Oskar Lindblom

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Carter Hart’s new mask honors late Ray Emery

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Carter Hart returned to the Flyers’ net Monday after missing a month due to an abdominal strain. During the 4-1 win over the Panthers, he debuted a new lid that honors a former NHL goalie.

Along with a tribute to teammate Oskar Lindblom, who’s battling Ewing’s sarcoma, Hart’s mask features images of the late Ray Emery and his nickname, “Razor.” Painted by artist Franny Drummond of PaintZoo, who has done masks for Steve Mason, Devan Dubnyk, Brian Elliott, and Jimmy Howard, among others, Hart asked for one honoring the former Flyers netminder.

“I wanted to pay tribute to a guy who was, from what I heard … the boys said they loved him,” Hart via NHL.com. “I never met him, but any time you lose a guy in the goalie fraternity of that importance, it’s very sad. I just wanted to pay tribute to him.”

Emery was 35 when he drowned in Lake Ontario in July 2018. He played 88 games for the Flyers over two different stints in Philadelphia.

John Forslund will call the action from BB&T Center alongside Pierre McGuire. Paul Burmeister hosts studio coverage alongside analysts Patrick Sharp and Mike Johnson.

Thursday night’s coverage of Capitals-Avalanche will be the second half of an NHL doubleheader on NBCSN, immediately following originally-scheduled coverage of Flyers-Panthers, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers GM Fletcher expects Patrick to return from migraines

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VOORHEES, N.J. — Philadelphia Flyers general Chuck Fletcher expects center Nolan Patrick to return from a migraine disorder and play this season.

Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft, has been sidelined all season because of his condition. The 21-year-old Patrick has 26 goals and 61 points in two seasons with the Flyers. Fletcher said Patrick has been skating for longer and harder sessions and would likely need a conditioning stint in the AHL before he returned to the Flyers.

”I can just tell you from the on and off ice workouts he’s doing, he is progressing,” Fletcher said Tuesday. ”There certainly isn’t any clear path as to which way this will go.”

The Flyers remain unsure when Oskar Lindblom will play again and he undergoes treatment for Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or in the tissue around bones. The 23-year-old from Sweden had 11 goals and 18 points in 30 games this season. Lindblom has 30 goals in 134 career games over two-plus seasons with the Flyers.

”For him to return to play hockey means he’s in a great spot in his battle,” Fletcher said. ”We’re just keeping our hopes up. I’m sure he’s got a lot of things on his mind right now, but if he’s playing hockey this year, that would be a great conclusion.”

Lindblom has visited his Flyers teammates during practice and sat courtside at a recent 76ers game. Lindblom has yet to speak publicly since his early December diagnosis.

”With this situation like this, when it’s your personal health and a non-hockey thing, you always want to be a little bit careful what you say, but you know the treatments are going well and I know he’s got a great attitude,” Fletcher said. ”But it’s probably pretty early in the process to have that type of update. At some point, certainly, depending on what Oskar’s thoughts are, hopefully we can make that available.”

Lightning ground Flyers to push winning streak to 10

Lightning winning streak at 10 Vasilevskiy shutout
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The Tampa Bay Lightning keep making it clear: they’re back. During much of what is now a 10-game winning streak, the Lightning blared that message with lopsided beatdowns. In Saturday’s case, it was more of a suffocating affair, as the Lightning clogged things up to shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0.

Lightning show versatility in pushing winning streak to 10 games

Remember when Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t exactly looking like a goalie worthy of an eight-year, $76 million extension? Well, Vasi is looking like 9.5 million bucks (per year) lately, as he’s now authored consecutive shutouts for a streak of 145:55. The Bolts are showing that they can win in different ways, with recent victories revolving around strong goaltending and stingy defense.

The Lightning also tied their franchise record with this 10-game winning streak.

And, hey, when you win this many games, you probably get a few bounces here or there. Patrick Maroon took advantage of such a bounce for Saturday’s only goal:

Unfortunately, Maroon’s other big bounce involved a scary bump into the boards:

The Flyers deserve credit for carving out such a close game against the Lightning, particularly with injury losses mounting. After all, Tampa Bay trounced its last three opponents by an intimidating combined score of 16-3.

Upcoming threats to Lightning streak

So, what are the most likely end points for the Lightning’s run?

“Any night” ranks as the fairest response in the parity-packed NHL, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Looking at the Lightning’s schedule, they play seven of their next eight games on the road. That stretch includes Sunday’s game in New Jersey where both the Bolts and the Devils close off back-to-back sets. Pondering it on-paper, some of the toughest matchups include a Jan. 16 date at the Wild, and a Jan. 27 road game against the almost-as-hot Stars.

(Again, though, the Devils could easily end it on Sunday … because hockey.)

Lindblom receives a warm welcome

Flyers fans gave Oskar Lindblom a standing ovation in one of the best moments of the night:

Lindblom brought some “sunshine” to a recent Flyers practice, too. Alain Vigneault beamed about the visit, which you can learn more about at NBC Sports Philadelphia.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flyers’ playoff hopes take a hit with Gostisbehere injury

Flyers Gostisbehere out three weeks
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If the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs began before Thursday’s games, the Philadelphia Flyers would make it. The Flyers face a challenge in maintaining their grip, and that hill got steeper with Shayne Gostisbehere sidelined.

The team announced that Gostisbehere is expected to miss about three weeks thanks to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. (The actual procedure is set to take place on Tuesday.)

The Flyers defense already started 2020 on a down note, as Justin Braun could be out through the All-Star break as he deals with a groin injury. Combine those defense injuries to Oskar Lindblom‘s battle with cancer and Nolan Patrick‘s continued migraine issues and the losses start to pile up.

Philly nonetheless stands as the East’s final wild card team thanks to a 23-15-6 record (52 points in 44 games played). The Flyers hold at least a two-point edge over teams underneath them, which isn’t a huge buffer, but it certainly could be worse.

What Flyers lose in Gostisbehere

Look, there’s no denying that Gostisbehere’s seen a significant drop in production.

Clearly, Gostisbehere played a little over his head when he reached 65 points in 2017-18. Otherwise, “Ghost Bear” fell in the 37-46 point range during recent seasons.

Unfortunately, his defensive lapses become tougher to stomach when that offense dries up. And, boy, did it ever dry up this season.

Gostisbehere managed just 12 points in 40 games so far in 2019-20. You can’t really blame puck luck, either; five of his points are goals, and his on-ice shooting percentage actually increased from 2018-19. Gostisbehere’s ice time follows similar patterns. He set an average he may never match in 2017-18 (21:27 TOI per game), settled down last season (19:40) and hit a new low as a full-timer this season (18:21).

Those stats are troubling, and honestly, a little bewildering … but the Flyers will miss even a struggling Ghost.

Without Gostisbehere, Flyers may need to lean on inexperienced players

Gostisbehere averaged 2:36 of his 18:21 TOI on the power play, so that stands out as the first riddle Alain Vigneault must solve.

Judging by Left Wing Lock’s combos, Ghost’s loss could be Travis Sanheim‘s gain. Sanheim only averaged 27 seconds of his 19:52 minutes on the power play, so it will be interesting to see if he plays a bit less in other situations, or merely carries a heavier burden.

In pondering the impact of Gostisbehere’s loss, NBC Sports Philly’s Jordan Hall noted the defense’s inexperience:

Including Wednesday night’s contest, [Matt] Niskanen has played 924 career games, while the other five healthy blueliners have combined to play 692 games — Ivan Provorov at 290, Hagg 178, Travis Sanheim 175, Philippe Myers 47 and [Mark] Friedman two.

It could have been worse

Honestly, when I hear “knee surgery” of any kind, I expect an absence of more than three weeks (or so). Tip your cap to modern medicine, in this case.

The damage seems less severe when you consider mitigating factors like off time, too.

Of course, things are tight for the Flyers. They can’t merely shrug their shoulders at six games. All things considered, it could have been worse, though.

Also, if Gostisbehere has been slowed by a nagging knee issue, maybe he’ll bounce back? Expecting too big of a rebound in 2019-20 might be foolish, but … hey, modern medicine has come a long way.

This absence will test how far Sanheim, Vigneault, and other Flyers have come, too.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Flyers erupt; Kane has another big night

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) scores
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Three Stars

1) Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

One of the most dynamic players in the NHL had another terrific night, recording four points in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets. His goal late in the third, which extended Chicago’s lead to three goals, was another example of how lethal his release has been since entering the NHL in 2007. Chicago is stuck at the bottom of the powerful Central Division but Kane is a thrill to watch night in and night out.

2) Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens

When a forward enters the offensive zone with control of the puck, it is a rare sighting when they just wind up and let one fly. Especially in three-on-three overtime when puck possession is of the utmost importance. But on Thursday night, Domi stepped into a slap shot and hammered the puck past David Rittich to lead Montreal to a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames

3) James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have been dealing with an emotional roller coaster this past week due to the horrible news about Oskar Lindblom. But, the team took advantage of the Jack Eichel-less Buffalo Sabres and earned a 6-1 feel-good win. The power forward muscled his way to the front of the net and tipped in a loose puck late in the first period to collect his first goal of the night. Then, van Riemsdyk was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce when the puck trickled off a defender and in.

Highlights of the Night

Roman Josi should consider switching positions if he could dangle like this

Varlamov entered the save-of-the-year competition with this glove stop.

Other notable performances from Thursday

Elias Pettersson — The 21-year-old scored twice as the Canucks held off the Vegas Golden Knights and snapped a three-game losing streak. The Canucks improved to 9-2-1 when Pettersson has scored this season according to Sportsnet.

Tyler Seguin The Dallas Stars alternate captain was one of five players in the NHL to score an overtime-winning goal Thursday.

Mats Zuccarello The Norwegian winger had a goal and two assists in the Minnesota Wild 8-5 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

Stat of the night

Scores

New York Islanders 3, Boston Bruins 2 (SO)

Dallas Stars 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3 (OT)

Philadelphia Flyers 6, Buffalo Sabres 1

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 (OT)

Ottawa Senators 5, Nashville Predators 4 (OT)

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Winnipeg Jets 1

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Colorado Avalanche 1

Montreal Canadiens 4, Calgary Flames 3(OT)

Minnesota Wild 8, Arizona Coyotes 5

Vancouver Canucks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (OT)