When the Flyers open their preseason schedule Monday night against the New York Islanders at the new-look Wells Fargo Center, it will be the first time for fans to see center Kevin Hayes – the team’s biggest off-season addition – in orange and black.
There are several questions about the Flyers heading into the opener:
· Will Hayes and linemates James van Riemsdyk and Jake Voracek develop some quick chemistry? This could be the Flyers’ No. 2 line when the season opens Oct. 4 in Prague against Chicago.
· How will the all-rookie Frost Line (Morgan Frost centering Isaac Ratcliffe and Joel Farabee) look against some NHL players?
This line was together in rookie camp, but until Sunday’s session at main camp, Farabee had been on the top unit with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux. Couturier and Giroux will probably sit out the first two exhibition games, new coach Alain Vigneault said.
* Can forwards German Rubtsov and Chris Stewart make good early impressions in an effort to make the team? Rubtsov will center Oskar Lindblom and Stewart. Lindblom had been on right wing early in camp but was shifted back to the left side during Sunday’s practice session in Voorhees.
· How will veteran goalie Brian Elliott look after missing a majority of last season with injuries? He says he is totally healthy. Elliott and Alex Lyon will divide the time Monday. Elliott will start.
· Will Shayne Gostisbehere and newcomer Justin Braun show they work well together as a defensive pairing? The hope is that Braun, a stay-at-home defender acquired from San Jose, will stabilize Gostisbehere’s erratic defensive game.
Vigneault liked the look of the van Riemsdyk-Hayes-Voracek line Sunday.
“I’ve got three guys who have great puck protection and skills,” he said. “I’ve got three guys who have good speed, even though some might say JVR is not the quickest. I would say to you that he skates a lot better than people think.
“I’m really anxious to see how those three are going to do together.”
“Hopefully we get [chemistry] right from the start,” Hayes said.
Van Riemsdyk lauded the way the 6-foot-5 Hayes uses his lengthy reach and hangs onto the puck for a long time, enabling his linemates to get open for a pass in a scoring area.
“He can hold onto the puck for what seems like as long as he wants to before he needs to make a play; he’s hard to get the puck from,” van Riemsdyk said.
As for his expectations in the exhibition opener (NBCSP, WPEN-FM 97.5), Vigneault said he wanted to “see them applying some of the different things we’ve been working on. Today we worked a little bit more on breakouts and a few backchecking drills. Those are all things I expect to see [Monday]. We’ve been working on them with a purpose.”