1) The Flyers made only one small line change at practice on Friday in Toronto. Tyler Pitlick and Nic Aube-Kubel switched lines. Otherwise, the forward lines and every defensive pair remained the same. However, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said he might make further tweaks at Saturday's practice ahead of opening the round-robin against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.
"I’ve got a different type of practice planned for tomorrow since our practice is at 2:30 and we play the next day at 3:00. I want to get the other group involved with our group. I’ve got a different type of drills that we could do with more players. We’ll probably do a couple controlled scrimmages. There’s a couple things I want to talk to our players about, controlled forecheck, controlled breakout. We’ll bring in a few more people tomorrow for practice. There probably will be some other changes to the lines for tomorrow," Vigneault said after Friday's session.
Friday's lines were as follows:
Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek
Scott Laughton - Kevin Hayes - Travis Konecny
James van Riemsdyk - Derek Grant - Nic Aube-Kubel
Michael Raffl/Joel Farabee - Nate Thompson - Tyler Pitlick
Ivan Provorov - Matt Niskanen
Travis Sanheim - Phil Myers
Robert Hägg - Justin Braun
Shayne Gostisbehere - Mark Friedman
Extras: Morgan Frost, Andy Andreoff, Connor Bunnaman, Egor Zamula, Andy Welinski, Alex Lyon, Kirill Ustimenko.
2) Last season, after Scott Gordon took over from Dave Hakstol, the Flyers expanded the ice time and situational deployments of defenseman Sanheim and left wing Oskar Lindblom. This season under Vigneault, their roles grew even further. Sanheim, for the first time in his NHL career, became a regular fixture on the penalty kill. After yesterday's practice, I asked him what that opportunity has meant to him.
"It’s something that I’ve worked on in junior. Early on, I wasn’t a PKer. With the coaching staff there, it’s something that I wanted to take pride in and be able to be a top guy and be able to play in all situations. When I went to the American League, it was kind of the same thing. I was able to step up in that role and play a lot of minutes in that situation as well. It took a little bit of time in the NHL. This year, I think I took a pretty good step in that direction. That’s something I want to continue to do well in and be able to help the team out," Sanheim said.
3) Sanheim was also asked about what the team did during their off-day in the Bubble on Thursday. The players still stayed together, even though they weren't on the ice, the gym or in a meeting.
"We were able to head over to BMO field. Not attached to the hotel, but just down the street. We were able to head there. They got a ton of games and stuff set up there. Spent basically the whole afternoon playing games. They had football and Frisbee, stuff like that. Throwing that around as well. Trying to keep busy as much as we can. They got a pretty good setup over there," Sanheim said.
4) Flyers captain Claude Giroux said on Friday that one of the big factors that gives him confidence heading into this year's postseason is that this season's edition of the team is one of the deeper squads he's been in recent memory.
" I think we have a line or one guy that steps up and gets the big goal or great play defensively. I think we’re confident whoever’s on the ice, line-matching and that kind of stuff, we’re pretty comfortable with everybody in the lineup. When you feel like that, you’re confidence goes higher. You focus on your own job and makes your job a lot easier," he said.
5) On Friday afternoon, Chris Therien and I had the chance to talk to Flyers forward Scott Laughton about what team life and hockey is like so far inside the Bubble. How do the logistics work for practices and games? What are the practical effects of having no fans in the stands during games? Is Laughton watching other teams' games? It was a very enjoyable 15-minute conversation.
6) One of the Flyers' most notable Black Aces, goaltender Alex Lyon, recorded the first installment of a personal "Inside the Bubble" video blog for the Phantoms' YouTube page. He reports from his hotel in Voorhees on departure day, during the flight to Toronto, on the team bus to Hotel X, and gives a tour of his room at the hotel. All players get their own rooms in the Bubble, in the interest of social distancing.
The Phantoms' YouTube page has been excellent throughout the stoppage, heading into the NHL's return. It's worth a visit alone to check out assistant coach Kerry Huffman's videos. Huffman discusses a variety of hockey-related and life-skill topics such as supporting teammates (which, in its essence, is the role of a Black Ace along with being physically and mentally ready to play if called upon), being an effective communicator and how to receive coaching with a positive frame of mind.
7) August 1 Flyers Alumni birthday: Wendell Young (1963).