PHILADELPHIA – For the Flyers, there aren’t a lot of sure bets for the Vegas season-opener next Thursday.
But this much you can take to the bank: If the top six forwards are healthy, the second line will be center Nolan Patrick, with James van Riemsdyk on his left and Jake Voracek on his right.
The trio had a chance to work on some chemistry in Thursday night’s 4-2 preseason loss to the New York Rangers.
Provided Sean Couturier is healthy, he will center a first line of Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. But there are still some questions whether Couturier will be fully recovered from a knee injury he suffered in a charity game he played in Canada last month.
Coach Dave Hakstol believes the Patrick-Voracek-JVR alignment will get synchronized by the time it steps on the ice against the Golden Knights.
He’s not quite ready to 100 percent declare this threesome will open the season together but he seems to be leaning that way.
“In my opinion, they are making progress,’’ Hakstol said before the game. “And each day there is a little bit more there. That doesn’t mean that anything is solidified in stone. It doesn’t have to be that way, even as you go into the early part of the year.’’
In the later stages of the game, Hakstol moved some people around. But van Riemsdyk said the time with Patrick and Voracek was productive.
“Obviously it’s still a process,’’ he said. “We’re nowhere near as good as we could be. A few execution things tonight. . .the system the other team was playing tonight, I think we may have forced too many plays. A couple of turnovers and then you’re chasing the game.
“That’s what the preseason is for. You want to learn, you want to have these things happen now. You figure out the way to react and respond accordingly.’’
The 20-year-old Patrick, entering his second season, looked much more comfortable in the later stages of his rookie campaign. He appears at home with two 29-year-olds.
“That line has continued to grow,’’ Hakstol said. “They’ve got another step or two to take in terms of what they can become. So this is another opportunity tonight to push toward that.’’
Van Riemsdyk recorded a goal at 12:00 of the third period and also had an assist on Ivan Provorov’s goal at 10:01 of the third.
Why does van Riemsdyk believe this line eventually will work?
“I mean three smart, skilled players playing together,’’ van Riemsdyk responded. “We all have three different styles of play. But I think we fit together really well. I think it (chemistry) is something we can continue to work at and we will do that.’’
Door still open for Hart
While many believe Anthony Stolarz will be the backup goalie to Brian Elliott on Thursday, Hakstol has still left the door open for rookie Carter Hart, who played all 60 minutes of Thursday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center.
“That (goalie) is another position that’s up for competition,’’ Hakstol said before the game. “So it’s an important start for Carter tonight.
“And any time you get into the net, it’s important to go out and perform. That’s the nature of the beast. You get later in camp, those opportunities are really important. You don’t want to make too much of the moment or too much of the opportunity. You just want guys to be confident and feel ready and prepared to go out and do their job. That’s what I want to see Carter do tonight.’’
Hart allowed a pair of power-play goals sandwiched around an even-strength marker in the Rangers’ three-goal second period.
Vinny Lettieri (0:34, power play), Brett Howden (1:34) and Vlad Namestnikov (19:43, power play) did the honors for the Rangers. Andrew MacDonald slipped and fell on the Howden goal, leaving the Rangers with an odd-man advantage at the goalmouth.
Afterward, Hart said he’s doing what he can to stay in the competition for a job with the Flyers.
“There are things I’m going to learn from this experience,’’ he said. “Just learn from them and put them behind me.’’
If this was his last preseason action, how did he think he did?
“I’d like to be there (Vegas) but I can’t control that,’’ he said. “Like I said, just learn from the experience and be ready each day.’’
Vorobyev taking steps
More and more it looks like Russian rookie Mikhail Vorobyev will make the opening night roster. He’s the only forward to have played in six of the seven preseason games. Can he make this team?
“It’s up to the coach to decide,’’ Vorobyev said through a translator. “My job is to go out and show the best I can.’’
Center Gordan Knight, who has a decent chance of making the opening night roster, suffered an upper-body injury. The Flyers say he will be re-evaluated on Friday.