The Rangers will have a couple of new bodies in the lineup tonight when they take on the Kings in Los Angeles.
First and foremost, tonight will mark the return of captain Ryan Callahan, who’s been recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and missed Thursday’s season-opening 4-1 loss to the Coyotes in Phoenix.
“We’re playing against one of the biggest teams in the NHL (on Monday), Stanley Cup champions two years ago, a team that rolls four lines, has got great lines up front,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said yesterday. “They use their size, and they’ve got size on defense.”
Vigneault knows all about the Kings, the same team that eliminated the Canucks in 2012 when he was still the coach in Vancouver.
By the way, tonight will be the second game of the Rangers’ daunting nine-game road trip to start the season while their home rink, Madison Square Garden, undergoes renovations. After tonight, they play tomorrow in San Jose, Thursday in Anaheim and Saturday in St. Louis. That’s four games in six nights against teams that made the playoffs last season in the Western Conference. And after that there are still four away games left on the trip, in Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Detroit.
Islanders add Terreri as goaltending development coach
The New York Islanders made a coaching move Wednesday, naming former NHL puckstopper Chris Terreri as a goalie development coach and goalie coach for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
“Chris has a vast amount of knowledge and experience, both as a player and a coach,” said Islanders general manager Garth Snow. “We’re excited for him to work with our goalies at every level, as well as assist in our scouting process and to make his mark on this crucial position.”
Terreri appeared in 406 NHL games between 1986 and 2001, spending most of his career with the New Jersey Devils.
He then transitioned into coaching, spending the last eight years working as a goalie coach with the Devils.
In the three years since, Giroux has experienced a rather significant drop in overall production, hitting a low point last season and leading general manager Ron Hextall when it was all over to give a defiant vote of confidence for the Flyers captain and highest paid player.
Giroux scored only 14 goals and 58 points while playing the full 82-game schedule. If there is a positive, it’s that on the power play, he was still highly productive with 31 points, which led a Flyers team that was 14th in the league with the advantage. Those 31 power play points for Giroux accounted about 53 per cent of his offensive output.
“Frustrating,” is how Giroux described last season to reporters after the Flyers failed to make the playoffs. “When you try to do something and you can’t do it — your mind wants to do something but your body doesn’t do it, it’s frustrating.
“You’ve got to keep working on your game, get stronger, faster. I mean, I’m very excited to … have a whole summer to work out and really do what I want to do.”
That last part is key.
Giroux, who will turn 30 years old in January, struggled through a hip problem during the 2015-16 season and had surgery in the spring. The timeline for recovery from the operation was about 10 to 12 weeks, which would cut into his summer training. There was perhaps some added rush to get back considering he played for Team Canada at the World Cup ahead of the NHL regular season.
One of his notable statements prior to joining the Canadian contingent was, “I don’t feel like I have a 60-year-old hip anymore.” That should provide an indication as to how much of a struggle it was for him prior to surgery. But this year, there is no World Cup. There was no off-season surgery with a lengthy recovery. Perhaps the bounce back season Flyers fans, management and coaching staff are all hoping for will take shape for Giroux after a full summer of training.
The Flyers are expected to have some young players in their lineup, and they no longer have Brayden Schenn, who was traded to St. Louis at the draft. Nolan Patrick could have an impact on the lineup as the second overall pick, but he too is coming off an injury-plagued season in the Western Hockey League.
Adding to the pressure on Giroux is that he’s under contract for five more years — with a no-movement clause, according to CapFriendly — at a cap hit of $8.275 million.
There appears to be a competition brewing for a spot on the Flyers blue line this upcoming season and 21-year-old Travis Sanheim is keen to throw his name into the mix.
Taken 17th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, Sanheim has seen a rise in his offensive production, capping off his junior career in 2016 with 15 goals and 68 points, averaging well over a point per game in the WHL. He made the jump full-time to the professional ranks last season and provided more optimism for a Flyers franchise that has built a solid prospect pool.
In 76 games with the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Sanheim reached 10 goals and 37 points, finishing second in scoring among defensemen on that team. According to numerous reports, he followed that up with a strong showing at development camp earlier this summer, too.
Now, the goal is to come to training camp next month and earn a spot on the NHL club.
Under general manager Ron Hextall’s philosophy of earn what you get, Sanheim will have his chance. But is there room? The Flyers are at a numbers crunch on the blue line. There is expected to be two spots open, presumably for Robert Hagg and Sam Morin, both of whom acquitted themselves well during their April NHL debuts.
“It’s going to come down to camp,” Sanheim told reporters in the summer. “I feel like I’m ready. I’m going to compete for a spot and until somebody tells me differently, that’s my goal. I’m coming to make the Flyers.
“It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing on. You have to work your way up the lineup. It’s just like me this year. I had to work my way up the lineup in the AHL just to start playing more and more minutes, and getting power play time and (penalty kill) time. It’s going to be the same thing. Nobody said it was going to be easy and I was going to be slotted into the first pairing.”
The Flyers took defensemen in the first rounds of three consecutive drafts, from 2013 to 2015, with Sanheim’s selection sandwiched in the middle. In 2015, Philly took Ivan Provorov at seventh overall. At just 20 years old, the Russian blue liner wasted little time in making an impact on the NHL roster, playing in all 82 games last season, scoring six goals and 30 points.
Morin and Sanheim have each had time to develop in the minors, with the former spending the past two seasons in the AHL, which should prove beneficial to the growth in their games heading into September.
“Whenever you play in the American League you get a leg up because you’ve been playing at a higher level of competition for a full year,” Hextall said, per the Courier-Post.
“You expect those guys to come in and be a little more NHL ready than a kid that’s coming right out of junior, but the players are gonna dictate who’s on our team. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs by seven points last season, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that their future looks bright.
Many experts believe that they have the best group of prospects in the NHL. This summer, they added Nolan Patrick to the fold by selecting him second overall in the 2017 Entry Draft. If Patrick could stay healthy, he could provide the Flyers with a nice offensive boost next season.
Philadelphia can use all the help they can get up front, as they ranked 20th in goals for in 2016-17. The most disappointing Flyer in terms of offensive production had to be Claude Giroux. The captain managed to put up a respectable 58 points in 82 games, but he only found the back of the net 14 times (his lowest total since he scored 13 goals in 48 games during the lockout shortened season in 2012-13).
They have other quality forwards on the roster. Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek are still around, Travis Konecny has a year under his belt, but there are some serious question marks surrounding the supporting cast.
Brayden Schenn, who finished second on the team in goals with 25, was traded to St. Louis in the off-season. The Flyers received a package that included Jori Lehtera, who had struggles of his own last year. Lehtera, Valtteri Filppula, Matt Read and the rest of the forwards will have to step up.
On defense, they’re blessed with some talented options. Shayne Gostisbehere struggled in his second year, but still managed to put up 39 points. If he can play like he did during his rookie campaign, that will help his team tremendously.
Ivan Provorov, who played his first full season last year, was impressive. The 20-year-old had 30 points in 82 games, and he should be even better now that he’s going into his second year.
Youngsters like Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers and Robert Hagg are all close to contributing with the big club in the near future.
Between the pipes, they went out and signed Michal Neuvirth to an extension and they added Brian Elliott in free agency. That still doesn’t give them a clear number one goalie, so it’s difficult to see envision how that’ll all work out. We’ll see where Anthony Stolarz fits into the equation.
Last season, the Capitals, Penguins, Blue Jackets grabbed the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division, while the Rangers and Maple Leafs earned the Wild Card spots. The Islanders and Lightning both finished ahead of the Flyers in the race for the final playoff spots in the East.
If the Flyers do earn s postseason berth, it’ll be interesting to see which one of those teams won’t be qualifying for playoffs.
Will Philadelphia make the playoffs? You can have your say by voting in the poll below. Also, feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section.