Flyers’ Corban Knight returns to NHL; rookie Mikhail Vorobyev benched
For the first time since 2016, forward Corban Knight played an NHL game Thursday night as he made his Flyers debut in Columbus.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Corban Knight, the two-year climb back to the NHL ended Thursday night as he returned to play in The Show for the first time since Feb. 8, 2016.
The 28-year-old forward, a natural center, was the Flyers' fourth-line right winger in their game in Columbus.
"It's exciting. For me, it's been a long time," the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Knight said before the Flyers dropped a 6-3 decision. "It's nice to get back in there and be part of the team again."
In Thursday's loss, Knight played just 7 minutes, 6 seconds, but had a solid game. Knight nearly set up a first-period goal, and he and linemates Dale Weise and Jori Lehtera were defensively responsible throught the game.
Knight was having a strong training camp and had a good chance to make the opening-night roster before suffering an apparent shoulder injury in the next-to-last preseason game against the Rangers.
"Obviously, you never want to get hurt. It was a little bit of a setback, but at the same time, I was lucky I could skate during it, so I was able to stay on the ice," said Knight, who scored 14 goals with the AHL's Phantoms last season. "I feel good. I don't feel like I've lost any of my conditioning or skating. I feel 100 percent."
In his last NHL season, Knight had two goals and seven points in 20 games with Florida in 2015-16.
Rookie Mikhail "Misha" Vorobyev, a 21-year-old center who has been ineffective in three of his six games, was a healthy scratch. Vorobyev had been dropped from third-line center to fourth-line left wing in the second period Tuesday.
Hakstol spent a lot of time with Vorobyev on the ice Thursday 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 played for Hakstol at North Dakota — as did Chris VandeVelde, another player he coached with the Flyers. (VandeVelde is now playing in Austria.) Hakstol said they were "completely different players," adding that when Knight played at Lehigh Valley, he became "one of our top penalty killers within the organization, and that's what he built his training camp on. He earned the opportunity here."
Knight wasn't used on the penalty kill Thursday, but he is expected to get time on the unit down the road.
Injured center Nolan Patrick may return to the lineup Saturday afternoon against surprising New Jersey. If not, he will play Monday against Colorado "for sure," according to GM Ron Hextall, who said rehabbing goalie Michal Neuvirth was "days, not weeks" from being ready to play. Since the Flyers have allowed the second-most goals (31) in the NHL, Neuvirth might be called upon when healthy…. In Thursday's loss, Wayne Simmonds was minus-4 and Christian Folin was minus-3. Folin was plus-4 in the previous game.