Flyers working to get their game back on track

Michael Raffl

While the Flyers have been struggling the last 10 games or so, they’ve still managed to battle and avoid losing three consecutive games in regulation time.

That streak, which goes back to 2019, was on the line Monday night when the Flyers faced the Rangers in New York.

“You have to take it a game at a time,’’ said Michael Raffl, scheduled to return from a hand injury, during a media Zoom call late Monday afternoon. “I don’t think we’ve played up to our expectations or our best game.

“Tonight’s a huge challenge for us to bounce back. It’s a very tight schedule, a tight division. Every game matters a lot right now. It’s a must-win tonight for us.’’

>Hart looking for improvement

Vigneault expressed optimism that Carter Hart, Monday night’s starter, would be sharper than in recent times because he’s been working hard in practice with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh.

The Flyers need a better Hart in the second half of the season if they have hopes of making the postseason.

“I believe with the amount of time he’s had, he’s been able to reset,’’ Vigneault said. “The fact that he was able to come in Saturday (in relief of starter Brian Elliott) and have that time in goal will help him moving forward.

“We’re no different than any team in the NHL. You need strong goaltending. This is a competitive league. Goaltending is the most important position. It’s also the toughest position. Our goaltending is not at the level it was initially (in the season) but Carter is being an opportunity tonight to help us win.’’

>Raffl moving to center

Normally a left wing, Raffl was set to make a rare start at center as spare pivotman Andy Andreoff took a seat.

Otherwise, Vigneault decided to stay with the same lineup which played in Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to Washington.

That meant defensemen Robert Hagg and Erik Gustafsson remained on the bench while journeyman Nate Prosser continues to play.

“I kept the same six ‘D’ as we used last game,’’ Vigneault said. “We felt that was one of our better five-on-five games this year. Where we track scoring chances, we only gave up seven in that game.’’

Raffl makes significant contributions, particularly on the penalty kill.

“He’s versatile, he can play more than one position,’’ Vigneault said. “He brings us help on the penalty killing, he’s not afraid to block shots.

“Yesterday was his first team practice and he had a lot of energy, enthusiasm.’’

As for playing center, it shouldn’t be a problem for the veteran.

“I’ve done it in the past,’’ he said. “It was a little bit short notice but it is what it is. You have to be able to play multiple positions in my opinion.

“I accept the challenge and I appreciate it.’’

Regarding the penalty kill, Raffl said it hinges on  details.

“Sometimes it comes down to doing the little things right,’’ he said. “Sometimes it’s one clear we didn’t get and they manage to keep the puck in and that costs you. If they keep the puck in and you give them a second chance, it could cost you.’’

>Lyon backing up Hart

Vigneault announced that Alex Lyon would be brought in from the team’s taxi squad to serve as backup to Carter Hart.

The coach said No. 2 starter Brian Elliott was given the night off as a bit of a breather. Elliott, 35, had started the past two games against Washington and also took part in both Sunday’s practice and Monday morning’s optional skate.

“We put Brian through a hard practice (Monday morning with the taxi squad) knowing we’re not going to practice tomorrow (Tuesday),’’ Vigneault said. “We felt it was good to skate him hard this morning, have a good practice and have Alex be the backup tonight.’’

 

About Wayne Fish 1449 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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