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Travis Sanheim’s improvement has helped key Flyers’ surge

Sanheim has been playing a lot more, and he's making the most of it -- he's got seven points and a plus-6 rating over the last 12 games, during which the Flyers are 10-1-1.

Travis Sanheim has seen increased playing time under Scott Gordon.
Travis Sanheim has seen increased playing time under Scott Gordon.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Travis Sanheim has received much more playing time since Scott Gordon became the interim coach on Dec. 17, and the 22-year-old defenseman has made the most of the opportunity.

After a slow start under Gordon, the smooth-skating Sanheim has gotten progressively better – and has been more aggressive joining, or starting, a rush down ice. He has seven points and a plus-6 rating over the last 12 games, during which the Flyers are 10-1-1.

“Obviously, opportunity is key in this league,” Sanheim said after practice Thursday in Voorhees. “… I’m playing a lot more now and have a lot more responsibility, but I’m just trying to take it game by game and get better. There are still areas I have to continue to work on. I’m still making mistakes at certain times, but I think I’ve limited those and I’m doing more good than I am on the negative side.”

Gordon is a staunch believer in Sanheim’s ability.

“I think a lot of Travis,” said Gordon, whose team will host Detroit on Saturday afternoon. “I had him for a year and almost a half down in Lehigh. … He’s playing against the best players in the world every single night. He’s been able to kill penalties, he’s been able to step in and do a great job on the power play. His ability to get up and down the ice – his reach, his strength – are all things that are getting better every game.”

Sanheim was put on the first pairing, alongside Ivan Provorov, another lefthanded shooter, in the last two games of Dave Hakstol’s coaching tenure, starting with a Dec. 14 matchup in Edmonton. Sanheim played 14 minutes, 5 seconds that night.

“We had our challenges at the start, with me switching to the right side, but I think we’ve continued to get better," Sanheim said of the young defensive duo, both selected in the first round of their respective drafts. "We have a good friendship, so it’s easy to communicate with him. We talk a lot on and off the ice about certain plays and what we could do differently and what he wants me to do in certain situations – and I think that’s benefited us. ”

During the Flyers’ current 12-game run, Sanheim has averaged more than 20 minutes per contest, including 24:45 of ice time, two assists, and a plus-3 rating in the 5-4 comeback win Tuesday in Minnesota.

Moving from the left to the right side has been made easier, Sanheim said, because he has played on the right under Gordon with the Phantoms. Sanheim said Gordon and assistant coach Rick Wilson, who is in charge of the defense, “have both been good to me and communicate well with me. I know what they expect and I’m just trying to get better each day.”

» FLYERS-WILD OBSERVATIONS: Travis Sanheim channels Bobby Orr


The Flyers sent Samuel Morin to the Phantoms on a conditioning stint. … Carter Hart will unveil his mask for the Feb. 23 outdoor game next week. “Eagles fans are going to love it,” he said. … Hart trains in the summer with Edmonton goalie Cam Talbot, who is the subject of trade rumors with the Flyers. Hart called the 31-year-old Talbot, who has struggled mightily this season (3.36 GAA, .893 save percentage), a “great mentor” to him. … Michael Raffl left practice early with “tightness” but will be OK to play Saturday, Gordon said. … Gordon was pleased with Justin Bailey’s Flyers debut in Minnesota, saying his drive to the net keyed the first goal. … Because of the team’s hot streak, defenseman Phil Myers is not expected to play Saturday. “It’s kind of hard to take a defenseman out of the lineup when you’re in the midst of a run that has been successful,” Gordon said. “… As much as I can’t wait to see him in the lineup, it’s going to be under the right circumstance.” … Before the Flyers face the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field at 8 p.m. Feb. 23, a free Fan Festival will be held in the Wells Fargo Center parking lot at Lot G, starting at 11:30 a.m. One of the highlights: a mobile museum that celebrates black hockey history. .. The Flyers activated Pascal Laberge and sent him to the Phantoms.

» READ MORE: Prep begins for Stadium Series at the Linc