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Quick Hits: Briere & Tortorella, Ristolainen, Phantoms, Exit Day Wrap

April 19, 2024, 11:29 AM ET [362 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Preview: Phantoms @ Islanders

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (30-30-9) can clinch the final Calder Cup playoff spot in the Atlantic Division as they take on the Bridgeport Islanders (24-37-9) at Total Mortgage Arena on Friday evening. The Phantoms' magic number, entering the final weekend of the regular season, is down to one.

This is the sixth and final meeting of the regular season series between the teams. The Phantoms are 3-2-0 against Bridgeport to date, but the games have been anything but easy for head coach Ian Laperriere's club. All five games to date have been decided by one goal.

The Phantoms won 2-1 (2-1) via shootout in Bridgeport on Feb. 10. On March 2 in Allentown, the Islanders won 2-1 in regulation after the game entered the third period knotted at 1-1. On March 10 in Bridgeport, the Phantoms saw an early 2-0 lead slip away. Lehigh Valley then rallied to restore a two-goal edge heading into the third period. The Islanders got within 4-3 in the third period before the Phantoms withstood a late push.

On March 23, the Islanders left Allentown with a 2-1 win behind a strong goaltending performance from Ken Appleby and two points (1g, 1a) from Ruslan Iskhakov. Last Saturday in Allentown, the Phantoms took a 5-4 overtime decision in a seesaw game. Lehigh Valley was 35 seconds away from winning in regulation when Bridgeport forced OT. Defenseman Louie Belpedio rescued the win in sudden death.

Friday's game will start at 7:05 p.m. EDT. It will be streamed on AHLTV (subscription required).

Down the stretch, the Phantoms two best players have been the now-healthy Tanner Laczynski (eight goals, seven assists, 15 points in his last 13 games) and Adam Brooks (eight goals, seven assists, 15 points in his last 13 games). Cooper Marody (18 goals, 36 assists, 54 points in 66 games) leads the team in scoring for the season.

Rookie winger Samu Tuomaala participated in the AHL All-Star Game this season and was arguably the most encouraging story of the season before February. He's struggled at times after the break, and enters Friday's game with 43 points (15g, 28a). The Finnish forward has three points (1g, 2a) in his last 14 games.

On Wednesday, the Flyers bolstered the Phantoms roster by assigning four players -- forwards Bobby Brink and Olle Lycksell, defensemen Ronnie Attard and Adam Ginning -- to Leigh Valley for the reminder of the regular season and (hopefully) playoffs.

Brink, who fell out of favor at the NHL level at times with head coach John Tortorella but also showed offensive promise, had a previous 11-game stint (six goals, five assists) with the Phantoms earlier this season. Lycksell has been one of the Phantoms top offensive performers each of the last two seasons, and averaged north of a point per game (19g goals, 19 assists) in 36 games with Lehigh Valley before his most recent NHL recall.

Attard, an AHL All-Star last season, has posted 10 goals and 25 points in 46 AHL games this season while showing improved defense. Ginning got off to a slow start this season for Lehigh Valley after an encouraging 2022-23 season, but his play picked up considerably at both the AHL and NHL (nine games) levels as the season progressed.

Veteran goalie Cal Petersen (9-15-3, 2.81 GAA, .891 save percentage, one shutout) has recently played fairly well for the Phantoms since being returned to the AHL from the Flyers. If the Phantoms clinch a playoff spot on Friday, I'd look for the Phantoms to split up the goaltending chores this weekend.

Alexei Kolosov made his North American pro debut last Saturday against Bridgeport. He stopped 24 of 28 shots but didn't have much chance on at least three of the four goals he allowed. Felix Sandström (12-7-3, 3.24 GAA, .881 SV%) last played on April 5th and 7th, winning one and a losing one.

The Phantoms' power play was a team strength most of the season but has struggled horribly down the stretch to fall to 18.1 percent (ranked 19th leaguewide). The re-additions of Brink, Lycksell and Attard can only help. The penalty kill, which had been in the middle of the pack for most of the season, has also struggled down the stretch. The PK enters the final weekend ranked 25th in the AHL (79.4 percent).

Briere and Tortorella Address the Media

Flyers general manager Danny Briere and head coach John Tortorella will have their end-of-season press conferences at the FTC in Voorhees on Friday. One will speak at 11:00 a.m. EDT and the other at 11:30 a.m. EDT. I'm not sure of the order in which they will speak.

President of Hockey Operations Keith Jones will not speak today. He will have availability on a different date.

Briere is expected, among many other topics, to explain the timeline of Rasmus Ristolainen's injury issues this season. The Flyers announced on Thursday that Ristolainen underwent surgery at TMI Sports Medicine Institute in Arlington, TX, to repair a ruptured triceps tendon. The surgery was performed by Dr. Keith Meister, the head orthopedic surgeon, for the Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball.

During the season, there were conflicting indications about exactly what Ristolainen was dealing with, and when. There may have other issues -- or perhaps other physical symptoms -- apart from the triceps tendon tear. Hopefully, there will be more clarity after the GM speaks.  

Ristolainen is expected to make a complete recovery over the next three months and to be ready for training camp.

Exit Day Wrapup

In case you missed it, all of the player media availability sessions from Exit Day on Wednesday are available on the Flyers' official YouTube channel: Click here.

Yesterday for PhiladelphiaFlyers.com, I wrote a five takeaways article: Click here.
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