Hits and Misses (Flyers 2, Rangers 1)
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37