Youth might not be served when Flyers open playoffs

Scott Laughton

VOORHEES, N.J. – Just an experiment or are the Flyers planning to go with more “experience’’ when the playoffs get underway?

From the looks of Monday’s practice, the Flyers might just be going the older route.

With Michael Raffl (upper-body injury) cleared to return from a two-week hiatus, Scott Laughton found himself odd-man out in preparation for Tuesday’s game at the Islanders.

Meanwhile, rookie defenseman Robert Hagg continues to sit, even though the veteran defense pairing of Radko Gudas and Brandon Manning continues to have its ups and downs.

As usual, coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t going to come right out and provide clear and defined reasons for making these adjustments.

And for all we know, the bench boss could throw everyone a change-up and go back to a lineup with Laughton in it.

But for now, it looks like a fourth line of Jori Lehtera centering Raffl and Matt Read for the game in Brooklyn.

Laughton, 23, has had a decent year, recording 10-10-20 numbers with a minus-10 in 78 games. If he sits against the Isles, it will be his first missed game of the year.

Raffl, 29, has played in 73 games with 11-8-19 and plus-2.

Hakstol said Laughton might only sit for one game if in fact he doesn’t dress for Tuesday’s game.

“(I) wanted to get a look at a couple different things today,’’ Hakstol said.

The Flyers were in position to clinch a playoff spot with a regulation-time win against the Islanders but Hakstol isn’t looking to shake things up just for the sake of change.

“We haven’t talked about that (clinching),’’ Hakstol said. “We’re just trying to get ready for another hockey game. We know what the job at hand is.’’

As for Hagg, he went on the injured list back on March 10, was cleared to play on March 18 but hasn’t been able to get back in the lineup, despite leading the NHL in hits for much of the season, as well as being among the rookie leaders in blocked shots.

Some of that is due to the improved play of fellow rookie Travis Sanheim, who came up when Hagg went down.

Andrew MacDonald said being paired with Sanheim hasn’t affected the backline’s overall chemistry.

“I think we’ve developed pretty good chemistry,’’ MacDonald said. “Obviously, you’re not going to play perfect games every game but I think the chemistry is there. The guys are all playing well under the system.’’

MacDonald had been paired with Hagg and seemed to have formed a good bond.

“He did a great job,’’ MacDonald said. “He was physical, did a good job stopping the cycle. Never tried to make the dangerous play, made the safe play. That paid dividends throughout the year.

“Robert has done great all year. I think it’s a situation now where everyone is playing well. The team is rolling. It’s just one of those situations where you kind of have to wait it out. Right now it’s just kind of tough timing.’’

Wayne Simmonds was asked what a veteran-laden lineup does for a team.

“I think right now, to be honest, you’re trying to find matchups,’’ he said. “You know, ‘Raff’ hasn’t played in a long time. He deserves to get back in the lineup.

“I think it’s a numbers game. The coach has the right to figure out what he wants to do.’’

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 300 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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