Sanheim looks confident, relaxed in Flyers’ return

Travis Sanheim

PHILADELPHIA – This time, Travis Sanheim wants to prove he’s more than just an injury fill-in.

The rookie defenseman was able to play 35 games in the first half of the Flyers’ season due to a mix of early injuries to Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald, plus a 10-game suspension to Radko Gudas.

But when all the veterans returned to the lineup, Sanheim and his minus-5 number were shipped back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after a Jan. 13 game against New Jersey.

That’s where he stayed until he was called up late Friday night under “emergency conditions’’ when Robert Hagg (two weeks) and Johnny Oduya (day to day) suffered lower-body injuries.

Sanheim was back in a Flyers uniform Saturday for a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets and didn’t look out of place.

Going back to Allentown might have been a good thing for his confidence. He picked up 16 points in 18 games with a plus-14.

He kept a positive attitude in the AHL, helped keep the Phantoms in first place in the entire league, and that might help grow his composure in the long run.

“I think that was the biggest thing,’’ he said. “I wanted to keep that confidence when I came up here.’’

Sanheim looked sure of himself enough to turn defensive plays into offensive ones.

“Having a good gap, having a good stick and being aggressive when the right circumstances come,’’ he said. “I broke up a few plays, turned it and went the other way. I’ll continue to keep that in my game.

“I think going down there gives me the confidence of playing a lot of minutes. Just knowing I can play at this level.’’

He was asked if he wants to be more than just an injury fill-in?

“When I went down, I wanted to get that next opportunity (with Flyers),’’ he said. “It’s unfortunate with the injuries but I have a chance to take advantage of the opportunity and I’m just going to kind of keep going with it.’’

Sanheim, a 2014 first-round (17th overall) draft pick, was paired with veteran Andrew MacDonald and that, of course, helped with any nerves.

“I thought he was great, right from the first shift he was aggressive, made some really nice plays in the neutral zone,’’ MacDonald said. “Sent guys in on great transition plays.

“You could tell he was feeling comfortable and confident. I said earlier, that’s a heck of a way to come back in. It’s not an easy situation, the fact that we had lost the last five, to be put into a situation like that. But I thought he did a tremendous job.’’

 

Konecny sits after bad penalty

 

Travis Konecny took the penalty that led to Winnipeg’s only goal in the third period.

So coach Dave Hakstol decided to sit the second-year forward the rest of the game.

Not necessarily punishment but just a reminder to play smart hockey when the situation merits it.

Right after the game, with the media already in the locker room, Hakstol was seen talking to Konecny in animated fashion (which he later said was standard operating procedure for all players in similar situations).

Konecny wouldn’t get into what was said. And he brushed off the penalty, saying the Winnipeg player (Nikolaj Ehlers) simply stepped on his stick.

Hakstol emphasized that he doesn’t want Konecny to change his aggressive attitude. Just make sure he doesn’t make risky plays.

“It’s all the situation,’’ Hakstol said. “TK, I mean he’s a huge part of our team. That energy that he plays with, he has to be on the line. Tough part this time of year is navigating to not go over that line.

“And the penalty was not good timing and something that can’t happen. He knows that. But he’s a huge part of the team and unfortunately we didn’t get the kill on that one. I don’t want him to change his game at all. Just some slight adjustments in the third period.’’

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 453 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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