Pickard on hold, Lehtera set to play

Jori Lehtera

LAS VEGAS – Calvin Pickard is officially a Flyer but don’t look for the new goaltender in T-Mobile Arena on Thursday night in Philadelphia’s season opener against the Golden Knights.

Pickard is being delayed by that old bugaboo, namely visa issues, and general manager Ron Hextall when Pickard, who was picked up on waivers from Toronto on Tuesday, will join the team.

In the meantime, Anthony Stolarz will serve as backup to starting goaltender Brian Elliott.

“We’re waiting on immigration with him, so we don’t know what the timeline is,’’ Hextall said prior to Wednesday’s practice at City National Arena. “I suspect it won’t be too long.’’

Hextall pretty much had to make a move, given injuries to Michal Neuvirth (groin) and Alex Lyon (lower body).

“Coming into camp, we had one extra goalie,’’ Hextall said. “Those two get hurt and ‘Stolie’ hasn’t played essentially in a year and coming off surgery.

“We felt it was one of those moves that made sense.’’

Hextall said he isn’t sure how things will “shake out’’ once Neuvirth and Lyon return. It’s safe to say he needs some depth at this position in case the inevitable injury bug returns.

Would Hextall entertain the notion of carrying three goalies?

“I don’t know, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,’’ Hextall said. “It’s not a perfect situation.’’

The Flyers complete this two-game swing in Colorado against the Avalanche on Saturday night. Pickard should be with the team by then.

Lehtera ready to go

While the Jori Lehtera legal situation in Finland has yet to be resolved, it looks like the veteran forward will start for the Flyers on Thursday night.

Jordan Weal and Dale Weise are the likely healthy scratches.

Lehtera is a valuable penalty killer and the Flyers need to improve in that area.

“Jori had a good camp,’’ Hextall said. “We also know what he can do from last year. He’s a responsible player. It’s a fit thing.

“Jordan is capable of making plays offensively and he’s capable of things that a lot of guys aren’t. So I see Jordan more as a top nine guy. Jori in a small role proved he can do a good job and give you responsible minutes, especially on the road.’’


Penalty kill projection

Hextall knows the Flyers have to get better with their 29th-ranked penalty kill.

“We need to see improvement, one hundred percent,’’ Hextall said. “To be frank, when you go into a season, obviously it depends on your personnel.

“You look at your special teams and you strive to be top 10. Is it realistic every year? Probably not. There have been some changes. I believe Scott Laughton looks better. Our guys as a group have to get it done.’’


Looking at lines

In line rushes at practice on Wednesday, the Flyers had a fourth line of Scott Laughton, Lehtera and Michael Raffl.

The other three lines – Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny first; Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Jake Voracek second; Mikhail Vorobyev, Wayne Simmonds, James van Riemsdyk – were pretty much set before the start of the trip.

On defense, the top pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov figures to be a mainstay. After that, look for Andrew MacDonald and Robert Hagg in one pairing and possibly Radko Gudas and Travis Sanheim in the other, with Christian Folin a likely spare.

Optimistic outlook

“We feel good about where we’re at,’’ Hextall said. “But in the end we have to go out on the ice and get it done. I feel good about our team, I think we’re going in fairly healthy.

“Tomorrow is going to be tough. Their building, a lot of excitement. They’re trying to build on what they did last year. It’s a tough building to play in so we’re certainly going to have our hands full.’’

The players were also optimistic

“We’re similar to last year but we added some weapons to the fold,’’ Shayne Gostisbehere said after practice. “For us, I think we’re a pretty good team and I think we’ll get it going.’’

Giroux said he’s pretty excited to get things going.

“We feel pretty confident in our team,’’ he said. “We think we can take that step forward and be a more consistent team. Just do a little damage during the whole season.’’


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About Wayne Fish 2437 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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