.J. Umberger, Jakub Voracek.

Defensemen (7): Braydon Coburn, Michael Del Zotto, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrew MacDonald, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Mark Streit.

Goaltenders (2): Ray Emery, Steve Mason.

*********** BEARS BEAT PHANTOMS AGAIN, 3-1

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms dropped to 0-2-0 in the American Hockey League preseason after losing both ends of a home-and-home set with the archrival Hershey Bears. Both games saw the Phantoms score first only for Hershey to really for three unanswered goals in 3-1 finals.

Last night in Hershey, former Bears forward Andrew Gordon staked the Phantoms to a 1-0 lead at 12:50 of the second period. With the Phantoms on a power play, Shayne Gostisbehere blasted a puck hard off the end boards, looking for a carom. He hit the mark, and the puck went right out to Gordon in the slot. Philipp Grubauer (34 saves on 35 shots) had no chance at a save once the puck got to Gordon. Rookie forward Scott Laughton earned the secondary assist on the play.

With a little more puck luck, Gostisbehere easily could have had a three-point night. His assist off the wide shot did not count among the eight shots he fired on goal in the game. Nor did a shot that beat Grubauer but pinged off the post and stayed out of the net. “Ghost” also fired another shot that deflected off the netminder’s shoulder pads, hit the post and stayed out.

In addition to Gostisbehere and Laughton, forward Taylor Leier and defensemen Robert Hägg and Mark Alt also saw their first action of the AHL preseason. Rookie goaltender Martin Ouellette (10 saves on 10 shots) and young veteran Connor Knapp (18 saves on 21 shots) split goaltending duties as rookie Anthony Stolarz played the previous game and Rob Zepp was not available to join the Lehigh Valley team for the game.

The 1-0 Phantoms lead held until the final 39 seconds of the second period. Phantoms defenseman Alt blocked a shot that caromed directly to Dustin Gazley on the other side. Gazley buried the open scoring chance to send the game to the second intermission tied at 1-1.

Just 24 seconds into the third period, Hershey went ahead to stay. Lehigh Valley was guilty of a defensive breakdown and Stanislav Galiev made no mistake on a feed from Tim Kennedy. After controlling most of the territorial play in the first two periods, the sudden turn of momentum shook Terry Murray’s club for several minutes. Knapp was able to hold the deficit to one goal.

Although they got outshot by at 14-9 margin in the final period, the Phantoms finally started to apply some pressure on Grubauer again but were unable to find an equalizer. Finally, Hershey scored a backbreaking goal with 1:21 left in the third period as the Bears outworked the Phantoms in a scramble around the crease, and Garrett Mitchell poked the puck over the goal line.

Tonight, the Phantoms return home to the PPL Center in Allentown for a preseason meeting with the Albany Devils. Game time is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

************ FLYERS PROSPECT UPDATES

* WHL: Flyers 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim figured in all the scoring for the Calgary Hitmen in last night’s 2-1 road win over the Edmonton Oil Kings. With Calgary trailing 1-0, defenseman Sanheim scored his third goal of the 2014-15 regular season. At 12:35 of the third period, he assisted on Pavel Karnaukhov’s game-winner. Both Calgary goals came at even strength. Radel Fazleev, the Flyers’ sixth-round pick in 2014, did not register a point but finished plus-one for the Hitmen.

* QMJHL: The struggling Val-d’Or Foreurs dropped a 3-1 decision to the Charlottetown Islanders. Flyers 2014 second-round pick Nicolas Aube-Kubel assisted on the lone goal for Val-d’Or. Interestingly, Aube-Kubel was deployed at right wing in five-on-five play but manned the left side on the power play.

* QMJHL: As noted in the top section of today’s blog, Flyers 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin is expected to be in the lineup tonight for the Rimouski Oceanic. The club is coming off a 1-0 win last night over Shawinigan. Tonight, the Oceanic visit the Blaineville-Boisbriand Armada.

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

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