ST. PAUL, Minn. – While their thoughts are with teammate Oskar Lindblom, the Flyers’ road trip will continue Saturday night in Minnesota with another game against a Western Conference team that is on a roll.
None of the Flyers were available Friday after general manager Chuck Fletcher stunningly announced that left winger Oskar Lindblom was battling a rare form of cancer and would likely miss the rest of the season. The announcement came after the team practiced in Denver and headed to Minnesota.
The Flyers will face surging Minnesota (15-12-5), which has points in its last 11 home games (8-0-3). The Wild was just 16-18-7 at home last season.
After a 6-11-1 start this year, the Wild has points in 13 of its last 14 overall games. The Flyers have points in 16 of their last 20 games.
The Flyers (17-9-5) will also be missing high-scoring right winger Travis Konecny (concussion) on Saturday. They are expected to have defenseman Phil Myers (team-best plus-14 rating) back in the lineup.
Konecny and Lindblom share the Flyers’ lead with 11 goals apiece.
Myers, sidelined from Wednesday’s 3-1 loss in Colorado because of back spasms, practiced with the Flyers Friday at the University of Denver.
The Flyers are coming off a loss in Colorado, which extended its point streak to eight games (7-0-1) that night.
“Other than that 10-minute span” in the first period, “we outplayed that team and maybe deserved a better result,” coach Alain Vigneault said after Friday’s practice. “We’re not getting on the inside enough to finish the opportunities we’re getting, so that’s one of the things we addressed a little bit today and we’ll address in video (Saturday).”
Vigneault said he will keep the same lines intact, including the top unit, which has Sean Couturier centering Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek.
Vigneault’s assessment of the Wild: “A good team. After coming out slowly out of the blocks, they’ve been one of the better teams in the NHL. They’ve got some good veteran players. Their top line right now is playing extremely well, so it’s going to be a hard game for us.”
The Wild’s top line – Eric Staal centering Jason Zucker and Mats Zuccarello – has combined for 64 points and a minus-19 rating. Comparatively, the Flyers’ current No. 1 line has combined for 67 points and a plus-19 rating.
Defensively, Minnesota has struggled, allowing 3.28 goals per game (28th in the NHL) while the Flyers have surrendered just 2.68 goals per game (seventh).
Myers is expected to replace Robert Hagg. … Vigneault coached Zuccarello with the Rangers. … Minnesota is coming off a 6-5 win Thursday over visiting Edmonton, a game in which the Wild’s Jordan Greenway had his first Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight). Zucker has three two-point performances in the last five games. Greenway (2015 draft) and Zucker (2010 draft) were both selected in the second round of their respective drafts by then-Minnesota GM Fletcher. … Zucker and the 35-year-old Staal lead the Wild with 23 points apiece.