Cal Pickard in nets; Corban Knight will make Flyers debut
Right winger Corban Knight will make his Flyers debut Thursday in Columbus, and goalie Cal Pickard will get his second start of the season.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Goalie Cal Pickard will get his second start of the season Thursday night and right winger Corban Knight will make his debut for the Flyers when they face Columbus at Nationwide Arena.
Pickard relieved Brian Elliott early in the third period and was the winner as the Flyers defeated Florida in a shootout, 6-5, Tuesday night. Coach Dave Hakstol said Pickard's getting Thursday's start was scheduled in advance and had nothing to do with Elliott's performance (four goals on 23 shots) against the Panthers.
Florida managed just one goal in three shootout attempts against Pickard, who is 2-0 with a 3.80 GAA and .868 save percentage.
Knight, who suffered an apparent shoulder injury late in the preseason, will be the fourth-line winger Thursday on a unit with left winger Dale Weise and center Jori Lehtera. Weise was used at right wing recently.
It will be Knight's first appearance in the NHL since 2015-16, when he had two goals and seven points in 20 games with Florida.
Rookie Mikhail "Misha" Vorobyev, a 21-year-old center who has been ineffective, will be a healthy scratch, along with defenseman Andrew MacDonald. Injured center Nolan Patrick took part in the morning skate and might return to the lineup Saturday against New Jersey.
Hakstol spent a lot of time with Vorobyev (and Patrick and MacDonald) on the ice after the regulars finished the morning skate.
"Mish is a young player, and there's a couple things I want him to watch during tonight's game," Hakstol said. "There are a couple of players who are similar in the way he plays the game."
By watching, Hakstol hopes Vorobyev can improve in some areas, including faceoffs. He has won just 30.3 percent of his draws.
Knight, 28, who had 14 goals for the Phantoms last season, played for Hakstol at North Dakota — as did Chris Vandevelde, another player he coached with the Flyers.
Hakstol said they were "completely different players. Knighter's a righthander [who] naturally is a centerman. He's a good two-way player and versatile enough to play the right wing, and he's a very good penalty killer, which, when he played for me in college, wasn't his main role. He was more of an offensive player who killed [penalties] a little bit. During his time at Lehigh Valley, he's become one of our top PKers within the organization, and that's what he built his training camp on. He earned the opportunity here."
No. 3 is No. 1
Based on how the lines are put together, the Flyers' third unit (Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Wayne Simmonds) leads the team with eight goals — one more than the top unit, now composed of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Jake Voracek.
Scoring hasn't been the Flyers' problem. Entering Thursday, only six NHL teams had scored more goals.
Preventing goals? That's a different story.
Only winless Detroit (30) has allowed more goals than the Flyers heading into Thursday's NHL action.
Blame the goalie equipment?
Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky, who will face his former team Thursday, is not a fan of the league-mandated, slightly smaller chest protectors, shoulder pads and elbow pads for goalies.
It's not the increased scoring that bothers Bobrovsky as much as the increased pain from getting hit by pucks.
"You start to [wonder] if it's going to hurt you or not in practices, so it's a trip into your mind," Bobrovsky told the Columbus Dispatch. "It's tough to compete with."
Bobrovsky said he has added bruises because of the smaller equipment.
"You start to be afraid of the pucks," he said
Elliott recently downplayed the equipment changes, but, like Bobrovsky (4.39), he has an inflated GAA (4.04) early in the season.
Pickard has played one career game against Columbus and has a 2.04 GAA and .905 save percentage against the Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky has dominated the Flyers, compiling a 10-3-1 record, 1.91 GAA, and .933 save percentage.
It's a small sample size, but the Flyers and Columbus have have the best road records (2-1) among Metropolitan teams. … On Saturday afternoon, the Flyers will host surprising New Jersey, which is 4-0 and has outscored opponents, 17-4. The Devils' Kyle Palmieri is tied for second in the league with seven goals. … The Flyers have set an unwanted franchise record: most consecutive games (six) allowing the first goal to start a season. … Knight was signed to a two-year free-agent contract on July 1, 2017.