Tyler Pitlick in Flyers lineup vs. Chicago Blackhawks in Prague despite no preseason games
Looking at the Flyers' season-opening matchup against Chicago that starts at 2 p.m. ET.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Tyler Pitick will be in the Flyers lineup as their fourth-line right winger Friday when they open the season by facing Chicago at O2 Arena in Prague (2 p.m. ET; NBC Sports Philadelphia, NHL Network).
That’s the same Tyler Pitlick who wasn’t medically cleared to play until Thursday and didn’t get into any preseason games.
And, so, yes, he will be a work-in-progress for a few shifts, maybe even a few games.
“Obviously, that’s a concern going into tonight, and not having any exhibition games,” coach Alain Vigneault said after Friday’s morning skate. “We’ll see how he does. … Condition-wise, he said he was good to go. We’ll take it a shift at a time and a period at a time, and hopefully he can come in and contribute for us.”
Pitlick, who spent most of the preseason rehabbing a surgically repaired wrist, recovered sooner than expected. He says he feels 100% healthy, but knows he will have to work on his timing.
“The past couple days, I’ve been able to battle and the shooting has been good,” Pitlick said. “I’ve felt good, and it’s getting stronger.”
Playing in the opener without being in a preseason contest “will be different, for sure,” said Pitlick, who was acquired when the Flyers sent Ryan Hartman to Dallas. “It’s usually nice to get those preseason games in, but I’ll play the same way. I’ll play my game. I’m not too worried about it.”
By putting Pitlick in the lineup without any preseason games, the Flyers showed their confidence in the 6-foot-2, 200-pound winger.
“They know what I bring and I guess it’s a good feeling for me that they feel that way, but it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If I don’t play well, that will be that. So I still need to play well to stay.”
He will be on the fourth line with Michael Raffl and rookie center Connor Bunnaman.
“Three big bodies who can skate well,” Pitlick said. “We’re going to get on the forecheck, be physical and make life hard for them.”
Center Sean Couturier has played most of the last two years with Claude Giroux as his left winger.
Friday, however, he will have Oskar Lindblom on his left side. The two played together a lot in last year’s second half, so Couturier said he will feel comfortable. Travis Konecny will be on the right side.
“I’m pretty familiar with Oskar; with T.K., it’s been a little while, but we’ve played most of the preseason together,” Couturier said. “I think we can be really good line. We just have to come together and get some chemistry going.”
Vigneault, still searching for the right combinations up front and on defense, is shaking up the lineup for the opener and getting away from a lot of the units and pairings he used in the preseason.
“We didn’t score a lot of goals in the preseason, so obviously some things needed to change and some things need to be better,” Couturier said. "Whatever we can do to find a solution.”
In seven exhibitions, the Flyers scored a total of 15 goals.
Hayes on top unit
Giroux will be on the top line with center Kevin Hayes and Jake Voracek.
Hayes was not with Giroux in the preseason.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Hayes said. “I think with the depth we have on this team, the top guys, no matter who you’re playing with, you’re going to be with somebody who’s pretty elite. It just so happens I’m with G tonight. It’s exciting. It was never fun playing against him and chasing him around the ice.”
New No. 1 pairing
Ivan Provorov will be paired with Justin Braun; the two were not defensive partners in any preseason games. “Every D [man] is here for a reason, and you should be able to play with anyone,” Provorov said. “Braun is a great player and has tons of experience, so it should not take us that long to get used to each other.”
Provorov said “the coaches are looking at what’s best for us throughout the year. It might take 10, 15 games to find the D pairings.”
In the preseason, Braun was usually with Shayne Gostisbehere, and Provorov was frequently with Matt Niskanen.
Two teams trying to bounce back
The Flyers (37-37-8 last season) and Blackhawks (36-34-12) are both coming off seasons in which they missed the playoffs.
The Flyers are “similar to us. They have a lot to prove,” Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said. They’re "coming off a year where they probably expected to have more success. They have some dynamic offensive talents that, if we’re not sharp defensively or in transition and we give them room to make plays, they’re likely to make them.”
Carter Hart (2.83 GAA, .917 save percentage last season) will face the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford 2.93, .908) in goal.
Defenseman Phil Myers said it was “kind of heartbreaking" to learn he was being sent to the Phantoms. He said he would keep a good attitude and work his way back to the Flyers. ... Vigneault: “I’m not a big- morning-skate guy, but with an 8 o’clock game [Prague time], I thought it was the right thing to do."… “Controlling emotions will be a key in the opener, Vigneault said. “I’m thinking of Jake [Voracek, a Czech native] right now. He’s got a lot of emotions going through his mind. We have to make sure we’re focused and concentrate on what needs to be done on the ice.”