Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Big Test on Tuesday, Sanheim, Morin, Alumni and More

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POST-PRACTICE UPDATE: DECEMBER 15, 2014

In preparation for tomorrow’s clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers did a lot of five-on-five based work. At the end, the team did some shootout practice.

After practice ended, much of the discussion centered around Peter Forsberg, who will be honored by the Flyers prior to tomorrow’s game for his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Specific to tomorrow’s game, most of the talk centered around containing Tampa’s speed, avoiding turnovers in dangerous areas, quick retrievals and breakouts as well as forwards helping out on defense and being aware of Tampa activating their defensemen on the rush.

The Flyers practiced with the same combinations they have used in each of the last two games. Vincent Lecavalier participated in practice, skating hard and looking fine physically. He skated with rehabbing forward Ryan White today.

Lecavalier, who will be a healthy scratch for a seventh straight game, said after practice that the reported lower-body injury he sustained last week was very mild and he was held off the ice for precautionary reasons on Thursday and Friday but practiced Saturday. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will also remain a healthy scratch.

Flyers coach Craig Berube said he was very happy with the way Luke Schenn played on Saturday against Carolina: keeping things simple, getting pucks to the forwards quickly and playing a disciplined but physical game.

Berube said that he had not given any thought to separating Sean Couturier and Matt Read as linemates while the two players endured lengthy slumps because he “didn’t think separating them would fix the problem.” He said that neither player had been moving their feet enough, getting to scoring areas or showing a willingness to shoot the puck when they had open shots. Now that they are doing these things, the coach said, the points have started to come.

Berube also revealed that, earlier this season, Read was playing through a foot injury.

The coach was asked if he was concerned at about Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s offensive chances and production dissipating in recent weeks compared to what the French forward showed earlier in the season. Berube said, on the contrary, he was happy with the way Bellemare has been checking and using his speed to pressure attackers. He was not worried about offense necessarily.

*********** FLYERS FACE TOUGH TEST ON TUESDAY

The Philadelphia Flyers have won back-to-back games for the first time since early November. They’ve won three of their last four games and have a 3-0-2 record over their last five. Philly has also outscored its first two opponents by a combined 9-2 score in the first two games of the Flyers’ current four-game homestand. Philly now has an 8-4-2 home record this year.

Nevertheless, it is premature to declare that the team has turned a corner and is now back on the upswing after a brutal stretch of play spanning several weeks. Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be a measuring stick of whether the things the Flyers have done well in the last two games — skating, puck support, secondary scoring, etc. — will carry over into a game against the Atlantic Division leaders.

It’s no secret that the Lightning typically give the Flyers fits. The Flyers have lost five times in a row to the Bolts — all in regulation — and are 1-7-0 against Tampa overall in their last eight meetings. Even on home ice, Philly has not fared well in games against the Lightning in recent years. The Flyers have dropped four of their last games with the Lightning at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Lightning have not played great hockey as of late. The club has points in seven of its last 10 games (6-3-1) but has dropped three of its last four games in regulation. Nevertheless, the club is likely to right its ship sooner rather than later. The Flyers will have to be on the top of their game to come away with two points.

On Oct. 30, the Flyers showed resiliency and push-back but still got outplayed through most of the game in a 4-3 loss in Tampa. As has often been the case this season, penalty killing was a big problem for Philly. Tampa went 2-for-5 on the man advantage, including the game winner.

A post-practice update will follow today’s blog, along with some quick hits on the Phantoms, Flyers World Junior Championship prospects and more.

********** SANHEIM CUT FROM WJC ROSTER, MORIN REMAINS

Flyers 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim was cut by Team Canada’s World Junior Championship roster yesterday, along with defenseman Chris Bigras (Colorado Avalanche draftee) and forwards Remi Elie (Dallas Stars), Nicholas Baptiste (Buffalo Sabres) and Morgan Klimchuk (Calgary Flames). This is NOT a surprise, despite Craig Button’s projection that Sanheim would make the club, because Team Canada usually prefers to take 19-year-old players to the tournament.

Eighteen-year-old Haydn Fleury is still on the Team Canada roster — and, in my opinion, 17th overall pick Sanheim has become at least as good of a prospect as the seventh overall pick of the 2014 Draft — but Fleury has 20 to 25 pounds of body weight that Sanheim does not yet have on his frame.

Sanheim is a virtual lock for the 2015-16 tournament if he stays healthy. For the upcoming tournament, Team Canada now has 15 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies. The defensemen included Flyers 2013 first-round pick Sam Morin.

Morin is expected to play an important role on Canada’s blueline this year. Look for him to get penalty killing minutes and five-on-five shutdown responsibilities.

********** FLYERS ALUMNI NEWS FROM FlyersAlumni.org

* On Dec. 19 and 20th the Flyers Alumni will work in conjunction with St. John’s Hospice and Cityteam respectively to help the less fortunate during the holiday season. For more information about these programs, click here.

* On Dec. 28, the Flyers Alumni will play the Cherokee Chiefs Alumni in the Sixth Annual Jeff Burd Memorial Alumni Game benefit at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to support the Jeff Burd Memorial Fund (a donation and matching-fund award for the Chiefs’ player with the highest academic performance in school to use toward college expenses), the National Meningitis Association, USA Wounded Warriors and Wings of Steel Sled Hockey. For more information about donating to, sponsoring or attending the Alumni game or after-party, contact Scott McKay at 609-377-6866 or RowdyMAX@aol.com.

* On January 17, 2015, the Flyers Alumni team will participate in the Center for Autism 3rd Annual Winter Classic benefit game in Aston, PA. Related events include a silent auction and postgame meet-and-greet and autograph session with Flyers Alumni players.

* The Flyers Alumni website takes a look at father-son connection that former Flyers left winger Simon Gagne and ailing father Pierre have to the Flyers organization.

* The first Flyers Alumni: Then and Now feature takes an in-depth look the career and post-hockey life of Legion of Doom right winger Mikael Renberg.

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