Mark Friedman didn’t play in many games this season, but he was in the lineup for four of the most important ones.
The Flyers were coming off a hellacious road swing where they had dropped five of six, including four on the West Coast right after Christmas. Shayne Gostisbehere joined Justin Braun on the injured list after injuring his knee in the final game of the trip. A killer stretch of games waiting for them, the Flyers dipped into their farm system and call up Friedman, who had played in one NHL game in his career.
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Coach Alain Vigneault admitted Friedman was maybe ninth or 10th on the organizational depth chart at the beginning of the year.
“That first game, against Washington [Jan.8], looking across the ice in pregame warmups, seeing Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov,” Friedman said, “was pretty surreal. The list goes on and on with Boston, Tampa, St. Louis.”
Friedman wasn’t perfect, but he was steady.
“I’ve liked him,” Vigneault said when Friedman returned to the minors following Braun’s recovery. “In every game he’s played against real tough competition, he’s looked very comfortable.”
Barring something unfortunate, Friedman is going to be among the reserves when camp opens July 10. It would take a string of injuries or illnesses for him to get back in the lineup.
The Flyers don’t know when they’re playing, but they do know they’re in a four-team round-robin for Eastern Conference seeding with Boston, Tampa Bay and Washington. Friedman, a restricted free agent at the end of this season, thinks the heavy competition will benefit the Flyers.
“It can only help us,” said the 24-year-old defenseman. “Playing the best teams right off the bat will only help. You play the best teams and then you get to the 5-8 seeds and they’re not going to be as good as the 1-4.”
Connor Bunnaman joined the crew skating at the Flyers practice facility in Voorhees on Tuesday. Bunnaman, a rookie who lost his spot when the Flyers traded for veteran centers Derek Grant and Nate Thompson at the trade deadline, had a goal and an assist in 21 games for the big club this season. ... Among the regulars skating on Tuesday were Sean Couturier, Joel Farabee, Carter Hart, Phil Myers and Ivan Provorov. ... TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on Tuesday that the four leading cities to host the two hub sites are (alphabetically) Chicago, Edmonton, Las Vegas and Toronto.