As the Flyers prepare to take on the Calgary Flames on Saturday, forward Kevin Hayes is hoping for a win, increased productivity, and some time to catch up, off the ice, with an old college buddy: Johnny Gaudreau.

“He’s probably one of my best friends, not within hockey, just within my life," Hayes said Friday after practice.

Hayes and Calgary’s star left winger, who’s a South Jersey native, have a lot to reminisce about. They were a dynamic duo for three years at Boston College, a tenure that included a 2012 national championship and a 2014 Frozen Four loss to Shayne Gostisbehere and his Union college squad at the Wells Fargo Center. Hayes got to watch up close the rise of Gaudreau, who’s one year his junior.

“We were pretty much inseparable for three years there, and that’s when he became Johnny Hockey," Hayes said. ”It was cool. There was ‘Johnny Football’ [Johnny Manziel] at Texas A&M and then [Gaudreau] lit it up his freshman year. He was a small kid who looked like he was 12, and he was scoring every night., It was crazy. It was a lot of fun.”

For Calgary, the 26-year-old Gaudreau hasn’t been off to the strongest start this season, and his team, currently on a six-game skid, has struggled. There’s been talk that he could be traded, and that the Flyers could go after him. Hayes doesn’t talk hockey much with Gaudreau, he said, and they haven’t discussed the possibility of a trade.

“He’s one of the best players in the league," Hayes said. “I’m sure if they were winning every game, there’d be no trade talk at all."

In Philly, Hayes has also experienced an early-season slump. Coach Alain Vigneault reiterated Friday that the veteran trio of Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, and Jake Voracek still need to be more productive. In Raleigh on Thursday, Hayes ended a 12-game goal-less streak with an empty-net goal.

“Offensively, I’ve been getting some chances, but not as many as I would like,” Hayes said. “You just got to keep working on it. It’s nice when you’re scoring a lot of goals, but when you’re not, you gotta just grind through it. Keep shooting. Keep getting to the net.”

Hayes said he wasn’t disappointed that it took an empty net for him to score. He was just happy to get a goal.

“I was like ‘Finally,' " he said. “It’s been awhile.’”

Scott Laughton returns

The Flyers activated Scott Laughton from injured reserve on Friday, and the center is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. To make room, they placed center Nolan Patrick, who’s struggled with a migraine disorder, on long-term injury status, and sent left winger Andy Andreoff down to the Phantoms. Laughton missed 13 games with a broken right index finger, for which he underwent surgery, and was cleared by a doctor on Thursday.

“It felt good out there today with the guys, and I continue to get better every day," Laughton said Friday. "Hopefully I play tomorrow.”

Special visit

Zach Steward, 14, of West Deptford, visits with his favorite Flyer, Travis Konency. Steward is battling leukemia for the second time.
Courtesy Zack Hill
Zach Steward, 14, of West Deptford, visits with his favorite Flyer, Travis Konency. Steward is battling leukemia for the second time.

The Flyers had a special visitor at practice. In advance of Monday’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” game, Zach Steward, a 14-year-old super-fan who’s battling central nervous system leukemia for the second time, got to sit on the bench while his beloved team practiced and hang out afterward with his favorite player, Travis Konecny.