With Flyers almost healthy, Alain Vigneault looking for stability among lines and pairings
The 56-game season is approaching the midway point, and the Flyers have had the same lines and pairings in consecutive games just once. That is about to change, Alain Vigneault hopes.
Because of injuries and having eight regulars spend some time on the COVID-19 protocol list, the Flyers’ lineup has been juggled throughout the season.
Alain Vigneault wants to change that.
The Flyers coach has had the same lines and pairings in back-to-back games just once (Games 1 and 2) in the first 23 contests. But with the team mostly healthy — Michael Raffl has a hand injury but is not expected to miss a lot of time — Vigneault appears close to putting the same lines and pairings together for a while.
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“I’d like to get to the point where we’re a little more consistent in our lines and our D pairs,” he said before Tuesday’s game against visiting Buffalo. “There’s been so much movement, with guys coming back at different times from COVID, and guys in and out.”
Having familiarity with your linemates, center Kevin Hayes said, makes things run more smoothly.
“Everyone wants consistency, whether it’s in sports or in life,” Hayes said before centering Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny for the fourth straight game Tuesday. “It makes it a lot easier when you’re playing with the same guys every night. It’s ultimately the coach’s decision. He needs to put together the lines he thinks will make this team win.”
Vigneault said he also wanted to build some continuity with his struggling power-play and penalty-killing units.
“Hopefully that trends us in the right direction with our specialty teams,” he said.
The power play entered the night 2-for-20 in its last six games.
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“We’re getting our chances, for sure; we’re just not getting the results,” Shayne Gostisbehere said before the game. “I think we’d be a little more worried if we weren’t getting the chances. Obviously, there have been a lot of personnel changes from game to game, but I think we’re getting a little more comfortable now and I think the results will come soon.”
In recent games, the Flyers have played several teams missing a key player, including the Rangers without Artemi Panarin (personal reasons), the Sabres without Jack Eichel (injured), the Penguins without Sidney Crosby (COVID-19 protocol), and the Capitals without Tom Wilson (suspended).
On Tuesday, Eichel again was sidelined, this time with a suspected neck injury suffered Sunday in a 5-2 loss to the Islanders.
Rookie Dylan Cozens, 20, replaced Eichel on the top line, centering Taylor Hall and Sam Reinhart. Eichel has just two goals but has 16 assists in 21 games. Cozens, selected seventh overall in the 2019 draft, entered the game with three goals and one assist in 18 games.
Eichel has 13 points in his last 11 games against the Flyers, including four multipoint performances.
Oskar Lindblom moved from the fourth line to the third line, and Nolan Patrick dropped from the third to the fourth. ... The Flyers entered the night with three straight 3-0 wins against Buffalo this season and a 181:11 scoreless streak against the Sabres. ... Of the 28 players in the 2018 draft class to appear in a game this season, Joel Farabee led the group with 11 goals heading into Tuesday. Farabee, 21, was selected No. 14 overall in that draft.