According to the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Coyotes won’t have three of their regular forwards on Thursday when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal.
Head coach Dave Tippett confirmed it following today’s morning skate, saying that Lauri Korpikoski and Martin Hanzal would be out for the second straight game. They’ll be joined on the sidelines by Raffi Torres, who is suspended indefinitely for his hit on Marian Hossa.
Most coaches would be scrambling to replace three regular rotation forwards, but not Tippett. He’s shown an inordinate amount of faith in the organization’s depth and has no issue relying on AHL call-ups.
“Our depth throughout our organization is better, and we have players down there that are better equipped to come and play in this situation,” he told Fox Sports Arizona. “In years past, we’ve had some young players that if you put them in a situation like this right now, it would probably be tough on them.”
Coyotes GM Don Maloney agreed.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we can survive and play instead of crossing our fingers, shutting our eyes and hoping we can survive,” he said.
On Tuesday, Phoenix replaced Hanzal and Korpikoski with Kyle Chipchura and Gilbert Brule and the pair played well, though Tippett really limited their minutes (they, along with Paul Bissonnette, combined for just 19:20 of ice time.)
That won’t be easy to do on Thursday now that Torres is out. He played over 20 minutes in the Game 3 victory and was averaging 19 a night, playing on an effective line alongside Daymond Langkow and Shane Doan.
Tippett said that while the personnel losses are big, they won’t affect Phoenix’s overall approach.
“We understand playoffs are a hard grind, and you’re going to use a lot of people,” he said. “But what we always talk about is: When a player goes out, it’s an opportunity for somebody else.
“That’s kind of the identity of our team.”
Sabres small favorites on NHL odds hosting Flyers on Wednesday
The Buffalo Sabres are on their longest win streak in nine seasons, and are at home against a team that has yet to prove it can beat conference opponents regularly.
The Sabres, led by center Jack Eichel, are -120 moneyline favorites on the NHL odds for Wednesday night against the +100 underdog Philadelphia Flyers with a 6.0 total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The Sabres are 6-0 in their last six games, for their longest win streak since the 2009-10 season, and the OddsShark NHL Database shows that they are 6-3 in their last nine games against Eastern Conference opponents. The Flyers are 0-5 in their last five conference games.
The Flyers might be the epitome of a consistently inconsistent team, with a 9-9-2 record this season which includes being 3-3 as a underdog on the road. There are bright spots aplenty, including right wing Travis Konecny stepping up as a top-end forward alongside center Sean Couturier and left wing Claude Giroux. However, the Flyers have one of the worst goals-against records in the league and are also second-last in penalty killing at 68.6 percent, with the power play not much better at 24th in the 31-team in the NHL.
Media reports indicate that the Flyers will have goalie Alex Lyon make his season debut.
The Sabres are 13-6-2, including a 4-1 record as a home-ice favorite at KeyBank Centre. The -120 moneyline suggests the jury is still out on a team that is fourth overall in the NHL standings on the virtue of a 7-0-2 record in one-goal games, so the time might be ripe to back them while they still keep betting value.
The top line of Eichel with wings Jason Pominville and Jeff Skinner has been productive, while Buffalo has offensive depth for the first time in several seasons. Left wing Conor Sheary, for one, was a Flyers killer during his Pittsburgh Penguins days.
On special teams, the Sabres have been better a man down than a man up, ranking fifth in penalty killing (82.5 percent) but 22nd on the power play (17.4 percent). Sabres goalie Carter Hutton has won four consecutive starts and has a 2.61 goals-against average and .917 save percentage, and one would expect Buffalo to stay with the hot hand.
The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Flyers’ last 10 road games as the underdog. However, the total has gone OVER in seven of the Flyers’ last 10 games against the Eastern Conference.
For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.
Panthers’ Trocheck has surgery for fractured ankle
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck has had surgery for a fractured ankle and may play again this season.
Trocheck was hurt when twisted his right leg while chasing the puck near the end boards in Monday night’s game at Ottawa. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
”It’s never easy to see a player and person like him suffer an injury like this, but we are confident that he will make a full recovery and be back on the ice with our team this season,” Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement Wednesday.
The 2017 NHL All-Star has three goals and 14 points in 18 games this season.
Extremely grateful for all of the support and well wishes I’ve received over the last day or so. Can’t thank you all enough. Surgery was a success, and the road to recovery begins now. I’ll be back before you know it. Thanks, everyone, and go Cats @FlaPanthers
Jim Montgomery is going to miss Ken Hitchcock around the rink in Dallas. The Stars new head coach, who replaced Hitchcock in the offseason, spent plenty of time around the team’s old bench boss, soaking up his wisdom about the NHL.
“His experience in the league, understanding travel, practice time and then understanding the people here, the players, and just him sharing what he thought the players were and what their maximum ceiling was and how to help them get there,” Montgomery told Pro Hockey Talk on Tuesday.
Hitchcock is back behind a bench after the Edmonton Oilers hired him to replace Todd McLellan. It’s his sixth job in the NHL and came only 221 days after his retirement announcement in April. He’s the definition of a hockey lifer.
“That’s right. It’s just in his blood,” said Montgomery. “Most coaches are like that but he’s probably the zenith of that description.”
We spoke with Montgomery this week about his transition to the NHL, how the Stars are adjusting to his “process,” and who really deserves credit for coining the “Legion of Doom” nickname given to the famous Philadelphia Flyers line of Mikael Renberg, Eric Lindros and John LeClair.
PHT: We’re a quarter of the way through the season. How would you assess your team right now and where they’re at in terms of adjusting to your system?
MONTGOMERY: “I would say we’ve been very inconsistent, which I expected because it’s very different, the way I want us to play than the previous two coaches. Then you factor in this is their third coach in three years and they’re adjusting for the third time to a new system. I just knew it was going to take time, so I expected the inconsistency with the on-ice execution. The inconsistency in work habits and effort has been my biggest surprise to the job. I think the biggest pleasant surprise has been how all these guys are eager to learn and I haven’t gotten the testing that I expected. These guys are good people and they want to do what you want to do. We just need to change the culture of what our expectations of work is on a daily basis.”
How much of an adjustment has it been for you going from the college hockey schedule to an NHL schedule where it’s 3-4 games a week, almost every other night?
“That’s been a huge adjustment. As much as you try and prepare in the summer time and watch other teams and watch film every day, trying to simulate meetings, I did that for two weeks with the staff, nothing compares to the grind; because now you’re combining emotion, results, win, losses, trying to stay even-keel, dealing with players that are confident, players that aren’t confident on a daily basis, and trying to get them charged up again to feel good about themselves within 48 hours — sometimes 24.
“Hitch told me that once you get to the 20-game mark you start to get in a rhythm. I’m starting to feel I’m more in a rhythm of how to prepare, where to spend my time the most efficiently so that I’m not overtaxing myself. And thank God I hired great people in Rick Bowness, Todd Nelson, Stu Barnes and Jeff Reese to help me every day. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”
I’m sure you had one of these as a player, but do coaches have a ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment? Did you have one of those?
“Yes and no. I don’t know if that was it but when we played Toronto we were playing well. I talked to [Mike] Babcock after the game and he goes ‘You’ve got to be fearful in this league. Every day you’ve got to be scared because every day’s a new challenge.’ And he’s right because what I’ve found from that conversation is it doesn’t matter if you’re playing a team that’s in the bottom of the standings or the top of the standings. You might get their worst or their best, but really it’s about your own team respecting the league and respecting the opponent every night so that you play with fear.”
It’s a small list of NCAA coaches who made the jump to the NHL. You and Dave Hakstol are the only ones since the early ’80s. Why do you think NHL teams are skittish about going down that route?
“We’re getting the opportunities now because percentage of college players in the NHL has grown since I played [at Maine, 1989-93]. Most of the general managers used to be guys that came from the CHL. Now most of your general managers are coming from college-based backgrounds, a lot of them anyways. So that’s changed, and the youthfulness of the league. The young players you’re dealing with they need more information and direct communication and feedback. I don’t know if that’s millennials or just you’re dealing with the average age of a roster that’s much younger than it used to be 20 years ago. Your third and fourth line is not 10-year veterans anymore.”
At what point during your coaching career did you feel ready to make the NHL jump?
“I think after I won at Denver [2017 NCAA title] I thought I was ready. I was very fortunate to have a great job and I wasn’t going to leave unless I was leaving to work with the right people, and that means owners, GM and an opportunity to win because of the roster. I was very fortunate and lucky that Jim Nill thought of me to give me an opportunity to lead the Dallas Stars.”
“Yeah, I moved it down to five because there’s so many games and with so many games you can only focus on so many things. I narrowed the focus down. When I had seven in college, I moved it from five to seven from junior where I coached 80 games a year with playoffs. I just thought that was the right thing to do and I knew which two were the least important.”
You spoke about the inconsistency in the Stars’ game so far. Do you feel your team is closer to hitting those five areas or is there plenty of work to do?
“Well, those five areas narrow your focus to concentrate on details within the game to possibly give you success. The numbers that we’ve worked out in the process, when we’ve hit the three most important ones we’re 11-1-1. It’s really not subjective. You can see it, the effort in those areas. Special teams is obvious. Three or less odd-man rushes is obvious, and winning the net-front battle is a little subjective, but it’s pretty obvious when you’re watching the game if you’re winning that.
“For the way I want our team to play, those are critical areas. Plus I want to be a possession team, so win faceoffs, and that’s team faceoffs. It’s within five seconds that we have possession, whether it’s a win or a loss. The last one is zero undisciplined penalties. We’ve gotten better in those areas but a lot of it is there’s so many teams bunched up because there’s so many games in so many nights that you can’t have your A-game. Where we’ve got to get consistent is valuing our details that allow us to have success on nights when we don’t have legs. That’s where we have, I think, not embraced the process enough.”
Finally, you’re credited with coming up with the “Legion of Doom” nickname. Where did that come from? Were you a big wrestling fan?
“My buddy that I grew up with playing [midget] hockey and my linemate [Tommy Cacioppo] was a huge Flyers fan. When I was there I think we had just beaten someone 7-4 and I think the ‘Legion of Doom’ had something like 16 points in the game. He’s like, ‘You can’t stop them. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re skilled.’ I said ‘Tommy, I’ve got the best seat in the house. I’m watching them a lot from the bench.’ I said, ‘You’re doomed. They can beat you any way they want to, so you’re doomed.’ He was the wrestling fan. He goes, ‘It’s the Legion of Doom’ and I said it to a reporter and it took off.”
NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Flyers always seem to have the same problem, and that’s goaltending. With Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth both on the shelf, the Flyers will have to roll with Alex Lyon and Calvin Pickard. No disrespect to those players, but that’s not an ideal duo to have between the pipes.
The Flyers overcame a 5-1 deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night, but Pickard allowed six goals on 26 shots in the overtime defeat. As for Lyon, he’s still waiting to make his first appearance for Philadelphia this season.
“We’ll roll with the best that’s out there, whether it’s what we have or something else,” said Flyers GM Ron Hextall. “Same as always. We’re always looking to upgrade our team if we can. We picked Calvin up because we believe in him and we also believe that Alex is pretty close. They’re gonna have a chance here and we’ll see how it goes.”
Hextall’s team has gone through some good and bad stretches already this season. They went 5-0-1 at the start of the month, but they’ve now dropped three home games in a row to Florida, New Jersey and Tampa. Now, they’re heading back on the road to take on a red-hot Sabres team. The one thing the Flyers have going for them, is that they’ve been better on the road (5-3-1) than at home (4-6-1).
Speaking of the Sabres, they’ll look to extend their winning streak to seven games tonight. There’s no denying that Buffalo has turned a corner. The additions of Jeff Skinner (trade) Carter Hutton (free agency) and Rasmus Dahlin (draft) have paid immediate dividends.
Skinner, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, already has 14 goals and 22 points in 21 games in his first season with the Sabres. Hutton has been between the pipes for five of the six consecutive wins. He has a 9-6-1 record with a 2.61 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s brought stability between the pipes. And Dahlin has averaged 18:27 this season while putting up 10 points in 21 games.
The Sabres’ winning streak was on the ropes earlier this week, but overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in overtime on Monday night.
“There’s a bit of confidence now because we’ve (come back) a few times,” said captain Jack Eichel. “I think it’s a trust and a belief in each other; you look around the room, the guys are believing that next line’s going to get the job done and set you up for your shift. We’re a pretty tight bunch right now for how many new guys came to this team, and we’re getting really close right now and we’re doing it for each other and that’s the biggest thing. Everyone goes out there and doesn’t want to let the guy next to them down. … we’re playing for each other right now, and that’s one of the most important things.”
The Sabres are currently sitting in third place in the Atlantic Division. They’re one point behind Tampa for second and two points behind the first-place Maple Leafs.