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Hits and Misses (Flyers 2, Rangers 1)

Hartnell out for awhile; Knuble returns; Meszaros hurt too; news notes and observations from the FLyers 2-1 win over the Rangers.
Friday, 01.25.2013 / 1:26 AM ET
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside Reporter / Flyers Inside Out
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Flyers Inside Out

Some days are more hectic than others.

For the Flyers, Thursday was a maelstrom.

We’ll try to cover all of it in this space.

It started with the injury to Scott Hartnell. It was obvious the last two days that Hartnell was in some serious pain and that his outlook wasn’t promising.

But when the news came down just how bad it was, it was like a funeral dirge was playing around the Flyers offices.

Hartnell will miss at least four weeks with a fractured first metatarsal in his left foot, suffered when he was hit by a Kimmo Timonen slapshot in the second period of Tuesday’s game in New Jersey.

But, the worse news is the injury could take as long as two months to heal depending on the severity of the fracture, which won’t be determined for another day or so.

It’s crushing news for the Flyers, who are already struggling offensively.

But it didn’t take general manager Paul Holmgren long to find a replacement.

And it’s a familiar face as well.

Holmgren confirmed that pending a physical today the Flyers will sign unrestricted free agent Mike Knuble to a one-year contract.

“Obviously we’re familiar with Mike,” Holmgren said. “He’s a good guy, big, heavy player and we think he’s a good guy to throw in the mix right now… with the injuries we have.”

Knuble, 40, spent four seasons with the Flyers from 2005 through 2009 when he scored 114 goals with the team before signing a free agent deal with the Washington Capitals.

After three years in D.C. Knuble was out of the NHL this season but signed a professional tryout contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL after a tryout with the Detroit RedWings.

If Knuble passes his physical, he would be able to suit up for the Flyers as soon as Saturday in Florida.

Knuble played one game with Grand Rapids and registered one assist.

“He’s a quality person in the locker room,” Laviolette said. “He brings a lot of experience. I think that can be real helpful. Our group of forwards are young. We’re the youngest (in the NHL). To have a guy like that with his leadership and experience is important. The fact that he’s a big, strong player and he played a lot of games in the league can only help us.”

If that wasn’t enough injury-related news, then came the game, where defenseman Andrej Meszaros suffered an upper-body injury on the final shift of the second period against the Rangers.

He skated off the ice very quickly favoring his left arm.

Holmgren said the team would know more about Meszaros’ condition after he was able to see team doctors today.

Already thin on defense, losing Meszaros for any length of time would either mean recalling veteran Andreas Lilja from the Phantoms or making a move for another defenseman, either via trade or free agency.

……………………………….

Oh, and there was a game to be played Thursday night too.

Yes, the Flyers won their first game, 2-1 over the Rangers. And they played a pretty solid all-around team game.

Some players stood out though, including Nick Grossmann who was physical, active offensively (he took the shot that caromed off of Wayne Simmonds skate for the Flyers first goal) and did a nice job moving the puck and blocking shots.

After a couple sluggish games, Grossmann was one of the better players on the ice Thursday, and was quite noticeable.

Tom Sestito and Jody Shelley made their season debuts for the Flyers on a fourth line with Eric Wellwood and the line gave the Flyers energy each shift they were on the ice.

It didn’t take Sestito long to get into a scrap. His first shift saw him lay out Rangers center Jeff Halpern before being jumped by Stu Bickel, which amounted to a decent fight, probably won by Bickel.

“I thought everyone was playing the body tonight so it’s a team game, it’s a team concept,” Sestito said. “Everyone stuck to the plan, and we’re going to need people to go out there and get hits, get into fights and I think that it energizes the crowd and energizes the team a little bit more. We’ll keep doing that to get wins.”

Sestito wasn’t alone in the fight category. Tye McGinn, in just his second NHL game, got into a real battle with Kris Newbury and got the best of his opponent. Not known as a fighter, McGinn landed several uncontested punches and earned a full fight replay on the video board.

…………………………………………

The Flyers made some interesting moves in the minors Thursday.

First they placed goalie Niko Hovinen on unconditional waivers and terminated his contract.

Hovinen wasn’t happy playing for Trenton in the ECHL and wanted to go back to Finland. The Flyers agreed to let him go, but burned his contract in the process.

Releasing Hovinen opened a spot in Trenton for a goalie and helped clear the log jam in goal with the Phantoms.

The Flyers sent Cal Heeter to Trenton, leaving two veterans with the Phantoms – Brian Boucher and Scott Munroe.

Holmgren said it was a better situation as all three goalies will now get more playing time.

Heeter was 7-11-1 with a 2.97 goals against average and a .903 save percentage in 20 games with the Phantoms.

Hovinen was 4-6-3 in 16 games with Trenton with a 3.14 GAA and an ,889 save percentage.

The Flyers also assigned David Laliberte to Adirondack from Trenton where he had a goal and an assist in five games.

In other minor league news, Brandon Manning was named to the AHL All-Star game as a replacement for Erik Gustafsson who has missed five weeks with a foot fracture.

……………………………………….

My three stars:

1. Nick Grossmann – Just a whale of a game by the Flyers defenseman all around. All the Flyers were good, but he stood out.

2. Ilya Bryzgalov – The Flyers goalie only had to make 18 saves, but he was very good in net when tested, picking up his first win of the season.

3. Henrik Lundqvist – Were it not for the Rangers goalie, the Flyers would have won via blowout. He was that good in net with 31 saves.

..........................................................

Did You Know:

- The Flyers avoided what would have been their first 0-4 start in franchise history. Their current 1-3-0 record matches their record after the first four games of the 1994-95 strike-shortened season.

- Thursday’s win snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Rangers. The Flyers’ last win over the Rangers came almost two years ago, on February 20, 2011.

- The line of Tye McGinn (22 years and 5 months), Sean Couturier (20 years, 1 month) and Scott Laughton (18 years, 7 months) had an average age of 20 years, 4 months and was comprised entirely of players born in the 1990s, youngest in the NHL.

- Claude Giroux was 10-for-22 (45 percent) on faceoffs, but his 52 faceoffs won on the season and 93 faceoffs taken both currently rank second in the NHL behind Tyler Bozak’s 62 and 103.

………………………………..

The Flyers will not practice at Skate Zone today as coach Laviolette gave them the day off before playing the next two days in Florida and Tampa Bay.

To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email asanfilippo@comcast-spectacor.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 50 37 9 4 163 112 78
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 52 29 18 5 148 134 63
4 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 DET 52 26 18 8 130 131 60
7 NJD 53 26 20 7 119 120 59
8 NYI 50 26 18 6 135 126 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 50 23 18 9 119 130 55
12 MTL 53 25 24 4 142 142 54
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Giroux 50 16 28 -4 44
J. Voracek 50 8 34 1 42
W. Simmonds 50 18 16 -4 34
B. Schenn 48 14 15 -1 29
S. Gostisbehere 32 9 17 4 26
S. Couturier 40 9 15 9 24
M. Read 49 9 9 -5 18
S. Laughton 50 4 10 -6 14
M. Raffl 50 6 6 2 12
M. Del Zotto 48 3 9 -9 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Mason 12 12 7 .916 2.68
M. Neuvirth 11 6 2 .933 2.14
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