Flyers to experiment with Cam York and Ivan Provorov on top pairing vs. Predators
The new top pairing will debut Thursday against the Predators, when Claude Giroux will play his 1,000th NHL game.
Immediately after the Flyers’ overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night, interim head coach Mike Yeo voiced his frustration with the team’s inability to close out a winnable game. He suggested that changes to the lineup could be coming in the form of healthy scratches, fourth-line relegations, and ice time deductions.
Two days later, after taking a closer look at the film, Yeo walked his pointed comments back.
“It was a stupid thing to say, to be honest with you, without taking the time to look at the game,” Yeo said.
“Even before [the game-tying Canadiens goal] in the third period, we weren’t very sharp. But again, I think that you look at the game, we put ourselves in a position to win. We didn’t win. Some of that’s confidence, some of that we can learn. Some of it we have to bear down. But again, we just have to learn from it. We have to move forward.”
Although Yeo won’t be making any drastic changes for Thursday night’s game against the Nashville Predators, he did make some tweaks to the forward lines and defensive pairs. Most notably, Ivan Provorov and Cam York will comprise the top defensive pairing. Justin Braun and Keith Yandle will play together on the third pair.
Neither Provorov nor York have played together this season. However, York played on the top pairing in a couple games with Braun in January when Provorov was out with COVID-19. In those games, York averaged 23:10 of ice time.
“I felt comfortable then and pretty much my whole career, I’ve been playing 20-plus minutes a night,” York said. “It’s nothing really new for me. I think just getting used to Provy’s style will be a little bit of an adjustment. But other than that, I don’t think there will be too many issues.”
The biggest adjustment for York, which is not exclusive to playing alongside Provorov, is having to play out of position on the right side. Until he reached the NHL, York exclusively played on the left.
York acknowledged how difficult it is to play out of position, especially in the best league in the world. In practice on Tuesday, York spent time with assistant coach and former NHL defenseman Nick Schultz to get more comfortable on the right side.
“It’s mainly just in the corners,” York said. “A lot of it has to do with stick position and body position. In the neutral zone, on a D-to-D pass, I’m not really able to look up ice as good as I’d prefer. Just a lot of stuff has to kind of go through my backhand, which I wouldn’t necessarily prefer. But other than that, it’s nothing crazy for me.”
‘Let’s make this special for G’
Against the backdrop of the Flyers’ dismal season, captain Claude Giroux has reached impressive personal milestones and climbed up franchise leaderboards. On Thursday against the Predators, he’ll pull off yet another personal accomplishment — his 1,000th game played in the NHL.
Giroux will become just the second player to reach the 1,000-game plateau solely as a member of the Flyers. Bobby Clarke finished his career with 1,144 games played for the organization.
In the wake of the Flyers’ brutal overtime loss to the Canadiens, Yeo challenged the team to honor Giroux by preparing for and playing a strong game against the Predators.
“For me, the message today is let’s respond,” Yeo said. “We’ve done a good job with that. And also, let’s make this special for G. That’s a real, real amazing accomplishment. To play 1,000 games with one organization, to play them the way that he did, what he’s added to this organization. Let’s celebrate that. And let’s celebrate it with a great game and bring a great attitude and get excited for it.”
» READ MORE: Claude Giroux's teammates reflect on 1,000 games
Connauton participates in full team practice
On March 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks, defenseman Kevin Connauton took a hit from behind from center Kirby Dach and did not return to the game. Connauton started skating again relatively quick, participating in a morning skate on March 8 before the Flyers’ game against Vegas Golden Knights.
He was cleared to return to game action the following day and traveled with the team to play against the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes. However, Connauton was inactive for both games with York in the lineup.
For the first time since the hit, Connauton participated in a full Flyers practice on Tuesday. He skated alongside Nick Seeler as the extra defensive pairing when the team ran lines. When the team spent time working on the power play, Connauton took penalty-kill reps.
The Flyers announced details regarding their plans for Giroux’s 1,000th game on Thursday, which includes a pregame ceremony with his family at 7 p.m. Before the game, Flyers players will wear shirts designed for the big day and Giroux jerseys for warmups. All fans present for the game will receive a print based on the piece of custom artwork Giroux will receive during the ceremony.