The Flyers dropped another close affair Tuesday night, 2-1, to the hated Devils. But the loss that put the orange and black at 1-3-1 in the Preseason was hardly the big news. Star forward Jake Voracek took a tumble into the opposing net after being blatantly hooked down by Devils captain Bryce Salvador on a breakaway. Voracek was awarded a penalty shot on the play, but he was clearly shaken up, and was unable to capitalize after colliding with netminder Corey Schneider and then the post. The 24-year old Czech attempted to return for one more shift but appeared to be in some discomfort. It’s unclear the severity of the ‘upper-body injury’ but it’s probably a safe assumption that he will not play in Thursday’s rematch with New Jersey.
But, despite the 2-1 score and the loss of a key performer, there were some positives to take from the game:
- Captain Claude Giroux made his Preseason debut after taking time to recover from his freak golfing injury. Giroux started a little slowly, but by the second period he appeared to be in mid-season form. He erased all doubt that his injured finger would hinder his play as he launched several hard one-timers, including one that rang off the post. Overall, it was a solid game for Giroux as he made several big hits, was crisp in his passes, and even assisted on the lone Flyers goal (a power play tally by Kimmo Timonen).
- Austrian import Michael Raffl continued to prove that he belongs in the NHL. The 24-year old winger was active all night and showed impressive chemistry with linemates Vinny Lecavalier and Brayden Schenn. It now appears to be a foregone conclusion that this kid will win a spot on the roster, and will most likely be in the top-9 come opening night.
- The Couturier-Talbot-Read line was active as well. It’s difficult to tell if Talbot will remain on this line when the Flyers open the season next Wednesday, but he didn’t look out of place.
- Goaltender Ray Emery turned in another solid performance. The two goals he allowed were a result of being left out to dry by his defenders (Gustafsson and then Meszaros). Head Coach Peter Laviolette will have a tough decision as to who will start the season opener, but right now it appears as if “Razor” has a slight edge.
- As has been noted by myself (and GM Paul Holmgren), Scott Hartnell appears to be in the best shape of his career. After playing several steps behind last season, it’s a welcome sight to see those curly red locks flying up and down the ice. #19 looks primed for a big year.
The fact that this club has managed only one win in five games is not as alarming as it sounds. After losing Zac Rinaldo and Jake Voracek to upper-body injuries, the Flyers brass probably just wants to get through the final two contests without any more casualties. They close out the Preseason with a game in Newark on Thursday and then travel to Washington for the finale on Friday.
The real fun begins next week as the club then opens the season at home next Wednesday against James VanRiemsdyk and an improved Toronto Maple Leaf team.