VOORHEES – Call it a mutual respect society.
Coach Scott Gordon liked what he saw in Travis Sanheim’s game at the NHL level almost from the moment he was hired back on Dec. 17.
By no mere coincidence, Sanheim’s performances began to pick up immediately after the new coach came on board.
So it came as no surprise when Gordon decided to keep Sanheim with Ivan Provorov to maintain a No. 1 defense pairing.
During this 9-1-1 stretch which started back on Jan. 14, Sanheim has gone a plus-6 with a goal and seven assists for eight points.
Not bad, considering Sanheim-Provorov are going up against the Crosbys, Ovechkins and McDavids on a nightly basis.
The mutual respect thing actually began last season when Sanheim and Gordon were together with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Sanheim started with the Flyers last season but was sent back to the Phantoms because there were still some rough edges to his game.
The two worked on them and the sessions began to pay dividends this season.
“I think a lot of Travis,’’ Gordon said after Thursday’s practice at the Skate Zone. “I had him for almost a year down in Lehigh. When I came up here, Travis was playing with Provy a couple games.
“I wasn’t surprised that he (Sanheim) was able to do it (handle top pairing). It would have been my suggestion coming in here that we have to get him playing more.’’
Sanheim showed what he was capable the other night in Minnesota. He rushed all the way to the net, carrying the puck to the Wild doorstep and allowing Sean Couturier to score a big goal in a 5-4 win.
“He’s playing against the best players in the world every single night,’’ Gordon said. “He’s been able to kill penalties, step in on the power play. His ability to get up and down the ice. . .his reach, his strength are all things that are getting better every game.
“For me, there are no surprises there.’’
Sanheim acknowledges he’s playing with more confidence now, something that might have been lacking last year (his rookie season).
“Two of my goals earlier in the year were similar plays where I took it to the net,’’ he said. “I wasn’t planning on doing that. I saw I had a jump on the D-man, I lost the puck but luckily ‘Coots’ was coming back door.’’
There seems to be good chemistry between Provorov and Sanheim.
“I think we continue to grow and I think we’re going to get better,’’ Sanheim said. “With me switching to the right side. . .we have a good friendship so it’s easy to communicate with him.’’
Sanheim has registered more than 20 minutes of ice time in nine of the 11 games during the streak.
>Elliott for Talbot trade rumor
The latest hot trade rumor has Flyers goalie Brian Elliott, who is on conditioning assignment after missing nearly three months with a lower-body injury, headed to Edmonton in exchange for goalie Cam Talbot.
The reasoning behind the trade is that Elliott’s contract ($2.5 million) is running out while the salary cap-strapped Oilers need some relief from Talbot’s contract (also expiring), which pays him $4.2 million.
If Talbot does come to the Flyers, it would be a natural fit for Carter Hart, who has worked with Talbot during the off-season.
“Me and ‘Talbs’ skated together all summer,’’ disclosed Hart, who hails from Sherwood Park, a suburb of Edmonton. “We really got along. This past summer we partnered up. He’s a great mentor, great goalie.
“He’s the guy I called the night before my first start (vs. Detroit on Dec. 18) just to ask him about pre-game jitters, what to expect. He told me his first game was in Philly (for the Rangers) and his first win was against Detroit two days later, 3-2 (which was the score of Hart’s first win). Pretty crazy.’’
>Hart’s mystery mask may have tribute to Eagles
Hart is having a special mask made up for the Stadium Series outdoor game against the Penguins on Feb. 23 at Lincoln Financial.
It’s being specially painted by a friend back home in Edmonton. But the unveiling is being kept secret until a few days before the big game.
“Going to surprise everyone,’’ he said. “It’s awesome. It’s unreal. Eagles fans will definitely love it.’’
Giroux family expecting first child
Claude Giroux and his wife, Ryanne, are expecting their first child sometime around August, it was announced on Thursday.
Someone commented that the due date was “good scheduling’’ (a humorous reference to not conflicting with the hockey season. Giroux got a chuckle out of that one.
“It’s great news, it’s exciting,’’ he said. “With our schedule, we play a lot. We don’t always have a lot of time (at home). It’s definitely good timing.’’